Kidney failure may have prematurely ended the life of its founder and creative director, O'Landa Draper, at the age of 34, in July 1998, but the Memphis, TN-based gospel group O'Landa Draper & the Associates continues his musical crusade. The group, now directed by Draper's fiancée, Patrina Smith, released a video, All About Him (Jesus), featuring their performance at their annual Music Lover's Conference in 2000.
The son of a gospel promoter and recording artist, Draper led O'Landa Draper & the Associates to the apex of gospel music. After recording several albums for the independent gospel label Word Records, the group reached out to a larger audience in 1994. They performed on Billy Joel's hit single and video "River of Time" and harmonized with Joel during the nationally televised Grammy Awards ceremonies. Two years later, their album Gotta Feelin' reached the second position on the gospel music charts and spawned a Top Ten gospel hit, "Reflections." In addition to receiving Stellar and Dove gospel awards, the album earned four Grammy nominations.
Only 22 when he formed O'Landa Draper & the Associates in 1986, Draper was inspired by the gospel music that he heard as a youngster in Alabama and Washington, D.C. Soon after moving to Memphis in the mid-'70s, he had joined a glee club and begun studying music at Overton High School, under choir director Lula Hedgeman. He continued his studies at Memphis State University, where he directed the school's gospel choir.
Draper was only approaching his peak as a gospel choir leader when he experienced kidney failure. Rushed to Metro Nashville General Hospital, he died two days later, on July 21, 1998, less than two months before his scheduled wedding.