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Kecalf Cunningham: The Life, Music, and Legal Battles of Aretha Franklin’s Son

Aretha Franklin was one of the most famous singers in history. Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin changed music and received many accolades over the course of her career, including a whopping 18 Grammy Awards. But, did you know that her son, Kecalf Cunningham, is also a musician? Apparently, music runs in this famous family, but Franklin’s son is not well-known as her. So, who is Kecalf Cunningham, what kind of music does he make, and why did he go to jail so soon after his mother’s death?

Kecalf Cunningham, born on March 28, 1970, is the youngest son of the legendary Aretha Franklin. He is a Christian rapper who has performed with his mother several times on stage. Their most notable performance was a 2008 concert at the Radio City Music Hall. His name is an acronym of both his father and mother’s full names — Ken E. Cunningham (the star’s road manager) and Aretha Louise Franklin.

His Musical Career

Having a mother like Aretha Franklin ensures that you’d grow up with music around you. This led Kecalf Cunningham to become a Christian rapper, even performing with his mother on stage. When he first started his rap career, Franklin was actually Cunningham’s manager. She sought to get each of her children a record deal to help them share their musical talents with the world. While Cunningham certainly had his mother’s help and support, her natural talent may not have been genetic. Cunningham’s music career has been a little less than celebrated. Back in 2008, he performed at one of Franklin’s shows. According to a New York Times write-up following the performance, Cunningham “… came with a backpack, a hoodie, and some cheap-sounding recorded tracks. After what felt like ages, it was a relief to have Ms. Franklin return, energies renewed, to belt out ‘Chain of Fools.’”

Franklin referred to her son as “a hip-hopper and a rapper.” According to Vulture, he could be “the Shaquille O’Neal of Christian rap — that is, he’s been allotted rap resources for reasons other than rap aptitude.”

He Spreads The Gospel Through His Lyrics

So, it seems like Cunningham’s music isn’t wildly popular. Even so, he still has a message he wants to share through his songs. Religion isn’t just a theme in Cunningham’s music. Cunningham often uses his lyrics to retell Bible stories. A line in one of his songs says, “Through immaculate conception, Gabriel gave Mary God’s directions, unsure of his intentions, she checked with Martha for confirmation, then her and Joseph had them a deep conversation.” According to, “His music has an old school rap feel to it, complete with black and white videos and beats accompanied with piano.” While there are some videos of Cunningham’s rap available, there is still very little evidence of his music online.

On August 16th, 2018, Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer at age 76. Just two months later, Cunningham was arrested for driving while drunk. He pled guilty and was sentenced to a maximum of 93 days in prison for a DUI. He has been out of prison since February 26, 2019. The legal battles did not end there. The family of Aretha Franklin was in a Michigan court as a trial kicked off to determine if notes stuffed in a couch will be considered her will. The Memphis-born Queen of Soul died in August 2018 at the age of 76. She did not leave a formal, typewritten will, and her family has been divided since her death about which of two potential wills was correct. Franklin had four sons: Clarence, Edward, Ted, and Kecalf. In 2010, Franklin signed a document that made her son Ted, 60, the executor of her estate. But in 2019, a handwritten version from 2014 emerged after it was found stuffed down a couch, in which Ted’s name was crossed out and Kecalf’s name inserted as executor. The doc would allow Kecalf to inherit her home in Bloomfield Hills, an affluent suburb north of Detroit. Ted and Kecalf are now in court to determine who is the executor, with a trial expected to last two days. At stake is control of a fortune which, given she performed from the age of 12 and signed with Columbia Records at 18, remains remarkably low. The last public accounting filed in March showed the estate had an income of $3.9 million during the previous 12-month period and a similar amount of spending, including more than $900,000 in legal fees to various firms. Overall assets were pegged at $4.1 million, mostly cash and real estate. Franklin’s creative works and intellectual property were undervalued, with just a nominal $1 figure. The will was eventually carried out by a judge in November 2023.


1. What kind of music does Kecalf Cunningham make?

Kecalf Cunningham is a Christian rapper who often retells Bible stories and spreads the gospel through his lyrics. His music has an old school rap feel to it, complete with black and white videos and beats accompanied with piano.

2. Why did Kecalf Cunningham go to jail?

Kecalf Cunningham was arrested for driving while drunk just two months after his mother, Aretha Franklin, passed away. He pled guilty and was sentenced to a maximum of 93 days in prison for a DUI.

After Aretha Franklin’s death, Kecalf Cunningham was involved in a legal battle over her estate. A handwritten will from 2014 emerged, in which Kecalf’s name was inserted as the executor, leading to a trial to determine who would control the fortune.

The will from 2014, which allowed Kecalf Cunningham to inherit her home in Bloomfield Hills, was eventually carried out by a judge in November 2023.

5. What is Kecalf Cunningham’s relationship with his siblings?

Kecalf Cunningham’s brother Ted is also a musician, and his brother Edward has sung with their mother on stage. He has a daughter named Victorie, who is also a singer and songwriter, and his brother Ted played guitar during their mother’s performances.

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