The gospel artist Smokie Norful was born Willie Ray Norful, Jr. in Oklahoma in 1975. As a teenager he developed an interest in theological studies and trained as a minister in Illinois before eventually achieving a Masters in Divinity. He became a licensed preacher in 1997 and has been an active and respected member of the Christian community for most of his adult life. He began his recording career in 2002 with the release of his debut album 'I Need You Now', the album topped Billboard's Gospel Album charts and eventually spent 104 weeks in the charts and established Norful as a significant new talent on the gospel music scene. His second album 'Nothing Without You' was released in 2004 and enjoyed similar commercial success with the added bonus of a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. During the next decade Norful continued his career as a preacher and released a handful of albums until in 2014 the track 'No Greater Love' lifted from the album 'Forever Yours' brought him his second Grammy Award. To date, 'Forever Yours' is Norful's most recent album release.