Israel Houghton has heard the criticism over the years.
"When I moved to Nashville, I basically had people saying, 'You're too black for this, you're too white for that, pick a style," Houghton says. "And I remember saying, 'What happens when we get to heaven? What section are we planning on being in?'"
It was a purposefully rhetorical, idiotic question, Houghton says.
Over six albums and more than a decade, Israel & New Breed have energized and sometimes puzzled Christian music fans with a mix of styles from traditional gospel to world music to rock 'n' roll, with lots of other elements thrown in. It's a mashup that has won Houghton critical acclaim as well as Grammys and Dove Awards.
But it sometimes left the core audience, the church, a bit puzzled.
"So much of it is at our core," Houghton says, "so much of it is rooted in ignorance, and a lot of it just has to do with stereotypes and skin tones, and we've always done church this way so we should keep doing it this way.
"Worship, in its nature, ought to be encompassing, it ought to be multicultural, and it ought to have the ability to tear walls down. Finally, thanks be to God, we're finally seeing where that is becoming less and less and less of an issue."
And Houghton is venturing into new territory, including the Ichthus Festival, where he and New Breed will play Saturday night.
Houghton says the band has played summer festivals, including the annual Creation, festivals, but the band has hardly been a staple of the circuit.
But again, the band is breaking down walls, something he says he recently saw on a 38-city tour with superstar worship leader Chris Tomlin, who has played several Ichthus festivals in the past.
"We come out, and people look at us like a deer in the headlights because they aren't there to see us and they think they don't know our music," Houghton says. "Then we start to play, and they realize they've been singing some of our songs in church for years."
Those songs include Friend of God, You Are Good and Say So.
Ichthus director Jeff James says that one of his intentions in booking Houghton for the 40th edition of the festival was to mirror one of Ichthus' early hit artists and a barrier-breaker in his own right: Andre Crouch.
"It's not the 40th time that I've heard that," Houghton says, laughing. "I know Andre well. He's been a mentor to me, and anybody who asks me, 'Who are your primary influences?' I always mention Andre first because that was the music that really changed my life and led the way for what I now do."
So it's a nice comparison. It's just that with Israel Houghton, the comparisons hardly stop there.