*The other day I was invited down to the Park Central Hotel in New York City to interview a “new” rap artist for a publicist friend of mine. In the lobby sat a lanky gentleman by the name of Lecrae, a Christian rapper from Houston.
When I heard “Christian” rapper I rolled my eyes in spite of myself and the manners my dear Mother beat into me as a child. But I had been down that Christian rap artist road before and, though their intentions were noble, their craft was horrible.
Doing some investigative work on Youtube caused me to eventually become a believer in the talent and vision of Lecrae. If you feel you need to get a little closer to the monitor to read this then please do so … he’s dooooope! To say I was pleasantly surprised is to downplay it.
“I grew up in Houston, Texas. My cousins, uncles were into Eric B and Rakim,” explained Lecrae. “I’m a product of Hip-Hop culture. My mother was a Black Panther advocate, but I was atypical of an urban environment. However I couldn’t articulate that to my friends in the streets who were into gangs and guns. I got invited to a Bible study and found that (Christianity) wasn’t all about old ladies and big hats. There were guys there from the streets, just like me.”
We weren’t even 5 minutes into our conversation before the brother’s word mastery and articulation, and lack of ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ bore witness to his linguistic prowess and performing arts background. He even won a full scholarship to University of North Texas for creative writings, theater and performing arts. His love for the culture, Christian faith and educational background were seemingly used in equal measure to accomplish a unique feat. “Rebel,” his previous CD, sold over 100,000 units and while we believe money is not his driving force, moving so many units on an indie label that he owns is certainly financial rewarding.
“I’ve sold over 135,000 Christian rap albums,” he continued. “The music resonates with people inside and outside the Christian culture. People from the streets can listen and say it’s real Hip-Hop and Christians can say ‘It speaks to my faith.’”
But for every fan that feels his music helps them understand Christ, there are two others who feel his craft is not of God and cannot be wielded to do His work. Lecrae had this to say in response.
“Imagine a butcher knife. Society says it’s a murder weapon, but I use it to cut meat off a bone and serve food to the homeless. I am bringing life. It’s all in how you use it.
It’s important to have good production. Historically, Christian rap music has lagged, the musical quality is important. People can’t say ‘you serve this great God, but your music is horrible.”
There was once a Christian rap artist of note name B.B. Jay. To my recollection he was one of the first, if not the first, Christian rap artist with major label backing via Jive Records. To top it off, he was from Brooklyn and sounded exactly like the late Notorious B.I.G. We expected a Christian rap Tupac sound alike to pounce upon the seen if B.B. Jay was successful. But, alas, he was not, at least not from a numbers standpoint.
“The first mistake they made with him is they tried to appeal to people by saying ‘if you come to God you can be a baller like me,’” explained Lecrae. “Don’t sell people a bill of goods. Don’t prostitute the faith. We’re used to hustlers trying to get over on us. You just have to be authentically you. They tried to market him as a Christian B.I.G. I don’t think people respected that. Let’s be transparent about our issues and paint a portrait of hope.”
Lecrae’s new album is called “Rehab” and is slated for release on Infinity Records on September 28th. If you think we’re exaggerating when we speak of Lecrae’s ability to paint a picture with words, and create his own beats, we offer the Youtube videos below as exhibits A through infinity.