Lecrae's skill with channeling the hip hop flow into gospel truths along with his go hard attitude has earned him a place at the forefront of the Christian rap movement. Songs like “Rebel” and “Background” have become the anthems for the developing era of Christ-centered hip hop.
The artist heads up Reach Records, plays stages in a variety of settings both sacred and secular nationwide, and is in high demand for features on other artists' albums. Despite his uncompromising dedication to crafting solid tracks that easily hold their own in the secular rap arena, his even greater dedication to the gospel of Christ has drawn listeners across genre lines.
2012 marked another milestone in the artist's groundbreaking career with the September release of Gravity, widely hailed as one of the most anticipated and game-changing albums of the year. NewReleaseTuesday's Bill Lurwick sat down with the rapper to talk about guest appearances, Gravity, and the future of Christian hip hop.
Let’s talk about Gravity. Do you have the whole Reach Records family helping you out?
I do. I enlisted all of the troops, all my good fellows. Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, Pro, KB. It’s been awesome. Some new friends as well, like Tenth Avenue North. It’s really an exciting project. I’m glad to really have it wrapped up.
How long did it take you to make this? I know you’ve been extremely busy since the schedule has picked up for you. Has it been harder to get a project out?
I really try to create some margin in my life, and I try to do a lot of reverse engineering in order to make sure that I can get things done. I’m kind of a warrior. I just warrior through stuff.
I recorded a lot of music when I was on the Rock and Worship Roadshow. I just brought a portable studio with me on the tour bus, so when everyone was hanging out in their dressing rooms, I was recording in my dressing room, putting music together.
Lecrae, I’ve got to ask, who’s album have you not been on as a guest this year?
I’ve been really fortunate, from TobyMac’s to Brit Nicole’s. I’m grateful that people want to work with me and collaborate.
I love the Jimmy Needham song, “I Will Find You,” from his project.
Jimmy is my guy. I love Jimmy. He's genuine. He’s the real deal.
You have, as I mentioned, appeared on a lot of projects with a lot of different people, and you’ve been getting your name out there. It’s hard for a Christian hip hop artist to get radio air play these days. Is that something you guys have been real purposeful about, partnering with people to get your name out there?
Yeah. We definitely want there to be some exposure. I think as a rap artist you have a unique opportunity to say a whole lot more in your songs, because that's just the nature of rap. You can fit a lot more words in a verse.
I think at the end of the day, young people are listening to rap whether they hear it on the radio or not. They’re going to listen to something. Mom has her music and dad may have his music, but a lot of times the young people are looking for something different, and they love rap. They love rap music, but unfortunately they tune into stations and hear messages that are probably not beneficial.
We intentionally try to get our music out there so they can hear a viable alternative to some of the music that’s not so good.
How important are stations like NGen and Hot 95.9 to the future of Christian music?
I think they’re tremendously important. I think they’re onto something. Mainstream music has been around for a long time. That’s really what they do. Mainstream studies kids, and that’s how Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. are connected to MTV. They want to keep you for a lifetime.
I think those stations are recognizing that there’ll be a whole new generation of listeners who grew up on rap music, and whether they’re from urban or inner cities, it doesn’t make a difference anymore. It just transcends culture.
I’ve got a couple of songs that I’m really loving on Gravity. First it’s your buddy Thi'sl on “Faking.” Love that song. Talk about what it’s all about.
It’s really just kind of a challenge to a lot of the songwriters and artists out there. They are lying about the things they do. If you listen to the radio, there are a million songs about murder, but these guys aren’t killing anybody. They’re saying that they’re doing this, but they’re not.
They’re living in exquisite mansions and their kids go to private schools. They’ve got maids. It’s just really not their lifestyle, and obviously they don’t want to ruin the lifestyle they have by getting involved in a bunch of silly criminal activity.
It’s just telling God to keep it real, and then for all the younger audiences who are emulating what they hear— it’s not being true to yourself. It’s not having integrity. It’s just a refusal to grow up. So we wanted to put that challenge out there.
My other favorite is “Power Trip.” You’ve got Derek Minor, Sho Baraka, and Andy Mineo on this, and Derek changed his name. What’s up with that?
I think he just wanted to transition. He’s gotten more mature. He’s had a child. His sound is changing and I think people just associated the name Pro with one particular kind of lane.
It’s hard for people to see your growth as an artist. They remember you from whatever album that they liked most. So I think for him it’s saying “I’m changing.”
The song “Power Trip” is similar to “Faking,” but I think you call out some other people in this song, right?
Yeah. I call out myself as well. It’s really just a song about the lust for power. Power can be a good thing sometimes obviously. The chorus says power can make you a leader or a tyrant. You decide. It’s great to have power if you’re going to use it benevolently and to help people, but if you lust after it so that you can be seen as the greatest thing, it’s dangerous.
Lecrae. It is Gravity. One of the most highly anticipated projects of the year. Appreciate you spending time with us.
Absolutely. The pleasure it mine. Thank you for the opportunity.
Bill Lurwick, the voice of NewReleaseTuesday.com's weekly New Christian Music Podcast, has been in radio since 1989 and is currently heard on KJIL in Dodge City, KS.