Christian rap music is about as much an oxymoron as Christian rock used to be. (Perhaps Christian rock still is an untenable juxtaposition in some circles). Even within the rap genre itself, however, there is hot debate over which artists do or don't have true street credibility. Indeed, this is one style where what you are, is as important – if not more so - than what you say.
Lecrae (that's Lecrae Moore to his mom and family) is a talented rapper, whose music has been positively compared to secular icons like Jay-Z, Kanye and Drake. He's taken the Christian message, and put it into analogous terminology every urban dweller can immediately relate to. Rehab and Overdose, for instance, are two of his most recent album titles.
While it's admirable that Lecrae is reaching out to the hip-hop community, which must be a lot like missionary work and a realm few Christian musicians have explored before, Lecrae is also reaching in – back into the Christian music community – and creating a bridge between the hip-hop lifestyle and the widely differing conservative Christian culture. One great example of this newfound connectedness is the live version of Chris Tomlin's popular song "Our God," on which Lecrae has added a rap part. Furthermore, Lecrae also recently collaborated with the David Crowder Band on a song called "Shadows."
Best of all, Lecrae is a crafty and strategic songwriter. One shining example of Lecrae's lyrical skills is "Praying for you." Just when you think this song is about the rapper's empathy for a friend struggling in his Christian faith, we learn that this 'friend' is actually Lecrae.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): So the first question I want to ask you is about one song I really love: "Praying for you." I love how it has that twist at the end. Because you're thinking, who is this guy? Then you realize you're talking about yourself at the end. Did you have that kicker in mind all the time you were writing it?
Lecrae: When I started writing it, I was on a plane; I was going through kind of a tough time - all the things that were articulated in the song. So when I wrote it, I was on plane writing, and I was really writing out a prayer, like a realistic prayer, bringing out my plans for God, and then I was like, man, this is a song, and I just turned it into a song. I thought people would relate to it and people would resonate with it. I wrote it like I was talking about somebody, and then at the end, did a little reveal.
Songfacts: How often do your prayers turn into songs?
Lecrae: I think, in my most human moments when I'm just being open and accepting about me being a human, and just my humanity, my frailty, and my fragile - I'm really trying to cry out to God saying, 'I need help.' So that happens whenever I'm in my most frail moments.
Songfacts: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with your fellow rapper, Trip Lee. I just got his album and I really love it. And one of the songs, "Jesus Music," talks about listening to Jesus music when you're driving around. So I want to know, do you really bump Jesus music when you're driving?
Lecrae: What we wanted to do with that song was really just articulate that there are a lot of songs that say what they want to say and express their views and their beliefs. But there's kind of a closed window when it comes to people who have a Christian perspective, so we want to have a voice in the marketplace, as well. We want to talk about the things that are near and dear to us, and so that's how that song got burst. And one of the things that we believe in and hold to is that we love Jesus. So how can we not talk about him?
Songfacts: Okay. So I talked to Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North and he told me something you say in concert, which is that delivering the gospel message is a lot like being the mailman. I love that - where did it come from?
Lecrae: It really keeps you sober. It keeps a humble perspective on the message you bring and the affect of the message. Because people's lives really are transformed. You go out here and you do music, and you talk to people, and literally there's a transformation in their lives. Like, they're not the same anymore. And a lot of times they want to accredit that to you and give you the credit. But really I'm just a conduit. I'm the mailman.
Songfacts: The messenger.
Lecrae: Exactly. I'm just the messenger. It's the message that transforms you, not the messenger. And so I'm going to remember that the message is what's important so that they'll keep passing it down and not feel like there was something special about me.
Songfacts: So that really helps you when you get on stage, you're not thinking, "They're all here because I have all these words." It's, like, I have a great message that's not my message.
Songfacts: It's from up above.
Songfacts: So I've got this song, "Our God," by Chris Tomlin on my iPod. It's from the Digital Deluxe Edition of Passion's Here for You, and it's a version of that song where you rap at the end of it.
Songfacts: What I think is so great is you're one of the few guys for the hip-hop community that has been able to move into the worship community. So how did that all come together? Are you friends with Chris?
Lecrae: We have a lot in common. We both lived in Texas and now we both live in Atlanta. We connected at the Passion conference and that's where I really got to know Chris. We just really connected and we have a lot of commonality. I was really honored that they invited me to get on stage. What's funny is that they just have been very warm and open with us for years, and then it culminated in him asking us to be on the song.
Passion is an annual touring conference focused on bringing spiritual awakening to college campuses. Formed in 1997, this conference features messages by Louis Giglio, and worship music by popular artists like David Crowder, Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. It is also associated with sixstepsrecords, which releases many of these artists' music.
Songfacts: I listen to that song and it gives me goose bumps.
Lecrae: I appreciate that, man.
Songfacts: Why do you think it took him so long for somebody from your urban community to cross over to that contemporary Christian community?
Lecrae: I think people didn't know what to do with it, and didn't know how to respond to the music. They weren't quite sure of the content and, you know, for so long when you think about rap, you think about all the negative aspects of it, so nobody had seen a redeemed picture of it. Far and abroad, it's been here, it's been happening, but I think just more recently it's been a little more visible.
Songfacts: Tell me the story of the song "Indwelling," which deals with temptation.
Lecrae: There was a time when I was in Texas, at a show by myself. I usually travel with people, but for whatever reason, I ended up being out there by myself. I was in my hotel room, and there was so much temptation and so many things around me, it was like I had to fight and wrestle through them. So I thought to just to write about what I was experiencing and write about that wrestle. And just to reflect on the truth that would help with things in the midst of that wrestle. That's really how that song came about, just me talking about the truth of God.
Songfacts: How do you keep yourself in line, when there's so much temptation all around?
Lecrae: I have people with me to keep me accountable.
Songfacts: They keep you in line.
Lecrae: Yeah. We're all on a mission. We're all focused and we're all thinking through things and playing through things. I think we realize that we're out here amongst our fellow men. So because of that, we want to articulate to them, their worth and their value, and that they can live because they're so much more valuable and so much more precious and meaningful than the pointless things in this world. We have the true and living God with us and so we don't want to hide that light.
Songfacts: You ever get a chance to rub shoulders with different guys in the secular scene?
Lecrae: Oh yeah. All the time.
Songfacts: What do they think of you?
Lecrae: There's a respect, and there's also a respect for me taking a strong stance in what I believe in. A lot of times, some of them will come to you. So I just want to be here to help. It's similar to anybody who rushes to a disaster. You have to be in the midst of it to help.
Songfacts: That kind of leads me to my next question. "Far Away" is a song that is dedicated to Haiti relief.
Songfacts: Have you been there?
Lecrae: Yeah. I've been there twice.
Songfacts: What was your response to that?
Lecrae: You know, it's tough. Because a lot of people, they were at the end of themselves. You'd see a man and he'd lost his whole family in a single period of time. Over two weeks he's learning that everybody in his family is dead. He's coming to the end of himself and he's kind of like, man, everything I put my hope in, everything I put my trust in is all crumbled. I just wanted to bring people some hope and just encourage them that He's not far away and that there's hope, and even in the midst of the worst sort of circumstances and the worst situation, God's there.
Songfacts: The album Rehab kind of plays on the whole drug analogy. Did that come from personal experience in your life, or does that come from what you see in other people's lives?
Lecrae: It comes from both.
Songfacts: So you've had experience with substance abuse?
Lecrae: Absolutely. That's something some people know and some people don't know, just my history and me wrestling with drugs and how I was able to overcome that. And alcohol, as well. It's kind of like how much of a crutch in my life it was, not being able to function on a regular basis without it. So just saying, man, at the end of the day rehabilitation means that something is broken, and it's supposed to look like this, but it's broken. I think that's what God wants to do with us as individuals. We're broken, we're fractured, we're messed up, and need rehabilitation.
Songfacts: It's kind of frustrating, but I was waiting here to talk to you, and there's this guy that has this booth for Hail Mary Jane, and he's sort of promoting marijuana as an essential part of the hip hop lifestyle at this Paid Dues festival and he's mainstreaming this whole thing. It frustrates me that he's making it seem like pot is always a good thing.
Lecrae: All good things become God things. Everything that can be good isn't when it's used in a way that God didn't intend it to be used for. Like, money is not a bad thing.
Lecrae: Cocaine, for instance, doctors use it in certain ways to numb things and so forth. I think when people take those things; the heart for men is always a problem. When people take these things and think, 'Oh, this is my new God, and I can use this to find fulfillment and to find joy,' now it has become a problem. So what I've come to realize about people, is that Jeremiah says the hearts of men are deceitful. I've come to realize that it's about people as men, that they really have no idea how frail and fragile their hearts are and how deceptive and wicked they can be. So when I see those things, I really feel sorry more than anything. I'm burdened. I have compassion for them.
April 7, 2012
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