Now seven records into his career, there is seemingly no stopping hip-hop artist Lecrae.
Upon its release, his most recent record, Anomaly, debuted in the number one position on the Billboard 200 Album Chart, while also topping other Billboard charts including Digital Album, Rap Album, Christian Album and Gospel Album. Anomaly marks the sixth number one record on the Gospel Album Charts and his fifth on the Christian Album Charts.
Earlier this year, Lecrae received three Grammy Award nominations for Anomaly, including being nominated alongside Drake, Eminem, Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Performance.
While Kendrick Lamar might have stolen his thunder in that category, Lecrae did not go home empty-handed: His song “Messengers” won the artist the second Grammy Award of his career, winning the category of Best Contemporary Christian Song / Performance.
Securing a Grammy nomination alongside some of the genre’s biggest names should be cause for celebration, however Lecrae is quick to downplay its significance.
“I’m not really that concerned with hip-hop artists having more recognition in category or a genre,” he says. “Genres really haven’t been my mission as it pertains to my music. I’m more concerned about pushing the culture forward, and am more concerned about people seeing the world through new lenses.
“Winning a Grammy in many ways gives validation to what an artist does. It does allow me the opportunity to walk in certain rooms and challenge the perspective of the culture.”
A born performer, Lecrae says that the creative bug bit him early. From the time he was in kindergarten, he loved performing in front of an audience, whether that meant a school play, talent shows, or just singing and rapping any chance he was given.
By his own account, however, life wasn’t always such a breeze. As Lecrae grew up, he found himself involved with the wrong group of people, leading him down paths from which not everybody is fortunate enough to return from.
He acknowledges that he is one of the lucky ones, and gives credit to God for helping him find his way.
“Honestly, my whole life from childhood to my early 20s were one big catalyst for me finding the Lord. I think I was just looking for something, and was willing to look anywhere and everywhere to find it. I was looking for a sense of meaning, purpose, or value,” Lecrae says.
“I went on a spiritual journey; I studied world religions. I went on a hedonistic journey and gave myself any pleasure I could. I went on a power journey and just tried to accumulate as much power as I could. When it was all said and done I found there was no real satisfaction anywhere else other than Jesus. I’ve been to the top of the mountain in my respective worlds and none of it brought the type of satisfaction that I found in Him.”
Indeed, Lecrae’s messages of optimism, faith, contentment and monogamy help the rapper break ranks with many of his peers. While he is a proud disciple of Jesus, Lecrae believes there is too much emphasis placed on his faith, thus painting him into a corner based on his beliefs instead of focusing on the positivity that abounds in his lyrics.
“It’s honestly just a cultural issue that I have to deal with,” he says. “There is something in our etymology and our cultural understanding that is lacking and I’m fine with that. I know what I am and what I do. Music doesn’t have a faith or a soul. My songs are not disciples of Jesus. I am. I don’t make Christian music. I am a Christian –who happens to make music. The music is an expression of a man. Some days this man is wrong, some days he fails. My music reflects that.”
Given the success his career has seen to date, it is hard to argue with Lecrae’s logic.
In 2013, he was invited to join the acclaimed touring hip-hop festival, Rock the Bells Tour, on which he shared the stage with hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan, Rakim and Common as well as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Juicy J.
Earlier this year, he co-headlined the Winter Jam tour, which ended up selling more than 557,000 tickets, beating tours by Justin Timberlake, Elton John and others.
Perhaps most fulfilling is the fact that he is gaining mainstream acceptance without sacrificing his personal beliefs or changing his message to fall more inline with what the hip-hop world dictates.
“I think people look at Christians as one group of people with shared characteristics. There’s just one big caricature that everyone imagines, when in reality, there is so much beauty in our diversity,” he says.
“We aren’t all the same, we don’t think the same about everything and that’s okay, as long as we hold to the essential truths. We are everyday people, athletes, city workers, tattoo artists, and Pastors. We are different but at the end of the day we are all a united family and are guided by a transformative truth.”
When: Wednesday Apr. 22, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Moncton Wesleyan Celebration Centre, 945 St. George Blvd., Moncton
Tickets start at $26, plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at Frank’s Music (245 Carson Dr., Moncton), by phone at 1-877-700-3130 and online at ticketwindow.ca