Lecrae is not like most rappers. Mixing faith with hip hop and a dose of necessary realism similar to the greats of the rap scene, Lecrae is steadily carving out a space for himself and rappers like him.
Not content to be put in a box, the Grammy Award-winning artist continues to challenge the status quo. With his 8th studio album All Things Work Together debuting at no.3 on the Billboard Album Chart and gaining millions of views, it is obvious that Lecrae's particular breed of rap is not going anywhere anytime soon. We caught up with the rapper to talk touring, America's faith journey, Trump and what else he has in store for 2018.
What's got you motivated right now?
Honestly like just the European tour with sold out shows. You know it is inspiring to see people still connecting year after year, like I have been doing this a long time and people still thirst for more it is inspiring to me.
Now you had a really interesting upbringing you were born in Houston but you used to move around a lot right?
That must have been challenging growing up?
Yeah, I never found a tribe, you know I saw some stuff that people probably have that I just didn't grow up having. So I went to three different high schools, two different middle schools, so there's not like those long-term connections that a lot people have from school years, I am not connected to anybody really so I missed a lot of that but it made me adventurous.
So how did the love for hip hop come about during those challenging times?
My love for hip-hop spawned from my older cousins and so they were teenagers when I was just five or six years old. And they would watch rap videos and I wasn't supposed to watch them, I wasn't supposed to be up I was supposed to be asleep. But they would watch them late at night and I would watch the videos behind the couch and eventually, they saw me and they were like just come on, I just grew up from like five, six years old watching them. They got into break dancing, collecting records and all that type of stuff so I was just a fan from a young age.
But who or what got you into rap specifically?
So basically when I was about eleven my neighbours could sing so we would form a little group and I would rap and they would sing. And then I think about thirteen there was other rappers at my school and we would battle and I just kept winning so it helped me realize, oh I am good at this. So it made me say, well let's pursue this, my mum got behind me, supported me and that's what really jump-started everything and made me really want to do this.
So when did rapping about God & faith come about?
I had a spiritual transformation around 19 years old and you know you are just questioning the deeper meaning of life, from your purpose to your worth and why you are here. And you know I wasn't like a reader or anything like that so a lot of it would be source for music, so I am listening to Tupac, I am listening to Lauryn Hill, just trying to find some answers to some deeper spiritual questions and it was around that time when God really revealed himself to me, and I said okay, I want to take this serious. So from there, I have always been the type of person I am going to talk about whatever it is that I am processing. So if I am processing my faith and spirituality I am going to talk about it. If I am processing my ethnicity I am going to talk about it if I am processing my surroundings, so in that point in time I was like I have to talk about this, this is revelatory for me.
Is it also true you first got into the faith because you heard a preacher who essentially spoke to you and wasn't being too 'preachy'?
Yeah, absolutely, that's what shaped who I am now so I don't try to make it, I don't know the right word, churchy or anything because that's not what I understand or where I come from. I just try to talk to people, like on an authentic palpable level and just connect and that's what happened for me.
You have been adamant to not call yourself a Christian rapper but a rapper whose a Christian - why is that distinction so important to you?
I don't think it is as important for me as it is for people who don't know what to do with my music categorically right because if I tell you, you know everyone has prepositions, you know. If you meet me and I am dressed like this with my Yeezys on and a whole nine and you say oh, what do you do and I say I am a rocket scientist. And you say now come on mayne and it's like well why can't I be a rocket scientist and you have this expectation in your mind of a rocket scientist. But if I tell you I am Lecrae and you just get to know me and when you hear I am a rocket scientist and then it's like oh wow, tell me more, and so that's how I feel about the music. It like man I am an artist, respect the art and then if you want to talk about faith and spirituality, that's something that's there as well.
I really like how you put it once, I think you said if you lead with Christian rapper, people don't want to know anymore and they put you in a box.
So I remember when you first said that back in the day and I remember a lot of Christians where super angry at you, they were like how dare you and you have betrayed us - so why do you think that was?
I think they heard that and they don't understand the whole context of it. They just hear don't call me a Christian, do you know what I mean. And so they were like, why are you taking that out and I am not removing that, I am removing it as far as a genre or how you categorically place my music. But I think they saw that as a sign of being ashamed or fear or weakness and it really wasn't.
You've since said there is such a thing as a "American Pie, colonized, Americanized, politicized faith", so what is that?
I think history is very important when you dealing with anything and so if you don't understand the history of something then you are just embracing or accepting whatever version of it that has been placed in front of you.
So when someone puts a brand of rap in front of you and even if let's say you have never heard rap at all in your life and I put one brand of it in front of you and it's the whole time artists, all they talking about is drugs and now you are like, I don't like rap because all rap talks about is drugs. Well I am like no that's a brand of rap that you have experienced, that's not rap, you don't know the history, you don't know any of those things so now you are just done with it all and I think that there is a brand of Christianity that exists in America, specifically. There is brands of it everywhere but America has exported it you know in Africa, in the Caribbean and it is a version of the faith that has more to do with the American culture than it has to do with the actual faith itself. So you are really exporting your culture, so people do that all the time, it's like oh no, no, no, no, you got to wear a dress to cover ankles like that's culture.
So I think once the traditionalism, the culturalism, nationalisms start to bleed into the faith it dilutes the faith and it starts to create conflicts and issues and so for me I don't want anything to do with those things. I want it as pure as I can possibly have it and that means in some senses having to say that's more American than it is God and you know it is not sacred, the national anthem is not sacred, but now you are treading on thin ice, ' what are you saying'.
So is this what led you to rebuild your faith in 2016?
I don't like religion and when I say that I mean religion is following rules in order to be loved, relationship is you are loved so you want to develop that relationship. So religion is me bringing flowers home to my wife every day, say here you go, this is my duty that's religion. Like she doesn't want that, she's like why are you...this is what I am supposed to do, here. Relationship is I love you so much I just stopped by the store cause I wanted to express this love for you with some flowers, that's a relationship.
So I don't do religion and so I needed to get away from religion because I felt like it was destroying my relationship with God, so I needed to get away and rebuild and start from scratch and redevelop that relationship.
So if we think of religion in the traditional sense and also taking into account that 'Americanized, politicized faith' would you say this is what is behind the rise of Trump in particular Christian spaces?
It gets really nuance and complex and I think someone will have to care to listen to a lot of specific details to hear that criticism. You have a sect of people who just follow the Republican party because of the conservatism as far as it pertains to women's rights or abortion. So they say oh, anything that is anti this I do not support and so if Trump says well I am this, well as a Christian I have got to go this way. But if that means we do support killing unarmed people or not taking care of the poor and not loving our neighbours, how is that okay.
So it's not about right or wrong, it is about neither party or neither tribe has the right answers or solution. But like I said, especially in America, believers say, yeah, this is the route I must take because it means I really believe so I must put this man in office cause this is my spiritual duty.
You are currently on the All Things Work Together tour, what have been the highlights so far?
The highlights are just you know, again seeing the people come out, all walks of life, the irreligious, the religious, the whatever place in life you are they are there. They are there to have fun, some people are there to judge other peoples, some people are their cause they need freedom, but it is just that they are there and that's just been amazing and its cultures, seeing different cultures.
What would you fill a swimming pool with if it could be anything?
I guess, for lack of being creative, I don't know, I guess I am going to fill it with money. Not necessarily for me but I feel like money is a tool to help create a legacy, provide jobs, opportunities, feed people, why not.
You have won a Grammy, had a New York Times bestseller, appeared in a film, what's next for Lecrae?
I need to get more involved in film and television. I want to produce some film and television, I have been working with some people, writing some scripts and so just become more of an executive behind the scenes.
Any last words?
Keep hope alive, you know I tell everybody this, there is hope in the middle of chaos, All Things Work Together, it is an album, but it is a fact, it is a reality so no matter how dark it gets it is never worth giving up hope, never.
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