The influence of Houston's trill sound can be seen all over today's hip hop scene. But there's another voice from the H-town that deserves the game's attention. Meet Lecrae, the God-fearing, politically aware MC, who is slowly but surely bridging the long-standing gap between hip hop and Christian music. And while his spiritually conscious bars have done a lot to set him apart from his peers, the 32-year-old is also weary of letting his faith define his music. Whether he's talking about corruption in the church, the ills of the Black community or his own struggles with right and wrong, the enlightened lyricist paints a unique portrait for hip hop fans. BET.com spoke with Lecrae about his latest project, Gravity, working with fellow Southern upstart Big K.R.I.T. and continuing to challenge hip hop's status quo.
BET.com: What was the message in naming this project Gravity?
Lacrae: The title track kind of sums it up, but the idea of it all is that gravity’s just a weight that pulls everybody down. It’s the day-to-day problems. I done lost good friends and family members and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t stop ‘em from dying. All the murders that went down in Chicago, it’s gravity all around us. Real situations that affect us all, and most times we just try to escape these realities…instead of embracing ‘em and trying to progress. And trying to fix those circumstances and to allow them to shape us into the people we are. Without struggle there is no progress and that’s really what the album is about. It’s about building endurance and it allows you to progress.
It’s not rare to hear Big K.R.I.T. deliver introspective rhymes, but it was refreshing to hear him speak so candidly about his faith on “Mayday.”
I had heard glimpses from his former projects; you know what I’m saying? Him talking about his upbringing and it was like, "I wanna sit in my room and read my bible, but a girl is calling." Just little things I would hear in his music, I would always hear the internal battle to do what he knows is right, but just struggling with it. That’s what I always appreciated about him, that transparency. We have some mutual friends that connected us and after we connected and just come to find out he respected what I did, my music, and vice versa. So we took it from there. It was the first song I did for the album, it came out phenomenal and it kind of set the bar for the rest of the album.
You make a number of mentions of corruption in the church on this album. Why is that such an important topic to you?
I think a lot of people will second-guess me and my faith because they see corruption. It’s like, if you had a Honda and your Honda was terrible and the breaks are bad, you just say, yo, I’m never buying a Honda again. I guess that’s what happens a lot of times with people in churches that they experience a lot of the corruption. So really, I like to challenge the church on one side and say, look how many people y’all are burning and turning away, but I also like to challenge folks who are weary and say, it’s not all like that. It’s the same way they talk about hip hop. They say, aw, all hip hop is negative, it’s all misogynistic and violent and drug-oriented, and that’s not all of hip hop. So I just wanted to paint a different picture of the church and at the same time challenge the church to take responsibility.
What message are you giving listeners on “Confe$$ions?”
“Confessions” is just the idea that money makes everything better. Diddy and Biggie [Notorious B.I.G.] said it a long time ago, "mo money, mo problems," and money does not erase your problems. I think a lot of people feel like that, and that’s the message that’s being perpetuated in music and different lifestyles, is that money ultimately eliminates all problems but that’s just a false perspective. There’s been plenty of recent events to prove that money does not solve all problems.…
That concept definitely challenges hip hop’s status quo. Why is materialism such a major issue in our culture?
What people tend to do is embellish or glorify things that only really have a glimmer or an inkling of the real picture that’s being painted. And money is a good thing, it’s a good thing that can help people, that can change circumstances. But money is not an ultimate thing. It does not bring you ultimate satisfaction and I think that’s irresponsible within hip hop for us to portray it as this ultimate. It’s the same issues that people have with the church. You’re telling people if they come to Jesus they gon’ be a millionaire. But that’s the same thing we doing. We’re making it seem like all you need to do is get this bread and everything’s gonna be OK. People sign their lives away for those contracts and then they looking crazy for the rest of their life. They don’t know how to invest, they don’t know how to.
You quote OutKast and warn listeners that you’re gonna “take them deep,” meaning into deep topics and subject matter. Do you want people to identify you only by your heavier topics or do you also feel you have feel-good music.
I think I offer some fun stuff, some good party music as well. I don’t mind showing that side as well but I think that there’s an over-saturation as it is. So I’m really just trying to bring a little balance. It’s almost like during a war, if it’s war time, absolutely it’s OK to have fun. But it’s not time for fun right now, it’s time to fight. So when I’m on the battlefield, I’m not worried about trying to have a good time, I’m trying to fight, I’m trying to stay alive. Right now there is a war going on and some of the biggest people who could affect change are not doing it. With all those murders in Chicago, why don’t we have songs that are being played that dissuade us from that type of lifestyle? Why don’t we have that?
What’s your role in the war? What mission are you trying to accomplish?
I think if we could just get people to think about it, that’s moving in the right direction. If I can just get people to even think about it, I will find some contentment there. So where I’m at is still bringing up the issues and bringing up the topics and hopefully getting us to have conversations about it and be educated about some of these circumstances and what’s going on. With the political climate, how many of us really understand the issues at hand? Or how many of us it’s just a popularity contest and we’re gonna just vote for the person that appears most popular.
Will you be voting?
Absolutely. I’m going to exercise that right. It’s a right that people have earned and died for. For me it’s taking some responsibility for the direction that I’d like to see our country go in.
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