(Photo: Courtesy of Reach Records)
For all the trends that come and go in hip hop, one thing that never goes out of style is authenticity. On his latest mixtape, Church Clothes 2, Lecrae, the righteous rhymer who has cultivated a sizable and loyal fan base by proving that you can be a Christian rapper without being corny, continues to grow as a lyricist and songwriter without compromising his values, flexing his lyrical abilities over a plethora of production styles that range from soft and soulful to downright ratchet.
Electronic keys and thundering bass lay the canvas for the opening, "Co-sign Pt 2," and the Houston emcee comes out hard, giving a turned cheek to his detractors with rhymes like, "I'm nothing but a gimmick/You see me in the club, funny you was in it/Skip a co-sign, shout out to the homie Kendrick/Crickets when I run into critics."
Lecrae later nods again to Lamar (and the shifting consciousness of the mainstream) on the K.E. on the Track-produced, "I'm Turnt," satirically flipping a club-friendly sound to create an anti-Molly anthem. "Everybody slow motion, leanin' off the potion/Tell 'em I'm straight, tryna keep my mind focused/Came 40 deep, cliqued up, crew love/Got 'em looking' at us crazy 'cause we so turnt up," he raps.
And turnt up it remains on the B.O.B.-assisted "Round of Applause," which bangs with the help of another K.E. track. "I'm a black man who beat them odds/Supposed to be locked up with no job/Never shoulda went to college and learned who God is/You add it up it's all odd, see I never knew my pops/I been abused, ran from the cops, I went to school/High on them crops, never been shot," he raps, confessing his challenges while stressing the benefits of good decisions.
The godly rapper switches it up on "Devil in Disguise," bringing in blues guitar, live drums and a highly effective tambourine to give the track a classic vibe. And on "Lost My Way," he showcases his fiery flows over a Memphis-style snare.
Houston OG Bun B also blesses the mix with some encouraging words along the "be true to yourself" message before the mixtape heads into its other standout tracks, "Believe," the melodic "If I Die Tonight" and the Three 6-influenced "My Whole Life Changed." "Let's just say I saw the light, let's just say I heard the truth/Let's just say I win the same, no more I'm out here looking new," went the hook, giving it a spiritual yet crunk overtone.
Though songs like "Misconception Pt. 2" and "The Fever" served as little more than bland filler, Church Clothes 2 is a solid effort in when-keeping-it-real-goes-holy. Lecrae is lyrically dope and versatile with the tracks, and he can go toe-to-toe with any emcee, classified "Christian rap" or not.