Listen to Gravity feat. J.R.
One would be hard-pressed to find another independent rapper more courageously accomplished than Lecrae, lyricist and co-CEO of Reach Records. Truly self-made, the Houston, Texas native has done what the average music artist has historically been afraid to do: stick to his own message, terms and work ethic. What most separates him from his peers is he’s not only rapping to fans, he’s rapping as a fan (of a higher power), unearthing unprecedented success doing so.
After launching his label, along with partner Ben Washer, in 2005, Lecrae used his debut Real Talk to wake up Hip-Hop fans that slept on “the word.” Seeing his firstborn reach #29 on Billboard’s Gospel Album chart only fueled the former University of North Texas student to become an even greater voice for his, at times, guideless generation. He would form the non-profit organization ReachLife Ministires, which aimed to provide local leaders with interactive initiatives and resources necessary to raise future community influencers. In 2006, he released his sophomore effort After The Music Stops, which fertilized the landscape for his third and most commercial success, 2008’s Rebel, the first rap album to top Billboard’s Christian Album chart for consecutive weeks. Album achievement would be followed by cosigns from rap new guards (Kendrick Lamar) and legends (DJ Premier). Lecrae credits his career’s fruitful independence to transparency. “It’s [my] clear vision and mission,” he says. “I’m not just carried by every wind and wave; I’m not trying to cater to everybody. I’ve always been about being real. I think people resonate with that.”
With two studio albums succeeding Rebel (2010’s Rehab and Far Away), Lecrae is now ready to set forth on his greatest mission yet: kill the hypocrisy between the purists of Gospel and Hip-Hop music. The vehicles for this modus operandi are the 6’5 wordsmith’s upcoming LP Gravity (Fall 2012)––its prelude was the Don Cannon-hosted Spring mixtape Church Clothes and single of same name. Gravity’s focus is to stretch narrow perspectives, straighten postures as well as perk ears to some microphone athleticism. Rhyme highlights can be experienced on the penetrating “Violence,” rebellious title track and DJ Khalil-produced, Big K.R.I.T. featured “May Day,” on which Lecrae spits “Now I found true religion and its not inside no denim/and the overpriced shades will never give you vision.” This is the album that may wipe clean the world’s perception of a ministry MC. “I have tattoos all over my arms, my hat is to the side and my pants are a little low,” he begins. “So [old-school Christians] say ‘The only Black men I’ve seen dressed like that aren’t college educated.’ But you’re wrong because I am.”
Another fight for The Reach boss is to address folks who believe that the church can’t be trusted. His aim is to discourage nonbelievers from judging a majority by its minority. “If there happens to be some consistency in the church, let’s not throw it all away because of the one inconsistency,” says Lecrae. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”
The dichotomy that Lecrae has chosen to attack has attracted Hip-Hop fans that too have wrestled with both spiritual faith and B-boy roots. Some of his conflicted fans are also peers. A perfect example is Malice of the Clipse, older brother and rhyme partner to G.O.O.D Music artist Pusha T, who was so moved by ‘Crae’s conviction, he leapt at the opportunity to contribute to Church Clothes. The resulting track would be the contemplative “Darkest Hour.” “I basically met Crae at a point in his career where he was expanding his audience,” says Malice. “I too was fortunate enough to reach a broader audience without losing my current fan base. And for us to do so side by side made for a great record.”
As a youth, Lecrae was more street kid than church boy. Raised between Texas and the more seedy parts of San Diego, California, the Tupac fan idolized his uncles, whose lifestyle consisted of much drug pushing and trigger pulling. Though the youngster dabbled in underworld activity, his elder relatives wouldn’t allow him to completely follow in their footsteps. “They were like, you’re smarter than we are so we need you to take different strides,” ‘Crae tells. “They saw the ultimate detriment.”
Luckily the Texan, being the inquisitive and experimental youngster that he was, explored faith in various forms. That is until the day he stumbled into a bible study with folks who dressed and talked just like him. At 18-years-old, he was finally home. The natural next step was to wed his new awareness with his oratory prowess. Once accomplished, that pairing would be added to an entrepreneurial spirit learned from pioneering moguls like Master P. Now that Lecrae’s attributes are unified, working as one royal machine, there’s nothing else for the MC to do but claim his lane and guide the lost to it.