TBGB had a chance to catch up with Lecrae last week. We talked about his influences, his latest releases, and whether Christian rap and hip hop is making inroads in churches.
TBGB: How did you get started in Christian rap?
L: I got started when I was volunteering at a juvenile detention center and doing music for them on a regular basis. Then a friend of mine had an idea to start a label. We started the label and from there just traveled around, ministering to juvenile detention centers, prisons, camps. The music just spread from there.
TBGB: Why did you start Reach Records?
L: When you have a vision for the music you want to put out there, it’s very important to be independent. It allows you to carry out the vision and have spokespeople on the label who you agree with and who you share a philosophy with. Sho Baraka, Trip Lee, Tedashii, they are all on the label. We just signed a new artist, KB. The beauty is to have a group of individuals who can share the weight of this mission to impact the world through the medium of music. It doesn’t all land on one person’s shoulders.
TBGB: As an innovator in Christian hip hop, you are an influence to many artists, but who are your influences?
L: I was highly influenced in terms of Christian hip hop and Christian rap by the Cross Movement, based out of Philly. I had the opportunity to travel with them for about a year and a half when I was co-signed to their label.
TBGB: I understand your album, Rebel, was the first Christian rap album to reach number one on the Billboard Gospel Album Charts.
L: It’s beyond me! I think the album’s success is due to the intensity of the messages, which are very gospel-centered. And when I say “gospel,” most people think of a genre, but I mean an eternal truth that changes people’s lives. I think people gravitated to the project because it centers around really gripping truths. The album resonated within urban culture and then transcended urban culture to an international level.
TBGB: Rehab made it into the top twenty of Billboard’s Top 200 immediately after release and is now your second number one on the Top Gospel Albums chart. What does the title of the album refer to?
L: Rehab is a play on words. Obviously, it’s a strong title, and when most people think of “rehab,” they think of drugs or a clinic, which is what draws them in. But the picture I wanted to paint is that the world itself is fractured. It’s broken, it’s addicted to self. The only way to have the fracture restored, to have that addiction to self adjusted, is for there to be a rehabilitation that can be found through Jesus alone, through the gospel.
TBGB: What are the current singles off of Rehab?
L: Right now, “High” is one of them. “High” articulates that we are not in need of drugs to find satisfaction. Another one is “Just Like You,” about the quest for masculinity as found in Scripture.
TBGB: I hear that a second part of Rehab will be released in January.
L: Right, January 11, 2011, Rehab: the Overdose, which I explain to people as like a shot of espresso in your coffee!
TBGB: Are churches becoming more amenable to having Christian rappers come in and minister?
L: I am seeing it become more acceptable. Not only are churches allowing us to come in and minister, but they are also raising up their own [hip hop] artists. My encouragement and challenge [to artists] is to consider the accountability of the ministers at these churches. When you say you are coming to minister, we expect you to be serious about what you say, and that there are people in your life who will hold you accountable to the truths you speak.
TBGB: It seems as if Christian rappers are the twenty-first century equivalent of the street corner evangelists of the twentieth century. They also took the message of Christ to the streets. The only difference is that they played bottleneck guitar and sang, and you rap and use other instruments.
L: I think they are very similar. Both of them were birthed out of a desire to communicate truths within the culture. Rap is the way cultural views are expressed, but when you articulate what’s going on in the world, and counter with truths that will change people’s perspectives on life, then rap becomes a tool.
TBGB: Tell us about your recent trip to Sudan.
L: I went to Sudan because of the things that have been going on there for the past fifteen years. Tedashii, another friend of mine, and I, the three of us had a great opportunity to serve, to teach and encourage leaders and work with some orphanages. It was two weeks of teaching, training and serving. The Christians there are so passionate in their desire to serve the Lord. The oppression and the war and the pain and the turmoil are what drives them to depend on the Lord. We were more encouraged by them than I think we could ever have expected. It’s a really incredible story of war and peace, religion and race. It was life-altering.
I just started a campaign with another label called Collision Records with their first artist, Swoope. We put out a song called “Actions Speak Louder,” which is actually the number one downloaded song on iTunes right now. All the proceeds go to Sudan and the orphanages.
TBGB: What is next for Lecrae?
L: I am doing a “Rehab Series” where I will visit some juvenile detention centers, prisons, homeless shelters. These will be small, free concerts and speaking engagements where we will articulate some of the themes behind Rehab.
On the non-profit side, ReachLife Ministries finished a film project called Man Up. There is a curriculum with that, and that will all come out later on in 2011. The plan is to travel with the guys on the label and discuss what it means to be a man from the Bible’s perspective.
TBGB: Last month at the Chicago Area Gospel Announcers Guild Anniversary Summit, panelists cited you as someone who knows how to use social networking to expand your ministry. What advice do you have for other artists who want to use social networking to expand their ministries?
L: When it comes to social networking, people are looking for consistency. They want to know what to expect when they connect with you on line. There are a lot of artists who have a presence on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter but they don’t really use them. When people find out that you are visible and touchable, they will come to you and want to know more.
If you are consistent in who you are and what your perspective is, then people know what to expect. You can use that platform for the building trust and glorifying God.
For more information on Lecrae, go to http://www.reachrecords.com/.