“I am not insane, product of the culture/Im what happens when Outkasts meets the writings of Moses/ The views are opposing, but they correlate/ and me and Christ dont but we coordinate.”
There is nothing new about the marriage of rap and gospel music. The meger has always had the intention to capitalize on raps ability to engage youth culture while complementing gospels ability to join words with cause for action. Lecrae has been gaining traction for some time now as a burgeoning rap artist out of Houston with a penchant for spitting gospel filled bars.
Indeed, Gospel and rap have been merging for years, but Lecrae has more than gospel going for him as a gimmick, the dude can actually spit. Sadly, most artists who lead with God as a central theme in their music often are dismissed as being inauthentic for their lack of skill or lyrical ability. Its as if to say Hip-hop and good will towards others can only exist in a bubble.
And the people wanna hear more metaphors and wordplay/My sister sick of strippin, she need hope up in my words meng.
Church Clothes is his latest effort that should serve as his breakthrough to those still sleeping on his efforts over the last few years. It also has the potential for those who have heard his name in the wind to really take him seriously, despite his spiritual prowess. The process of developing the balance, and comfort, to delve into secular issues of society from a perspective rooted in spirituality has been an arduous one.
On the opening track, “Co-Sign,” he describes the barriers that he often run into because of his decision to include spirituality in his lyrics:
They tryin to figure me out, but this is not a gimmick/ Hi Hip-hop, dont act like you dont know me, we got the same mama/ dont you try to disown me!
In reality, the respective missions of Hip-hop and gospel music are to improve the quality of life and the enthusiasm for life that listeners and believers tend to hold. Lecrae is hoping that by capitalizing on this commonality between the two cultures, he can exploit a niche that has not been developed: the intersection of gritty, hood themes with spiritual fervor.
More than that, Hip-hop is a space where ones feelings, experiences, and lifestyles can and should be expressed unabashedly. Any message can be communicated and celebrated in Hip-hop as long as its in a appealing package and the people can feel the music.
Lecrae expresses through his music the ability to connect with listeners because he is authentically rooted in his reality. He doesn’t feel the need to avoid unsavory topics of drugs, sex, and structural inequalities in order to feel in line with his piety:
if God gon’ take me as I am, I guess I already got on my church clothes.
The concept behind the name, “Church Clothes” is to rebuke the idea of ontological spirituality. Its not just a cloak to be put on, but something that permeates one’s being. Its not just slacks and ties, its also snapbacks and tattoos. For Lecrae, it means recognizing how much secular Hip-hop artists has shape his reality and outlook on life growing up in one of the toughest traps in Texas, the 3rd Ward.
As he has become more comfortable blending his secular stylings with Christian lyrics, his music is becoming more relevant, his flow more poignant, his reach more powerful. He has certainly found the right way to be a Christian artists with appropriate themes and values without using Jesus in every other word.
It was a struggle becoming comfortable rapping over secular beats with his with his unusual lyrical style. As we listen today, it is clear that his flow has not changed or improved much, its always had amazing potential. But it his confidence with which he does so that has change. The underlining anxiety that was found in his early music has been wiped clean.
Chris Rock famously said that “people don’t have a problem with conscious lyrics, they have a problem with conscious beats.” Indeed, Lecrae is banking on Rocks hypothesis to propel him from the periphery to the forefront of the rap game. Thank God for Hip-hop.
*This is Hip-hop’s word, govern your lives accordingly.
Record:: Lecrae. Church Clothes
Record:: Lecrae. APB.