There is a stigma attached to Christian music. And Atlanta-based rapper Lecrae wants no part of being stereotyped. "My music is not Christian, Lecrae is," he often explains to the press.
"I think Christian is a wonderful noun, but a terrible adjective," he tells Crossfade. "Are there Christian shoes, Christian clothes, Christian plumbers, Christian pipes? I think if you're going to, you should label it hip-hop.
"Hip-hop is a particular poetic style. Labeling it with the faith assumes that the song is going to be some kind of sermon, but there's a lot of social and political things that I don't think make it gospel or Christian music."
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Long a mainstay on Billboard's gospel charts, Lecrae has most recently released Anomaly, an album that's found a wider mainstream audience, actually debuting this September as the highest selling record in any genre.
On the surface, Anomaly is a lot like any other hit rap record. From the solid production to Lecrae's vocal delivery, if the DJ played any of its tracks at a club between Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, nobody would blink.
However, a thorough listen to his lyrics will reveal no cursing and an attempt at positivity, even if the subjects of his songs may often be raw and real.
"I like to wrap my mind around a total situation," Lecrae says of his songwriting process.
"I'm a social anthropologist. If I never been homeless, let me try to be homeless for a week and soak up that information. More like a method actor. So for me it's spending time with people and talking about things from their perspective."
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While doing such sociological observation following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the rapper couldn't help but to comment on Twitter: "Dear Hip Hop, we can't scream 'murder, misogyny, lawlessness' in our music & then turn around and ask for equality & justice." He later took down the post, which he regrets.
"I wish I would have kept it up," he tells Crossfade. "I didn't think it would be understood what I was saying. People got it. I was trying to express we shouldn't be inconsistent. Let's not say these guys should be in prison when all we're doing is advocating rape in our music. Let's stop this nonsense."
Lecrae didn't always practice what he now preaches. Born in Houston, his family moved all over the country, from San Diego to Denver to Dallas, though his Mom always made sure to have music in their lives.
"We'd have a soundtrack for every activity," he recalls.
Through his teenage years, Lecrae was restless, partaking in and dealing drugs, a fact that he has confessed on many of his songs.
"I had the intuition to know that I was really kind of dragging myself down. I never really had a sense of hope. I got tired of trying to pretend I was inspired by going out every weekend. I was really not satisfied by money. There was no real satisfaction.
"'What am I in for?'" he remembers wondering. "Not that there's anything wrong with money or having a good time, but those cannot be my ultimate goals. That was the start of my faith."
It is a faith that he tries not to bludgeon his listeners with, whether on record or his current Anomaly tour. Rather, Lecrae hopes to entertain and illuminate.
"I don't want people to be spectators, watching us on stage. I want you to be part of the experience. I want you to taste the songs, hear the songs, feel the songs, see the songs."
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Lecrae's Anomaly Tour. With Andy Mineo and DJ Promote. Friday, November 14. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $29.50 plus fees via livenation.com. All ages. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.
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