By Daniel Fox
Confession… As a Christian growing up, I never found myself gravitating towards today’s Christian music. Through varying conversations with other people, it feels like I’m not alone in this. Is there anything functionally wrong with most of the Christian music today? Not necessarily, but when you’ve been introduced the varying degrees of musical genius that can be found in the likes of the Stones, Zeppelin, U2, Nirvana, and others, most other music can seem rather bland. Most times when I turn on the Christian radio station, I am unable to differentiate between the artists, other than if they are male or female. Everything seems to have the same melody with the same straightforward, uplifting lyrics. But hey, to each his own, and there is definitely a market for that style and plenty of people who prefer that music to anything else on the radio and that’s ok. However, for me, I felt it hard to enjoy and would often feel guilty that I didn’t necessarily like the “good, Christian music” and preferred music the Church would deem as “wrong, or secular.” Remember when the Youth Pastor or special guest-speaker would ask you to throw away your “secular” CD’s? Yea that wasn’t very fun, and I’m sorry Mr. Youth Pastor, but my CD of “Siamese Dream” was going nowhere near a trashcan.
I’m not necessarily a big Rap fan, so when I found myself in the middle of a rap concert in the summer of 2004 I was pretty uninterested. But then this artist starting raping lyrics that contained the words “crunk” and “eschatology” in the same song. Huh? Excuse me? “Crunk” a very secular word coined by the Three 6 Mafia, and “eschatology” a very Christian word meaning the theological studying of the end times… used in the same song. Needless to say the artist peaked my interest and has ever since. That artist was Lecrae.
Today, 12 years later, Lecrae is very much at the forefront of a revolution that is seeking to merge the Christian and secular musical cultures. He currently has over a million followers on Twitter, and hangs out with the likes of Steph Curry and Kendrick Lamar. Yet still publically shares his Christian faith both in his music and in the real world. This couldn’t work if Lecrae was an average musician, but it does because he is an extraordinary rapper, writer, and producer. The freshness of his beats at times can seem like a combination of multiple generations with hints of Tupac, Outkast, and Kendrick Lamar all present on the same album or even the same song. His best work being 2014’s Anomaly, the first Christian album ever to debut at #1 on the Gospel Albums chart and Billboard 200, and only the fifth Christian artist ever, only the third in almost 20 years, to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200.
Lecrae is an artist standing in the middle of two cultures that majorities of people desire to be separate, but that he desires to be an integral part of each other. Lecrae said in a 2014 article from Billboard.com, “I didn't really fit in either world. But it's telling to the gospel industry that there are people who crave a sound that is not traditional. To the mainstream industry, there's a voice of faith from all walks of life." Of course this creates natural detractors from both sides, the mainstream industry that would prefer faith based music to be kept in its own niche, only occasionally appearing such as when Kanye West released “Jesus Walks.” A good song that was accepted by the mainstream, but after which Kanye has followed with traditional rap lyrics… and general craziness. Likewise, most churches today are teaching that Christian culture should be separate from secular culture. Believing that Lecrae shouldn’t be in the mainstream and strictly stick to what Christian artists have been doing forever. So there Lecrae sits alone, an artist between worlds, half Jay-Z, half John Piper. Doing what he loves to the best of his abilities, creating great music for both cultures yet in spite of each culture at the same time. He certainly is quite the anomaly.