When I was young, DC Talk was my jam. “Free At Last”, “Walls”, “Luv is a Verb”, “Heavenbound”, and more were on constant repeat to the point where, had CDs not come along, I would have worn out the cassette tapes by the time was I was 10. There was just something about rap/hip hop that I loved; my mom likes to say that DC Talk and (early) Michael W Smith (Go West Young Man) helped me learn how to speak.
In 2006, I was introduced to an up and coming “Christian” rap artist named Lecrae. His lyrics and talent were incredible and I was immediately sucked in. What’s funny is that I was introduced to him by my folk music loving roommate who was definitely not into the same style of music as me – but there was something about Lecrae that even he liked. I’ve loved seeing in the last couple years how Lecrae has become more and more of a mainstream artist and how even those who don’t normally care for his genre can enjoy his rhymes.
I’ve been mulling over in my mind for a while now how to write about America’s “christian” sub-culture; it is really no secret that my pet peeves include things being called christian – christian book, christian movie, christian t-shirt, christian music, christian candy (seriously) – it just bugs me. Today I found an interview that Lecrae gave where he directly addresses the issue. Sometime in the future I’ll revisit the topic on my own but for now I’ll share his words directly – If you would like to read the entire interview, click here.
“I’m a big fan of looking at Paul in Acts and in the marketplace, but in the synagogue as well, mixing it up in the culture, and knowing who their modern-day poets were and speakers and philosophers and then being able to integrate their ideals and values in his talks as he’s trying to preach Christ to them,” Lecrae told Geiger in the late-May interview.
“What we see a lot in the United States is the residue of what we call Christendom, where we know Christian culture but we really don’t know the Christian Christ,” he said, adding that Christians, instead of embracing culture, tend to “become separatists and say ‘everything in the culture is bad.’ So we create a subculture, a bubble.
“So if a lot of Christians could have it their way we’d have Christian Starbucks, Christian tennis shoes, Christian everything, instead of transforming the culture we’re in,” Lecrae said. “I’m not saying that from a utopian perspective of ‘We’re going to make the world heaven,’ but we are fleshing out what God’s Kingdom will ultimately look like. We are demonstrating what it looks like to end violence, crime in communities, for people to see and benefit from what redemption has done in our lives.”
As an artist, Lecrae doesn’t shirk his Christian label but says “Christian is my faith, not my genre, [which] goes against the grain of cultural Christianity. We have to be careful with terms like Christian and Gospel because those are bigger than genres of a book or CD. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. If you limit that to a genre of music, you do a disservice to what the Gospel is.
“Christianity is an identifying mark,” Lecrae said. “It says I associate myself with Christ. I’m a follower of Christ. To call my music Christian is really storefront Christianity. I’d rather not put the label of Christian on me because I say so; I’d rather it be tagged on me because my character demonstrates it because I’ve really been changed.”
Additionally, “The world has come to see that things titled Christian or Gospel means ‘they’re excluding me,'” he said. “So to call it Christian rap must mean it’s for Christians. That’s a disservice to the missional work we are trying to do. I’m not mad at creating things that edify the church specifically, but as we’re being missional, we need to be careful about giving certain terminology and jargon to things.”
For your consideration, here a few of my favorite tracks by Lecrae: