Not long ago, contemporary Christian music and mainstream hip-hop seemed mutually exclusive. Sure, Toby Mac and DC Talk began adding hip-hop flavor to Christian pop decades ago, but edgy, gritty hip-hop that focuses on the struggle between religious beliefs and street life hasn’t been a big part of the genre. That’s changing thanks to artists like Grammy-winning rapper Lecrae.
Atlanta-based Lecrae Moore grew up on mainstream hip-hop, emulating gang and drug culture before changing paths after he avoided a drug arrest when the arresting officer saw his Bible. An eye-opening conference on Christianity and a near-fatal car accident steered him further toward the church.
Sunday he tops the bill at the annual Winter Jam, which stops at Time Warner Cable Arena. He is the 19-year-old touring festival’s first hip-hop headliner. He performs alongside Christian pop mainstays and co-headliner Newsboys, festival founders Newsong, rockers Tenth Avenue North and Thousand Foot Krutch, and dance singer Plumb, as well as “American Idol” alum Colton Dixon, Canadian married duo Love & the Outcome, Russian-born brothers Everfound, Nashville rapper Derek Minor and speaker Nick Hall.
“There’s unity in our diversity,” he says of the lineup. “It demonstrates something bigger. People see segregation on Sundays. (At Winter Jam) it’s ethnically and culturally diverse – rock, folk, rap – and they’re united under this banner of love and truth. I’m hoping that’s what people will come away with. You see it happen all the time at big festivals like Coachella. I don’t know if there’s a common goal other than let’s get paid at those. It’s cool to come together and have a mission.”
The music Lecrae made before his transition wasn’t so different.
“Before I knew God I talked about my day-to-day life experiences, whether that was driving around and doing foolish things, but as I began to grow my faith I started learning the Bible and rapping about the things I was learning. I got married and started talking about what it was like to be married and kids,” he explains.
His 2013 album “Gravity” and mixtapes “Church Clothes” and “Church Clothes Vol. 2” don’t just praise Jesus, they tackle serious issues relevant to young, hip-hop audiences. He’s also not afraid to hold a mirror to the genre.
“Now I’m older and wiser and I see things in the culture, especially in music. Music is kind of an immature sport. That’s where I am now. There’s a lot of misogyny and flippant talk. I use my platform to go up against that. I feel bad for young people. Musicians are their modern-day philosophers, and their philosophers aren’t telling them a whole lot other than get high, get drunk, and that’s it. It is important that (the lyrics) be relevant.”
That means his version is sometimes darker than what you’d expect of something labeled “Christian hip-hop.”
“In some songs I’m offering a Christian perspective, but it’s not explicitly saying because the Bible told me so. Take fatherlessness – that’s a real issue. I don’t want to put that over some happy go lucky production.”
The father of three partnered with Miami Heat player Dwayne Wade and Joshua Dubois (former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Barack Obama) on 2013’s This is Fatherhood multimedia initiative. It’s another area where Lecrae notices double standards.
“I was dragging my kids – all under 6 – through the airport. I got a stroller in one hand and a carseat, and they’re trailing me. My wife isn’t with us. Everyone’s like, ‘What an awesome thing you’re doing,’” he says. “To me this is what I’m supposed to be doing. If a woman was doing that no one would congratulate her.”
Courtney's blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less