By Dion Rabouin
Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World
How do you follow up the most important Christian hip hop album of all time?
That’s the question standing before 33-year-old rapper Lecrae, a freshly minted addition to Atlanta’s hip hop community. After his 2012 album “Gravity” hit No. 1 on the rap charts (not the Christian rap charts) and No. 3 on the Billboard 200, won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel album and his “Church Clothes” mixtape racked up 100,000 downloads, certified platinum by mixtape kingpin Datpiff.com in 48 hours, Lecrae has our attention.
He’s also got the attention of hip hop heavyweights like Kendrick Lamar, DJ Premier, Freddie Gibbs and Saigon, to name just a few, and has been named checked by athletes like Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and PGA golfer Bubba Watson.
“Christian is my faith,” says Lecrae, “not my genre.”
Clearly, he is defying not just the boundaries of Christian rap, but of hip hop, altogether. So where does he go from here? The Atlanta Daily World’s Dion Rabouin talks to one of hip hop’s most sought-after and talked-about lyricists about where he is, where he’s going and the state of hip hop, Godly and otherwise.
ADW: You’re coming off a huge album—you had the number one rap album, won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel album, you were the first holy hip hop artist to do that. What’s next for you?
Lecrae: For me, it’s just continuing to make good music. I’m gonna work on the album, I got a mixtape, “Church Clothes Vol. 2″ coming out with Don Cannon, and for me it’s just bridging the gap between the faith world and the world that is…that doesn’t really explore faith in music. You know what I’m saying? So, for me it’s about bridging that gap and stepping outside the box.
ADW: What can people expect from the new album and the mixtape? And where are you in the process with each of those?
Lecrae: I’m about near done with my mixtape, so you should look forward to that real soon. The album I’m still in grind mode, so we gonna be working on that for quite a while, but I’m excited. I’m still bringing the same passionate content that I brought in the first place, but now it’s a little more mature, a little more well rounded.
ADW: What guest stars do you have lined up, because I’m sure everyone wants to work with you now?
Lecrae: On the mixtape, got great production from the likes of people like David Banner, from Boi 1da, features from people like King Mez, Paul Wall and some other surprises that I won’t mention just now, so stay tuned. And of course my label mates, shout out to Reach Records, 116 all day.
ADW: Talk to me about the condition of holy hip hop and of hip hop in general. In your opinion, what is the state of music, from the Christian side and from the secular side?
Lecrae: My thing is, I applaud anybody who wants to be very explicit in saying, “Look, I do Christian music.” I applaud them. For me, I’ve gone through a season of giving my philosophy of faith, you know what I mean? And, now I’m in a season of putting some action around that philosophy. So I’m not gonna explain to you why you should love your brother, I’m gonna tell you a story about me loving my brother. I’m not gonna give you a Bible doctrine on why thou shalt not kill, I’m gonna do a song like “Fuss and Fight” with Scotty ATL [which he performed at Creative Loafing’s Best of Atlanta party] where we articulate why and the detriments of killing.
So, I think hip hop is in the same shape that I’m in, that everybody’s in, that is a part of the culture. Some of us are healthy and well and some of us are sick and need help, and so I’m here to help the sick.
ADW: Who do you feel is the best rapper in the game today and who do you feel is the most underrated?
Lecrae: Underrated, man? That’s a tough one in terms of underrated. I think there’s a lot of incredible MCs out there.
ADW: Would you say Lecrae is the most underrated?
Lecrae: Nah, man. I’m running in my lane. I think there are a lot of very underrated artists, in terms of, like, people don’t recognize how talented they are and that’s just based on… like a Royce Da 5’9, to me, is just as good as an Eminem, but people don’t recognize his talent as much. A Trip Lee, an artist on my label, is incredible and I think the world should know about him more. As far as, like… I feel like Drake is playing real hard ball right now. You know what I mean? He’s playing hard, so I think he’s one of the people that you could say is really competing at a really high level. Obviously, Kendrick and J Cole as well, so, you know, it’s tough.
ADW: So, who would you put at the top if you had to do it?
Lecrae: It’s tough because I think they’re running in some distinct lanes. It’s just like saying, you know, it’s just like saying Kanye and Nas and Jay-Z and Eminem, they all have their different lanes, so at any given time that position can change. So I think at any given moment, man it’s just you never know.
ADW: How do you feel about the Atlanta music scene?
Lecrae: I’m excited about Atlanta, man. Atlanta brought us Outkast and Goodie Mob, the Dungeon Family, and I thought they did a great job of balancing the reality, the truth in the streets, as well as faith, consciousness. Because consciousness is just us being aware of circumstances, of surroundings, it’s not us acting like it doesn’t exist. And that’s what Atlanta brought us and I see some of that coming back up again, where there’s an exploration of awareness and consciousness and faith and that’s where I want to be able to have a voice, a consistent voice.
ADW: Anything else we missed?
Lecrae: “Church Clothes Vol. 2,” go get that. It’s coming soon, so stay on the lookout.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2 print edition.