I know I’m late on this, but Lecrae is the truth. He’s a Christian rapper. But he wants to be known as a rapper who’s Christian. There is a difference. And through his balance and music, I find myself confronting my own personal struggle with that distinction.
The interesting thing is that Lecrae is not struggling with the distinction at all. He’s very comfortable with his faith, and how he wants it to come through in his music. The people who are uncomfortable are his Christian fans. Many think he’s turning his back on his faith by softening his message, associating with secular rappers, and not dedicating his lyrics to preaching the gospel of Christ. He has actively tried to escape the niche of Christian rap without abandoning his ideals. So now you’ll find him spitting 14 bars about social ills, then tie in how his faith helps him deal with it, and how trusting in Christ would help you overcome too.
Now me, I’m all for it. Christian music can be heavy-handed and hard to digest. But many may argue that it’s supposed to be. That Christian living is supposed to be unashamed and uncompromising. And therein lies my struggle.
Many of my favorite rappers are Christian and rap about their faith. But they aren’t Christian rappers. They are thoughtful, honest rappers who happen to be Christian, like Kendrick Lamar (his Christianity is a major theme of his album good kid, m.A.A.d. city), Common (who is reportedly a Christian, but very little about him is conventional. Faithful, an incredible song from his album Be, gives some clues), Blu (the son of a preacher/former pimp), and Jerreau (drops absolute gems about his faith and general duality in nearly every verse). Big K.R.I.T. is the best example, not only because he raps openly and honestly about his faith, but because I learned about Lecrae through his collaboration with Big K.R.I.T. I also learned about the issues many of Lecrae’s fans have with his balancing act through his collaboration with Big K.R.I.T. Their song is definitely about Christianity, but KRIT’s verse is not a departure from anything he would do on his own song. He is a flawed Christian who wants to do right but exists in a world of wrong. He doesn’t struggle with his belief, but struggles with how his actions conform to the mandates of his belief. Lecrae’s verse relates to KRIT’s concerns, then answers some of his questions to allay those concerns. His verse plays out as an attempt to gain KRIT’s trust on behalf of the Church. In my opinion, this is exactly what a missionary should be doing.
KRIT struggles to exist in both worlds, as I do. So I can relate to his perspective. Unfortunately, people like us often don’t believe that the Church can relate to our perspective. But in reality, most of the people we will find in church are our peers. They have the same issues we have, face the same temptations we do, and have to exist in two different worlds as well. None of us should feel inferior. But too often traditional church folk aren’t living in reality. They are pretending they don’t live in the real world, and will judge and chastise you for being flawed. So they don’t even want anything “worldly” to be acknowledged. And that is exactly what keeps many Christians away.
Now Lecrae, unlike Big K.R.I.T. and the others mentioned, is not a rapper who “happens” to be Christian. If that were the case, he’d only have a few passing mentions of his faith in his music. He still doesn’t curse, still doesn’t glorify himself, and his faith is still THE major theme of every song. His music is just not as directly about salvation and sanctification as Christian music is typically expected to be. Has he compromised himself or has he found a way to reach people like me, who are flawed human beings with heavenly intentions? Should he be seeking to reach a person who proclaims to be a ____ who happens to be Christian instead of a Christian ____?
I cannot say I know which answer is right, because I cannot say I yet know what it means to be a Christian. I know we all fall short of the glory of God, but I also know that we should strive to be Christ-like. So is it sinful for me to blast “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” while driving around in a car that has “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” etched on the license plate? Am I worthy of rebuke for being a driver who happens to be Christian instead of a Christian driver? I often feel like I am. Because I know right from wrong. But that duality is every bit of who I am as a person, and I know that while it may not be wrong, I should do better. I may never wear my Christianity on my sleeve. I may never dedicate my life to winning souls for Christ. I may never go farther, in a public sense, than that license plate cover and this post. But if I ever decide to do better, a peer like Lecrae would lead me there before someone who espoused the rigid, unrealistic ideals of traditional Christianity. He has won a new fan. And I think I am exactly the type of fan he’s after.
This song is much like any other positive conscious rap song. Great lyricism delivering a great message over a dope beat. But it finishes with this particular flourish:
"…maybe I should chuck the deuce to the spiritual truth, pop a bottle Grey Goose, let loose don’t nobody want the truth, tell lies when I get up in the booth, but I taught that love that peace that God made me for a reason, that’s why I’m still breathing, and I just wanna live but I can’t do that without hollering out JESUS…"
Doesn’t sound compromised to me at all. Sounds like a peer who has reached a level of joy in Christ that I seek, delivering it in a digestible way, and from a real perspective. And it makes me think about my life and my Christianity in a real way.
And it made me feel a way about illegally downloading his album, so I’ll probably buy it now. Thou shalt not steal. But his mixtape is free: http://www.datpiff.com/Lecrae-Church-Clothes-mixtape.348497.html. God bless.