THE MIXTAPE STAR EXPLAINS WHY IT'S TIME FOR RAPPERS WITH A CHRISTIAN GROUNDING TO BE REPRESENTED IN THE WORLD OF RAP
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A hectic day marred by of gray skies and rainy weather in the Big Apple handling press runs would not stop rapper Lecrae from saying he felt blessed. When I ask about his black t-shirt with an orange slash printed across it, he says it symbolizes the idea of not being a "robot" and going against the grain of societal ideals. As an artist currently at the forefront of bridging a gap between the hip-hop and Christian world, Lecrae knows all about being different, and it's working for him.
Not only was he featured in a BET Hip Hop Awards Cipher last October, but his latest mixtape Church Clothes has been downloaded over 200,000 times (over 100,000 times in 48 hours). The project is hosted by DJ Don Cannon, who has produced for a wide-range of notable hip-hop acts including 50 Cent, Ludacris, and Busta Rhymes. With poise and high-paced energy, Church Clothes isn't preachy or holier-than-thou. However, he isn't shy about rapping how he believes God has transformed him from a sinner to a saint.
A Houston native, Lecrae wasn't raised in the church. Early in his life he struggled with identify, being raised by a single mother, and seeking male role models in the streets.
After attending a Bible study with a friend in college, he eventually became saved at 19-years-old. This inspired him to use hip-hop to spread his faith and co-found Reach Records, which has a full roster of artists rooted in Christian values, and he released his first album Real Talk in 2004. Currently, Lecrae is rising in a musical genre defined by materialism and egotistical boasting. He's faced some skepticism from both the hip-hop and Christian worlds, who claim the two could never mix; yet he believes otherwise. He sat down with EBONY.com to explain why pulling these worlds together is a worthwhile challenge.
EBONY: So what has been the overall feedback of Church Clothes thus far?
Lecrae: Over 200,000 downloads, which has been phenomenal. I think it has really resonated with people. The biggest thing of all, people have appreciated the quality of the music and the hope in the music as well. The inspiration, the message, the truth, and I think that's what's been really encouraging. And I think people who are not typical Lecrae fans are hearing it now and that's really good.
EBONY: What's behind the name?
Lecrae: I named it "Church Clothes" because I wanted to address the very issue that people think they have to put on in order to come to God. If you want to put on a suit and come to church, fine. But it's a problem when you make people feel like, if you don't do this, you're not going to be accepted and God doesn't look at that. God says, "there's nothing you can do to be accepted, trust me and and let me change you." And at the end of the day, acceptance isn't about what I do, or what I don't do. Acceptance is about me trusting God to take me exactly as I am and take me to something different. And I think that's what we should have for people. It's about saying, hip hop, this is church. Church, this is hip-hop. Y'all need to meet. I know you have some misconceptions about them, I know you have some misconceptions about them. Let's work through this because there's a lot of false perspective.
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