Lecrae Breaks New Ground as Christian Rapper, Looks to Kanye West for Inspiration
Lecrae is dubbed a Christian rapper, but he considers himself a rapper who happens to be Christian.
The Grammy-winning artist (his album Gravity won for best gospel album last year) is trying to avoid being boxed into one genre.
"I didn't really fit in either world," said Lecrae, 34, who's been endorsed by both Kirk Franklin and Busta Rhymes. "But it's telling to the gospel industry that there are people who crave a sound that is not traditional. To the mainstream industry, there's a voice of faith from all walks of life."
Last month, his seventh album, Anomaly, became the first title to top the Billboard 200 and Gospel Albums charts in the same week. He believes this success could help bring him closer to being embraced by both gospel and mainstream music.
He's been able to build a strong grassroots fan base with his Church Clothes mixtapes series, hosted by hip-hop producer DJ Don Cannon and featuring Bun B and B.o.B. He wants to provide thought-provoking messages of life in songs without sounding like a Bible-thumping preacher.
"That's all they know of me, so I have to reeducate with my presence," Lecrae said. "Most of my interviews are comprised of do you drink? Do you smoke? Do you cuss? It's going to be a process for me to continue to be in people's faces and educating them on what my distinction is."
Lecrae doesn't smoke and tries to refrain from using profanities. He sometimes drinks alcohol, but not a lot.
His arms are covered with tattoos. He normally wears his hats tilted to the side. And he often wears slightly sagging pants. He knew that he was viewed as too gritty in the gospel world, and he had to overcome the perception that his curse-free rhymes are too clean in hip-hop culture.
Lecrae calls himself a "family oriented" man who attends a weekly men's Bible-study meeting. He's married and has three children, and makes sure he's home twice a week while on tour.
He recently appeared on "The Tonight Show," performing alongside the show's house band, The Roots, between segments.
Lecrae also recently kicked off his 36-city tour that will conclude Nov. 21 in Atlanta. He said he was inspired by Kanye West's Yeezus tour last year.
West "had very strong messaging," Lecrae said. "He was trying to inspire and communicate with people with imagery. It was more than a concert. It was like a theatrical performance, Broadway show. Like him, I don't want to box myself in. I want to push myself to the further extent with this tour."