His new album hit no. 1 on the hip-hop/rap charts last month. Yet artist Lecrae Moore follows a different beat than much of the hip-hop world.
“Dear Hip-Hop,” he wrote on Instagram, “this didn’t happen because of swag, drug references, or stripper anthems. #Godisgood.”
Lecrae’s music is about faith and some of the deeper questions in life. Yet people like it. Strange… or maybe not. Let’s take a brief look at this artist and how he got to where he is at.
Lecrae Moore was born in 1979 and raised by his mother in a number of cities, including Houston, San Diego, Denver, and Dallas. He never met his father, who ended up becoming a drug addict. Lecrae admits that most of his role models as a boy and young man were gangsters and womanizers.
Like many urban teens, he enjoyed creating his own rap lyrics to as a hobby. It was a way to process and communicate his thoughts. It was only later that his hobby developed into a passion.
As a teenager, Lecrae got involved in the drug and gang scene, then the alcohol and party scene. Yet his mother and grandmother tried throughout his childhood and teen years to get him to look at faith as a way above the troubled urban scene.
He wasn’t buying it.
Yet at age 17, looking at his personal life, he realized he was at a dead end. He decided to give church a second try. Luckily he found some friends his age there at a bible study (especially a girl that he liked…) and he began to rethink some things.
Up to then, his role models were people in trouble, but he looked at these new friends and was surprised. “They were people like me. They read the same books and listened to the same music. Their character was just different. They were loving and that’s what really drew me in.”
Lecrea began to change, but things were still very difficult for him.
At 19, Lecrae had an experience that really helped set him on the new path. He was invited to a conference in Atlanta. Again, his interest was principally in meeting girls, but there he met God in a powerful way.
A Christian hip-hop group, The Cross Movement, really impacted him, and a preacher really reached his heart.
He describes his impression of the hip-hop group this way, “I see guys who had been shot from being in gangs, girls who were extremely promiscuous in the past, I see rappers, dancers and singers; I see people who came from the same background I came from, and they still embodied who they were culturally, but they were all in love with Jesus, and I had never seen that before.”
Then the speaker, James White, explained in a way that reached Lecrae how Christians are bought with a price. The price is the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.
Shortly thereafter, Lecrae decided to commit his life to Christ. He even printed copies of his testimony and started handing them out at his college campus. He started volunteering and performing at a juvenile detention center. There he saw he was having a positive impact on many young people, so he decided that offering “hope and encouragement” through music was what he wanted to do.
So Lecrae continued to do music and ministry in the urban culture as he tried to deepen in his conversion. After about five years he released his first album with the help of several friends. It eventually reached No. 29 on the Billboard “Gospel Albums” charts.
Around that time (2005) Lecrae also cofounded an organization to continue to working towards reforming urban culture. It is called ReachLife Ministries and works to equip local Christian leaders with tools that are based on the teachings of the Bible and relevant to hip-hop culture.
So, music and ministry. With work, Lecrae and his friends have been making an impact on the hip-hop industry. Each new album received greater attention from mainstream music and attracted more fans.
His album in 2006 (After the Music Stops) hit No. 7 on the Billboard “Christian Albums” chart.
His album in 2008 (Rebel) hit No. 1on the Billboard Christian Albums chart, the first hip-hop album to do so.
His album in 2010 (Rehab) became one of the highest selling Christian Rap/Hip Hop albums of all time.
His album in 2011 (Rehab: The Overdose) reached No. 1 on the iTunes rap/hip-hop charts.
His latest album (Gravity) was released last month (September 2012), and has garnered even more attention than his earlier releases. The album hit No. 1 on iTunes rap/hip-hop and for while two of the singles from the album were also No. 1 and No. 2 on the singles chart for that genre.
Lecrae’s musical genre is usually classified as Southern hip-hop. He has changed his style a bit each time, and incorporates both slower and faster beats into his music.
Jesus is not always the obvious theme of every song. He often talks honestly about his struggles to become a better person and about the challenges of life.
For example on his latest album, Gravity, he confesses his failings to be a better husband for his wife Darragh, “For better or for worse/ Sometimes I make you sick and you get on my nerves/ Make it work/ I ain’t goin’ nowhere, and I give you my word/ I will be right here.” (From the song, “Buttons”)
Another song on the recent album is called “Violence”. Lecrae says it is a call to resolve things in a peaceful manner. The refrain chants, “war, pain, violence should stop.”
The artist explains that his goal in spotlighting certain issues in not to glorify them but to provoke thought and discussion.
“I think there’s an outlook that people want to escape reality – hip-hop being one of the culprits because it’s just escape music. But it doesn’t deal with real issues that people deal with on a regular basis, so I want to be a voice in there. Let’s deal with some reality. Let’s deal with who we are.”
Lecrae’s top downloaded song on iTunes is called Background (from the album Rehab). It is prayer to overcome self-centeredness. The song is a powerful reminder about the danger of making ourselves into gods (unhealthy pride). In the song the artist tries to focus on someone greater than himself (Jesus) to be his guide and leader:
“I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines/ I’m sticking to your script, and I’m reading all your signs/ I don’t need my name in lights, I don’t need a starring role/ Why gain the whole wide world, If I’m just going lose my soul/ … / I could play the background/ Cause I know sometimes I get in the way/ So won’t You take the lead…?/ … / And I could play the background …/ And you could take the lead.”
Some celebrity athletes, like football player Tim Tebow and Houston Rockets basketball star Jeremy Lin, say they listen to Lecrae as part of their warm-up routine. Lecrae’s energy and his values help them focus on being the best they can be for the team and not for themselves.
Not all Christian artists make it big time. In fact most of them don’t. But Lecrae and a few other artists are showing that sometimes they can.
Certainly reaching modern culture is not easy. It’s not just about good intentions. You have to really know your craft. There is no substitute for professionalism and talent. But hard work can develop these potentials. Lecrae’s hard work (in prayer, music, and ministry) is making an impact. Let’s pray that he continues this way and that others can follow.
For ourselves, we know that not all of us can be music stars or celebrities. But each of us can have a positive impact on others. It all starts with small things. Let’s continue to see each day as an opportunity to become better persons and help others know God’s love. We never know how much of an impact we can have.
(Author’s note: sources for this article include: Time magazine, Reachrecords.com, Wikipedia, iTunes, Focus on the Family, and Atlanta Music Scene.)
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”(Luke 22:31-32)
“Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12: 3)
“Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:8)
“Sing to the Lord a new song, a hymn in the assembly of the faithful.” (Psalm 149: 1)
“It is necessary, then, to appeal … to the permanent need for man’s inner conversion, so as to obtain social changes that will really serve him.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 888)
“Truth is beautiful in itself. But truth can also find complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2500)
“Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2501)
“Society, which in our time is marked by innumerable social changes, awaits your contribution in order to build a common coexistence that is less selfish and more supportive, truly inspired by the great ideals of justice, freedom and peace.” (Pope Benedict XVI, April 21, 2007)
“Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they may feel truly loved, accepted, able to realize their full potential.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with youth, May 10, 2007)
“So do not be afraid to give your life to Christ: he never disappoints our expectations because he knows what is in our hearts. … The Church, which needs your commitment, especially if she is to take the Gospel proclamation to your peers.” (Pope Benedict XVI, April 21, 2007)