Who said mainstream rappers like Jay-Z, Kanye West and T.I. are the only ones who can land at the top of the charts and captivate a legion of fans with the quick spit of a hot sixteen! Just take a look at Holy Hip Hop artist Lecrae and you'll quickly realize he's blazing a trail all his own.
In just a short time span, this highly sought after Christian rapper, has released 5 critically acclaimed CD's, started his own label Reach Records and revitalized a genre of music that was being ignored.
ESSENCE.com spoke with the rapper on Christian hip hop, his influences, and gospel.
ESSENCE.COM: At what age did you start rapping and who were some of your influences then and now?
LECRAE: I started rapping at like 8 or 9 years old. A teenager I met at a halfway house gave me a mixtape when I was in 2nd grade and I was hooked. When I was younger I was heavily influenced by rappers like: Tupac, Nas, Dj Quik and Scarface. I pretty much listened to anything Hip Hop related. When I became a Christian, I found out about Crossmovement who really influenced me as a Christian and a rap artist.
ESSENCE.COM: You are the face of Christian Hip Hop right now. Do you feel any pressure being as successful as you have become.
LECRAE: Yes I definitely feel a bit of pressure. I want others to see that Christians aren't close-minded and arrogant. Everyone has a lens and perspective they see life through. I feel like many are intolerant to the Christian worldview. Maybe because of bad experiences, maybe there is inconsistency in the Christian caricatures the media shows; but I want to be a more accurate representation of Christianity. I also want artists to know we (Christians) respect the craft and art forms in society. I believe God put them here for us to cultivate and master.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you feel Christian Hip Hop has a viable place in the music industry?
LECRAE: I think it does have a viable place as long as it is authentic, well thought out, and quality. For some the goal is just to express their faith in music. For others it's to influence listeners with truth, hope, and encouragement, and then others simply want to offer their unique perspective within Hip Hop and music as a whole.
ESSNCE.COM: Why is it so hard for Christian Hip Hop to be accepted in the Gospel industry?
LECRAE: Hip Hop culture has been portrayed as sinful, evil, and unclean. When truthfully, every culture has aspects that are messed up. But when something is redeemed or given new direction, it can still maintain its substance. It just functions differently. Cocaine is portrayed as an addictive illegal drug, but doctors use it as a topical anesthetic. The drug isn't the problem, people's intention and desire is the problem. Hip Hop isn't the problem. Art, rhythm, expression, and rhyme are not the problem. The motivation, heart, and use of them are. We call it sin. That's the real problem.
ESSENCE.COM: If someone picks up a Lecrae CD that's never heard you before, what do you want him or her to take away?
LECRAE: I want them to appreciate the art, find inspiration, and relate to me as a fellow human being with the same problems and struggles. The difference is I have found faith in Christ to be the solution. If you don't arrive there through the music I can live with that. I don't do all of my music to preach to people. I do it foremost to express my views in a way I believe honors God.
Lecrae's fifth album, "Rehab: The Overdose" is currently in stores.