Check out our exclusive interview with Lecrae, one of our NOW PLAYING performers.
This year's NOW PLAYING (sponsored by Verizon) performer, Lecrae, is one of a kind. After breaking records by topping both the Billboard 200 and the Gospel charts simultaneously with the release of his seventh studio album Anomaly, he brought a new idea of what a rapper should be by incorporating his strong faith as the center of his music.
With the monumental success of that album, he won a (second) Grammy and shot to fame. He dislikes the term 'Christian rapper' because he feels that it turns people away from the message. No matter what genre you try to place him in, the talented rap star proved that his messages of encouragement, hope and love could be just as popular and mainstream as the hip-hop norm of “turning up.”
To welcome him to the ESSENCE Fest experience, we wanted to talk to him personally about everything he’s been up to. In between tour stops on his “Lecrae Anomaly Tour,” the husband and father of three took a second to chat with us about what he plans to bring to the stage, the gradual shifts happening in Hip-Hop and successfully creating his own lane before he heads down to New Orleans with us in July.
Check out the interview, here:
ESSENCE: We are so excited to have you this year. How is your tour going?
Lecrae: Thank you, I’m excited man. There’s nothing like doing your own tour because you really get an idea of how your fan base is growing and just being able to genuinely connect with the people. I love it!
ESSENCE: 2014 was an explosive year for your career. Do you feel that you’ve successfully crossed over or do you feel like you’ve solidified your own lane instead?
Lecrae: You know…my own lane is probably the better perspective. Crossover is difficult coming from people knowing your background is faith-based. There’s a little bit of marginalization, there’s a little bit of hesitancy. I think there’s still some room to grow there.
ESSENCE: We’ve heard you say in past interviews that you are not a 'Christian rapper', you are a rapper who just happens to be Christian. Do you have to explain yourself as much now? Or are people starting to understand it on their own?
Lecrae: I definitely see more people understanding it. Categories are easy and it helps people. Especially when someone is like, ‘I’ve never heard of you, how is this possible?’ The category helps them make sense of it all, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing to prove. I just keep making music. It is what it is and we just keep pushing forward, one by one.
ESSENCE: What do you hope to bring to ESSENCE Fest that we’ve never seen before?
Lecrae: [I'm] someone who appreciates the culture. Someone who has grown up loving black music and appreciative of everything from Frankie Beverly and Maze to Kendrick Lamar, and then having those firm faith foundations. It will feel like a family member is up there rocking with you. I’m somebody who cares about you, who wants you to enjoy yourself. It’s just that whole vibe but within Hip-Hop. You deal with people like Anthony Hamilton and you get that vibe, but it’s R&B/Soul. Within Hip-Hop, you really haven’t had anybody you feel like, ‘Man, that’s my brother. He’s not just here to turn up all the way on me. He wants to encourage me in my relationship, he wants to be a positive influence in my life and yet, we can have a good time.
ESSENCE: Speaking of the culture, we’ve seen great releases from J.Cole, Drake and Kendrick Lamar—singles and albums—that are pretty vulnerable. The content of their songs go beyond the ever-popular “turn up” side of hip-hop... With the overwhelmingly positive fan response, including with your last album, do you think a shift towards more genuine music is happening?
Lecrae: Absolutely. We are so much bigger than that as humanity. We’ve built pyramids. We’ve written novels. We’re so much bigger and robust and fuller. When you make a homogenous group [of people] that can’t do anything but get high, get drunk and go to the clubs, I think it’s a disservice to who we are culturally. I want to represent a little bit more of the robustness of who we are. I think that’s what people are getting tired of. It takes the poets and the philosophers of the culture, which are musicians a lot of the time, to be able to paint those pictures. We are not just this homogenous group [of people]. All of us are not the exact same.
ESSENCE: Since you are one of our Now Playing artists, so what music are you playing [or listening to] right now?
Lecrae: I am listening to a little Robert Glasper. I just bought Big Sean’s album that just came out [Dark Sky Paradise], so I’ve been listening to it. Also, I’m one of those people that stays on something who has to force themselves to get off of it. I’m so busy, I don’t have time to listen to music like I want to but definitely 2014 Forest Hills Drive. J.Cole’s album is one I’ve listened to pretty consistently. The song where he’s talking to his mother, Apparently—I love that song!
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Lecrae and keep up to date with all he's doing until #EssenceFest by following him on Twitter, @Lecrae.