There is almost no genre of music that I can’t get into, I’m pretty much good with them all. However, at the risk of sounding like a village grandma, the one genre that I have never really been a fan of is, Hip Hop. In the most general, and admittedly stereotypical sense, Hip Hop songs just do not appeal to me, usually because: (1) I can’t really relate to what most of these artists are rapping/singing about- the chains, the girls, the size of their ego etc, and (2) I can’t really understand what most artists are rapping/singing about (for example, that “Lifestyle” song by Rich Gang… is that guy Young Thug OK? I’m just asking).
There are of course exceptions and I do appreciate a few gems here and there, but essentially these are the two main reasons why I will probably hit ‘skip’ if I hear some Hip Hop come on. Now when it comes to Lecrae, it’s a different story. His might not be a name that immediately comes to mind in this genre, but Lecrae is an artist that has always been unapologetically Hip Hop, and despite my general aversion, I have been keeping an eye on this guy for a while now.
I think the best way to summarize Lecrae and his music (for those who are unfamiliar) is to say that he is a Hip Hop artist with a love for God, bringing a different type of message. What you might not want to do is pigeon-hole him as just a ‘Christian Hip Hop’ artist, you may find yourself in the middle of an awkward debate over definitions, technicalities and the implications of him being labelled as such (plenty ‘Lecrae’ controversies have arisen due to this).
Regardless, Lecrae is somewhat of a veteran in this industry (I first heard his music 10 years ago!), having bagged himself a Grammy Award and plenty entries on the Gospel Billboard chart. Despite this, the rapper still gives you the impression in his music that he is just getting started! Or at least that’s how it feels listening to his new album Anomaly. Released last month, Lecrae’s seventh studio album has been doing incredibly well. Selling 88,000 copies in its first week, Anomaly earned Lecrae the top spot on the Billboard Album Chart for the first time.
The album gets off to a great start, with the piano-soft track “Outsiders“. As a dedication to living life against the status quo, “Outsiders” is mostly a gentle track but Lecrae still hits hard. Both lyrically and in delivery, Lecrae cannot be faulted and this track shows that. I’m just fighting the urge to write out the whole second verse for you! While “Outsiders” had me with my foot in the door, the second track “Welcome to America” practically had me moving in with my feet up, for more. You cannot un-hear a track like “Welcome to America”, it is a song that you will remember long after the album ends.
“Welcome To America”:
Seemingly out of nowhere, the mood shifts as Lecrae launches into his depiction of what “Welcome to America” really means these days. From drug dealers to hopeless ex-military men to immigrants with a dream, Lecrae goes in! The song may have ruffled a few patriotic feathers, but “Welcome to America” doesn’t sound like just a Kermit the Frog-style rant against the ‘Home Of The Brave and Land Of The Free’. Lecrae’s first-person delivery from three different perspectives could easily have listeners from anywhere in the world taking a second look at the attitudes we generally have in the West.
An honourable mention must also goes to the track “Nuthin“, which samples ‘I got 5 on it’ by Luniz and begs the same question as above – what are Hip Hop artists/songs these days actually talking about? Now there was definitely some Lipton tea involved on this one! Listen out for lines like this, “Louboutin ain’t gone pay you for that braggin’… and Donnatella probably never heard your album”. *clutches chest* But is he lying though? You better let that one marinate!
“Good, Bad, Ugly”:
Taking a much more inward route, “Good, Bad, Ugly” is also a must hear. Lecrae’s very honest, almost raw accounts of tough moments in his past might be a little hard to listen to for some. But his testimony and his reminder to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past might also be the lifeline that a listener needs to hear. No wonder so many have claimed this song as their favourite on the album.
So what’s the final verdict from a Hip Hop hater like me? Lecrae may be true to his Hip Hop roots, but his music values content over style, which is so refreshing and results in great albums like Anomoly. That alone is worth me recommending him, and makes me want to see what else like this is out there. But you know…baby steps!
Purchase: Lecrae – Anomaly (iTunes)