NPR’s A Martinez speaks with Christian rapper Lecrae about his new mixtape, Church Garments 4, and the way he connects with millennials.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Hip-hop artist Lecrae raps about Jesus and Christianity on his new mixtape, “Church Garments 4.” This music compilation that is looser and freer than a studio album explores racism, issues within the church, police brutality and abortion. I spoke with Lecrae earlier about when he turned a Christian.
LECRAE: I used to be 17. I had a being pregnant scare. I had gotten in some bother with the legislation.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “DIRT”)
LECRAE: (Rapping) I received arrested, was immature.
Being a rebellious, form of mischievous child, did not develop up together with his father and began asking some questions on goal, about life. And that led me down a non secular journey. And that is the place I heard the message of Christ and was – you understand, had a religious transformation.
MARTÍNEZ: So how did listening to the message of Christ lead you into hip-hop?
LECRAE: That is a joke. My uncles had been massive into hip-hop. You recognize, they had been form of children within the ’80s, and hip-hop was this phenomenon. You recognize, my mom labored at a midway home, and among the guys who would get out of jail, they had been listening to hip-hop. And they’d give me mixtapes. So by the point I am 19 years previous, which is after I had my religious transformation, I used to be already, like, a product of the tradition of hip-hop. It was simply now, like, how you can articulate this newfound worldview that I had and these new values with the identical form of ability set and type of expression that I had grown up with?
MARTÍNEZ: As a result of I feel most individuals do not routinely affiliate hip-hop and Christianity.
LECRAE: No (laughter). Yeah, they’re legitimately two completely different worlds. Hip-hop is, you understand, this sort of anti-establishment motion that was shaped by these rebellious children. And so oftentimes, Christianity in America seems like institution. It seems political. It seems, you understand, like restrictions.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “STILL IN AMERICA”)
LECRAE: (Rapping) I am nonetheless in America, the place church is a Broadway manufacturing for relevance. We traded the dominion to construct an empire. So individuals do not belief us, apparently. We worship economic system. We’ll kill our personal infants to maintain our autonomy. You mess with our Second Modification, we’re most likely going to riot, however take out the most likely.
And they also do not actually mesh effectively collectively. And hip-hop speaks to the social points, whereas Christianity hasn’t actually performed a lot of that because the civil rights motion.
MARTÍNEZ: So when your first album, “Actual Speak,” got here out in 2004, who was that viewers that actually latched on to it?
LECRAE: So initially, I imply, it was this very small area of interest of youngsters inside hip-hop who had turn into Christians. Much like mainstream hip-hop, the suburbs received a maintain of it. And so you have now received these suburban form of evangelical children who’re, like, we discovered one thing that our dad and mom will allow us to take heed to.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “TAKE ME UP”)
LECRAE: (Rapping) And we pray, and we pray, and we pray, on daily basis, on daily basis, on daily basis, and we pray, and we pray, and we pray, take me up.
MARTÍNEZ: Was there ever a time when issues possibly received barely uncomfortable, when, say, possibly you began talking out on issues that Christians may not be too eager on listening to, say, racial justice?
LECRAE: I had that innate sense that I used to be right here for the wants of the marginalized and disenfranchised. And so to see a Michael Brown get killed, no matter his background, for me was traumatizing and devastating. And I believed that, you understand, I might simply share that with my Christian brothers and sisters, no matter their ethnicity, through social media, the ache that I used to be experiencing. And I used to be met with such, like, criticism and blowback. I used to be confused.
MARTÍNEZ: What had been individuals most important of?
LECRAE: They started to assume I used to be a marxist or some form of apostate who was veering from the religion and a heretic caring extra about ethnicity and race than religion.
MARTÍNEZ: So, Lecrae, I was very, very concerned within the Christian church for a very long time into my early 20s. And one of many issues I keep in mind about it essentially the most is that while you lastly give your life to Jesus Christ, you form of – all the pieces about you melts away, and also you’re not who you had been earlier than. Now you are a follower of Christ. So it would not matter if you happen to’re, like me, brown or if you happen to’re you, Black. That goes away. And now you turn into a distinct form of being. Was that one thing that you simply heard or is that one thing that you simply form of got here up in opposition to?
LECRAE: Yeah. I feel that was implied – proper? – as a result of individuals would say issues like, we do not see shade. You recognize, we’re all lined by the blood of Jesus. And so it was form of this concept that we’re all unified, which could be very utopian, nevertheless it’s not actuality. You recognize, the truth is individuals do see my shade. They do see – they do have biases as soon as they see us. I am unable to clarify the 400 years of chattel slavery in America. Possibly God did that in order that we might know Jesus. And, you understand, you simply begin form of washing away any sorts of ideas that might have some cultural or ethnic implications. But it surely did start to create a whole lot of inner strife for me.
MARTÍNEZ: Now, OK, so this brings us to “Church Garments 4.” It is the fourth quantity in a sequence of mixtapes that began in the summertime of 2012. The primary music of “Church Garments 4” opens up…
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “CC4”)
LECRAE: (Rapping) RIP Breonna Taylor. RIP to George Floyd. I ain’t attempting to hate alone type, however Warnock ain’t my solely alternative and Herschel both. I really like believers. However a few of these people do not rep the dominion.
MARTÍNEZ: You point out Breonna Taylor. You point out George Floyd. When Christians hear that, do they embrace the message that you simply’re attempting to place out? Or is that this one factor that makes them form of, like, cringe a little bit bit of their seat?
LECRAE: Oh, they undoubtedly cringe. You recognize, if you happen to’re from the extra conservative evangelical ilk, you are cringing at that as a result of there’s an entire form of marketing campaign in opposition to citing any sort of ethnic trauma. It is wokeness. It is CRT. I am not lionizing them. I am humanizing them and ensuring that we are able to see them.
MARTÍNEZ: So “Church Garments 4” is the fourth in a sequence of mixtapes that you’ve got put out through the years. Is that this some form of finish of the highway or finish of the race?
LECRAE: I feel, clearly, such as you stated, it is a sequence. It does not imply I will not make music anymore. It simply means this explicit sequence has come to an finish. It is form of like, hey, let me form of shut out this sequence talking to among the issues that must be addressed inside the church and to the skin world.
MARTÍNEZ: And while you say, Lord, assist me kill all my demons…
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SPREAD THE OPPS”)
LECRAE: (Rapping) Lord, assist me kill all my demons. I look within the mirror. I seen them. I had a BM. I pressured her to get an abortion. I pray after I die, I can meet him.
MARTÍNEZ: …Are you speaking about demons prior to now, current and those you would possibly face sooner or later? As a result of I feel, it doesn’t matter what, whether or not you are a believer or not, you are going to have demons.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SPREAD THE OPPS”)
LECRAE: (Rapping) They will not catch me lackin’.
Yeah, you completely nailed it. That is an admittance of my imperfection. And I am not a Christian as a result of I am the mannequin citizen. I am a Christian as a result of I do know the depth of my form of depravity and the ideas and the issues that go on with me. And I do want constant assist. I do want a savior. So, yeah, it is saying I notice I will be coping with bother. I will cope with points for the remainder of my life.
MARTÍNEZ: That is rapper Lecrae. His new mixtape is named “Church Garments 4.” Lecrae, thanks so much.
LECRAE: Thanks. I admire it.
MARTÍNEZ: That is MORNING EDITION from NPR Information. I am A Martínez.
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