Termed “The Cool Christian” by the Huffington Post, Lecrae is a hip hop artist that is using his music to tell people about the one he lives for; Jesus Christ. After starting his independent record label, Reach Records, he released seven studio albums and three mix tapes as a solo artist. He has also released several albums as the leader of the hip hop group 116 Clique. These albums have earned him several awards, including two Grammy awards and seven Dove awards.
Lecrae performs various styles of hip hop, but almost all of his music is filled with lyrics that declare the name and message of Jesus. I should warn you, though, that he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. One such example is from the song Rebel in which he says, “You’re just a conformist if you’re drunk and naked and driving around on a loud motorcycle smoking cigarettes and breaking commandments. And getting pregnant out of wedlock. Everyone’s done that, it’s so tiring. If you really want to be a rebel, read your Bible, because no one is doing that. That’s rebellion. That’s the only rebellion left.”
Lecrae’s straight and to the point message is a breath of fresh air in the Christian music genre and his hard-core hip hop sound is appealing even to non-Christian listeners. In fact, his 2014 album Anomaly is the first to top both the Billboard 200 and the Gospel chart simultaneously.
However, Lecrae’s journey to becoming a Christian was a rough one. In an interview with I Am Second, Lecrae reveals that he was raised by a single mother in Houston, Texas and never met his father. His childhood was marked by abuse and the people he looked up to were gangsters. A life of drugs, drinking, and fights followed. Although his mother encouraged him to read in the Bible, he remembers literally ripping the pages out of a Bible and throwing them on the floor. In his mind, he didn’t need it.
According to CNN, he became a drug dealer and was pulled over for drug possession. Already in the back of the squad car and handcuffed, he was released after the arresting officer found the Bible that Lecrae kept in the car as a good luck charm. The officer let him go on the condition that he would start living by it. This started him on the path toward God, but was not the only event needed to turn his life around.
One such moment was when he was invited to a Christian conference by a friend. It was there that he saw people that were like him culturally. However, these people had turned their lives around and were now living for God, though still embodying their cultural identities. Then he heard someone say, “Do you know you’ve been bought with a price?” They told the story of Jesus on the cross and how he suffered in order to take away the sins of all. Lecrae recalls, “And it made me think, somebody thinks I’m significant enough to die for me. Somebody thinks I’m significant enough to climb up this mountain with this cross on His back and take nails in His wrists and His feet for me. I remember articulating like, ‘God get me out of this, just don’t kill me. Do whatever you’ve got to do to get me out of this. Just don’t kill me.’”
What followed was a tremendous car crash. He had turned his car so fast that he lost control of the wheel. The car flipped over, the roof caved in, and his glasses were molded into the frame of the car. Surprisingly, though, Lecrae didn’t have a scratch on him. That was the official turning point in his life.
Five years after his conversion, Lecrae and Ben Washer started Reach Records. It was from this label that Lecrae started his long line of successful albums. His mix tape Church Clothes was downloaded over 100,000 times in less than 48 hours. His 2012 album Gravity was number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and won a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album. This was the first time that a hip hop artist had ever received that award.
Lecrae’s success is far from over. In 2016, he signed a joint deal between his label and Columbia Records. His latest song, I’ll Find You ft. Tori Kelly, was released June 2017 and boasts over 5 million views on YouTube.
Lecrae is clearly an example of how God’s love can conquer all. For the ones we love who don’t know Him yet, there is always hope. If you’re ever in doubt, just remember that Lecrae went from a drug dealer to one of the best selling Christian music artists. This cool Christian turned his life around and is now bridging the gap between Christian and mainstream. Lecrae has had many successes through Christ, and I can’t wait to see what others are to follow.