Christian rapper Lecrae finally gets mainstream acceptance
by Angela Lu Fulton
Posted 9/19/14, 04:15 pm
It’s taken a decade, but this week proved definitively that Christian rapper Lecrae Moore cannot be ignored. His album Anomaly hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, selling 88,000 copies in its first week, and on Thursday night he performed snippets of his new songs with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Moore is no stranger to breaking down barriers between the sacred and the secular, as he collaborates with top hip-hop artists while keeping his faith central in his music. After popping onto mainstream hip-hop’s radar in 2011 at the BET Hip Hop Award’s freestyle cypher, he’s appeared on industry staples like 106 & Park, MTV, and XXL Magazine. But most aren’t completely sure what to make of him—a rapper who speaks hip-hop, but from a distinctly reformed Christian worldview.
And that feeling of being different, a deviation from the norm, is the narrative that spans Moore’s latest album, Anomaly. From the opening song, “Outsiders,” the rapper musically and lyrically proves his point–with melodic strings and vocals dropping off to a beat and Moore’s quick rapping about finding freedom in not fitting in. He’s now found others who are “all unashamed and all unafraid to live out what they supposed to be.” Tracks range from social commentary to love songs to his wife, with “Runners” stressing the importances of fidelity and staying away from temptation. In “Nuthin,” Moore expresses his disappointment in hip-hop music focusing on sex and drugs while lacking substance: “I know these people greater than the songs they created.”
Moore turns to more conventional Christian radio fare with “Messengers,” which features Christian pop duo For King and Country, and calls on Christians to reach out to a broken world. The most lyrically powerful song, “Good, Bad, Ugly,” steps into Moore’s personal past of sexual abuse as a child, his history of promiscuity, and his regrets pressuring his girlfriend to get an abortion. The song ends with a declaration of the freedom he’s found in Christ, “I’m out the prison, I know that / I got the power to say no to all of my struggles / God will control that.”
Hip-hop publications have written generally positive reviews of the album, with XXL praising his “engrossing flow that leans heavily on delivery, carried by weighty commentary and a healthy dose of punchlines.” Online magazine HipHopDX called Moore “the most impactful Christian rapper.” Reviewer Jay Balfour, who gave the album 3.5 of 5 stars, continued that “it may not be a label he himself will flaunt, but he became the first Hip Hop artist to win a Grammy for Best Gospel Album last year and has assimilated into the mainstream more fully than any other emcee of his kind.”
Anomaly isn’t the first Christian album to top the Billboard list. Chris Tomlin and TobyMac have also taken home the honors in the past two years, as well as LeAnn Rimes and Bob Carlisle in the 90s. Before the album released Sept. 9, Moore launched a social media campaign asking fans to write out their own countercultural stories and tagging it #Anomaly, gaining responses from NBA stars such as Jeremy Lin. A few of the stories were then posted on a billboard in Times Square in New York.
As Moore continues down this untrodden path, he’s found detractors from both Christians and the hip-hop community upset that he doesn’t fit their mold. “Being a young black man who loves hip-hop and the culture of hip-hop, and yet loves Jesus at the same time makes me an anomaly,” Moore said in his album’s promo video. Still, “I think success is being exactly what God called us to be.”