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Atlanta rapper Lecrae ready to share his message of hope

Lecrae came to Atlanta from Texas four years ago. Photos: Reach Records

Lecrae came to Atlanta from Texas four years ago. Photo: Reach Records

As the bass coming from the speakers rattles the nearby windows, Lecrae Moore bobs his head instinctively, the power of his own beats providing the subconscious reaction.

It’s a couple of weeks before “Gravity” is set to drop, and Lecrae – no capital C, no last name used professionally – is as proud as he was on the days of the births of his children as he debuts his new record at a small listening party in  the New Era store in downtown Atlanta.

“Gravity” is Lecrae’s sixth album, not including his first mixtape, “Church Clothes,” released in May. But this one feels different. Bigger. Ready to explode and make the striking rapper wearing impeccable white sneakers and sipping a Red Bull into a star.

The album arrived on Tuesday and is expected to make a notable showing next week on the Billboard charts.

Lecrae, who turns 33 next month and has lived in Atlanta for four years, is already known in Christian rap circles, but “Gravity” should propel him into a wider realm. He’s won Dove Awards and been nominated for a Grammy (in 2010, for “Rehab,” in the all-inclusive category of best rock or rap gospel album).

He’s the co-founder of Reach Records, which includes five other artists alongside him who spread their faith through their music. But while there is no mandate to make “preachy” music, Lecrae assures that “we want to make music that isn’t going to go against Christian views.”

His story is similar to many in the hip-hop industry, yet completely different.

He wasn’t always a Christian, nor did he regularly practice typical Christian values. He grew up a latch-key kid in Houston, raised by a single mother, surrounded by peers who robbed liquor stores and sold drugs, which he admits to doing a handful of times himself as a teen.

But comparatively, he was the good kid –or so he thought.

“In my mind, I thought I was fine. We had a roof over our head. I ate dinner every night. But you get older and you realize some of the dysfunction,” said the soft-spoken Lecrae last week, sprawled casually in a chair in a studio at the Reach Records office near Grant Park, red baseball cap turned backward on his head, tattooed biceps poking through his tank top.

Growing up, he listened to Nas and Tupac, gravitating toward their authenticity and appreciating that they rapped about more than clothes and jewelry. He started writing his own rhymes that pinpointed the favorite topics of a young man: “Me, money, me, girls, me,” he said with a sheepish grin.

About a decade ago, he returned to Texas after some time at Middle Tennessee State University and graduated from University of North Texas, where he studied sociology and electronic media. A cousin and some friends lived in Atlanta and suggested he venture east to attend a spiritual conference with them.

Lecrae performed at Atlanta Fest earlier this summer. Photo: Raymond Hagans

Lecrae performed at Atlanta Fest earlier this summer. Photo: Raymond Hagans

He agreed because they told him girls would be in attendance. Then he arrived – and it wasn’t the girls who blew his mind.

A message from speaker James White was potent enough to make Lecrae feel the allure of Christianity. But then he noticed the people around him.

“They rapped. They sang. They looked like me, dressed like me. I thought, ‘You guys can’t be Christian because you look like me.’ But then it flipped to, ‘Well, maybe I can be Christian because you guys are.’”

But Lecrae’s faith transformation didn’t directly correlate to “rapping about Jesus.” Instead, his newfound purpose prodded him to write and rap about his own transitions.

He also met his wife-to-be, Darragh, at the conference, but the pair wouldn’t marry until years later. Now six years into their union, they are parents of two boys and a girl, ages 1, 3, and 4.

Darragh handles the administrative logistics for Lecrae’s tours – he heads out on the six-week “Unashamed” jaunt next month that comes to The Tabernacle Oct. 19 – and their partnership isn’t exempt from Lecrae’s candid lyrics.

On “Gravity,” he dedicates the song “Buttons” to Darragh, rapping over a military-style drumbeat, “For better or for worse/Sometimes I make you sick, and you get on my nerves/Make it work/I ain’t goin’ nowhere, and I give you my word/I will be right here.”

The rest of the 15-track album features cameos from all of the Reach roster, as well as Southern rapper/producer Big K.R.I.T. and Ashton Jones, an “American Idol” also-ran from 2011, who both perform on the track “Mayday”; it’s a massive song filled with crashing cymbals and thundering drums that Lecrae said at the listening party is about “those days when we’re just throwing up a prayer.”

But the standout track on an album filled with meaningful, robust songs that are richly produced and expertly delivered, is “Violence,” which Lecrae described as, “a call to resolve things in a peaceful manner.” It’s his most musically ambitious track, with a slamming Reggaeton beat layered under slicing lyrics and a haunting refrain of, “war, pain, violence should stop.”

The songs fit Lecrae’s goal of spotlighting issues not to glorify them, but to provoke thought and discussion.

“I think there’s an outlook that people want to escape reality – hip-hop being one of the culprits because it’s just escape music,” he said. “But it doesn’t deal with real issues that people deal with on a regular basis, so I want to be a voice in there. Let’s deal with some reality. Let’s deal with who we are.”

Lecrae and his wife celebrate their faith at Renovation Church near Grant Park, and Lecrae actively participates in outside projects working with troubled kids.

Though he keeps his burgeoning celebrity low-key around his younger fans, he also hopes “Gravity” introduces him to a wider audience that sees him not only as “authentically Christian,” but “authentically hip-hop.”

“I really am a hopeful, inspired individual who really believes that kids from the projects can go to college and I can do something about it,” he said, and then shrugged with a smile. “I guess I’m a glass half-full kind of person.”

Lecrae will perform with Trip Lee and Tdot at 7 p.m., Oct. 19. $22. General admission, all ages. The Tabernacle, 152 Luckie Street, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.livenation.com.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

19 comments Add your comment

jadasgigi

September 7th, 2012
1:40 pm

Lecrae is a welcome addition to the Christian music community. thank you thank you for providing an option for the kids who won’t hear it at all unless its hiphop and the young adults who are looking for an opportunity and reason to live a Godly life but can’t seem to escape the peer pressure they have grown up with.

VChan

September 7th, 2012
1:42 pm

JBroome. By chance did you read the article at all? Do you know about this guy? Do you know what he stands for? Just wondering.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

david c

September 7th, 2012
5:29 pm

I’ll believe until he starts a church. Big business here, ya know.

Dan

September 8th, 2012
10:17 am

Love this guy and everything he stands for and is doing through his music. I have listened to hip-hop/rap music for almost 20 years now. Most of the mainstream hip-hop today is just a bunch of trash and it’s a shame that kids today idolize these rappers. Since finding Lecrae, I haven’t listened to much of the mainstream hip-hop anymore. It’s just nice to hear a positive message and not an F-bomb every other sentence. As Lecrae says in his latest album “stop talking about driving Bugatti’s and let’s focus on putting babies through college”. How can you not like and support this guy?

Hip Hop is Not Dead!

September 8th, 2012
10:36 am

You don’t have to go to church to listen to this music. Yeah it’s Christian, but it is not all in your face about it. I love it because I can now listen to hip hop with my kids and give them a positive message. Give it a try, you might just like it. It sounds just as good as anything you’d hear from the mainstream.

Dub L Edge

September 8th, 2012
12:58 pm

Being a fellow Christian rapper I’m very happy to see that he is doing great and wish him the best in his endeavors. I find it funny how people are so quick to criticize him and they haven’t heard one lyric from his message if u haven’t heard him y are u commenting on him “filthy potty mouth” really. Dude u need to expand ur horizons. Anyone who has ever heard Lecrae or been to his concerts know it’s not about the money either. If u don’t have anything positive to say, y comment? It makes u look ridiculous and negative but hopefully by reading this article it intrigues u enoug to research him and listen to a song or 2 and the Lord touches ur heart if that what it takes than plan is working God Bless!

TommyB

September 8th, 2012
1:01 pm

Obviously reading is not a skill that JBROOME has mastered. Lecrae is an amazing guy with a great message.

Raptor

September 8th, 2012
1:55 pm

What message of hope? These people live in a fantasy land. Like somewhere howling and praying some some mythical savior is going to stop the downward spiral of America, as well as the Black Community.

Bree

September 8th, 2012
2:50 pm

JBROOME shut your face. If you read or listened to his music, you’d know that he’s anything but what you think. Your ignorance is showing!!!

Tech Fan

September 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

Lecrae is amazing! Also, check out KB, Pro, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka, and Tedashii. Incredible people making incredible music.

My Jo

September 8th, 2012
6:37 pm

Hip Hop a registered religion according to krs-one who has produced its first bible. (lbolm.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/hip-hop-is-now-an-official-religion) and has been accepted by the UN as a culture
(wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_hip_hop_a_religion)
One can not be authentically hip hop and be be authentically christian, you can not mix darkness with light. Lecrae maybe seeking to do right but as long as he is doing music the hip hop method then there’s conflict.

niecey

September 8th, 2012
10:51 pm

why do people give trolls any energy? they feed off of it to grow and keep spreading their troll messages.

[...] Atlanta rapper Lecrae ready to share his message of hope – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Revdawg

September 9th, 2012
1:30 am

@david c: Lecrae has started a church. Blueprint Church in Decatur. You should go check it out. It’s been around for a few years.

[...] Atlanta on Lecrae Rate this:Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterDiggStumbleUponRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

Pumpkinsmommy

September 9th, 2012
9:40 am

I heard this young man speak at my job. He’s amazing. He has a wonderful testimony and is in a position to help many young people. Many of the parents brought their young kids to hear him when he spoke at my job. They had lots of questions and he was patient, answered each and every one. Unless you hear this young man speak, you are really in no position to judge him. I work with scientists, biologists, physicians,public health administrators, professionals across the board. He left us all speechless. Don’t judge until you hear him speak.

grateful

September 9th, 2012
12:11 pm

Lacrae, no one looking at me would say that I look like a Hip-Hop lover…but seriously, I can’t wait for your albums to come out because I know that it will say more than most songs I even hear – and they are incredibly creative. I travel touring speaking and singing and am encouraged and challenged to use the words that people hear to more precisely teach as God would have me do…

Please, Please, Lord, let Him never turn away from growing closer to You for any mission he may feel you have given him. Keep him strong, and show Him that His strength is not something that originates in himself. Lord, use Him regardless of the road blocks, regardless of His own thorns, regardless of what gains or fails He may experience. Grow their marriage and their family to be lovers of you that are filled with Your presence… Truly, let their lives be what only you could make them. In Love of the One who saved my soul…Grateful

Daniel

September 11th, 2012
12:19 pm

Good article! Glad to see Lecrae getting some positive press. I’m not a hip hop fan by nature by *loved* the mixed tape Church Clothes and am super excited about the Tabernacle stop.