The talented MC talks hoops and music.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Few artists out right now have a following and fan base as strong as rapper Lecrae. There are even less artists out right now who are as open and comfortable about their faith as Lecrae. While a lot of the attention garnered by Lecrae is due to his transparent religious beliefs, what often gets lost in the shuffle is the fact that he is a very talented MC whose music is respected by some of the biggest hip-hop artists in the game. Due to his background and beliefs, Lecrae is often boxed in as a “Christian rapper”—when in reality he makes dope contemporary music that can be appreciated by hip-hop heads and casual listeners alike.
After releasing the critically acclaimed album Gravity earlier this year, the Atlanta native is climbing up the ranks and is now doing tracks with artists and producers like Saigon, Big K.R.I.T., 9th Wonder and Boi-1da. While doing promo for Gravity, Lecrae took the time out to speak with SLAM about his music, his movement and his relationship with guys like Jeremy Lin and Dwight Howard.
SLAM: I finally got the chance to to sit down with your music and what immediately struck me was how contemporary it sounds. Everything I’ve read about you is focused on your religion and not the fact that you are a dope MC. How do you try and break the mold and break out of the box people put you in?
Lecrae: Just trying to educate people as much as possible and let them know that the music I make is really for everybody. I don’t want to be boxed in, I want everyone to feel it. Talking to people and having good conversation with the media to express myself outside of music plays a huge part.
SLAM: As an independent artist, you’ve had amazing success. You’re current project has done exceptionally well on the charts; what does it take to build that sort of fan base without a major backing you?
Lecrae: I think most of it is making good art; the music has to speak for itself. You can have a message and you can inspire people and give people hope, but if the music isn’t good then you got a problem. I label myself as a hip-hop artist and want to be a good hip hop artist so I try to surround myself with people like that who appreciate good music.
At the end of the day, I think people see that the music is good. The live show and being on the road and getting into places like the Filmore in San Francisco or the Best Buy Theater in New York gives people a chance to really feel the music. People who have seen my concerts have told me that it’s the best hip-hop show they have seen this year. We want to keep it at that level.
Lecrae: Absolutely, I’m athletically inclined and I use that to my advantage with a lot of high energy. On top of that, we have the lights, camera action. It’s good music—it’s spittin’, it’s hip-hop—people walk away getting every aspect and are able to connect to it.
SLAM: With the impact you’re having doing the type of music that you do, do you think you’re going to start to see a shift and more musicians are going to open up about their faith?
Lecrae: It all depends, people who know my music respect it. I’ve been able to really allow people and fellow rappers see that I’m an artist just like they are. I’ve done collaborations with artists like Big K.R.I.T, 9th Wonder, Boi-1da, Saigon’s new project is coming out and I’m on that, Kendrick Lamar let me know he appreciates what I do.
It’s a mutual relationship within the hip-hop community, we all want the best we can do in making good music. As it pertains to the faith, if people like the music, you never know, they may become interested in what I believe which permeates through what I do. First and foremost, my job is to make good music and that’s what I do.
SLAM: How did the Saigon collaboration come about?
Lecrae: Mutual respect, I did some work with Statik Selektah and Saigon reached out to me and told me, “Man, I just respect your whole movement and that you have a message in your music. I’d love to collaborate with you.” We talked through it and it made sense. Now that’s somebody I can talk on the phone with and we can have real conversation. I respect real people who aren’t about upholding an image as much as they’re about being authentic and it’s easy for me to do music with artists like that.
SLAM: I think we’re seeing a shift as far as hip-hop goes and there’s more honest rap, for a lack of a better term. How does it feel to be a part of that wave and getting recognition for doing music your way?
Lecrae: I love it. it goes to show that people are interested in honest music. It’s the same with pro athletes, they live real lives. That’s been a lot of the connection I’ve had with them, they live real lives and they want someone to talk about that kind of stuff. It’s not all fancy cars and wild nights. you get traded one day and you have to move to a new city, who’s giving you real talk about those circumstances and situations? I love it, I love being part of something real.
SLAM: You got shouted out by Jeremy Lin last season, that brought some attention to you. Dwight Howard did the same. Do you have any type of relationship with those guys?
Lecrae: Yeah, those are good friends of mine. We talk from time to time, I try to be there for them and support them by offering encouragement. It’s been great to be able to have my musical platform because that’s how a lot of my relationships have started.
SLAM: Do you ball at all yourself?
Lecrae: I get out there, I’m 6-4 and I can play a little. I’m not at the same level as those guys so I wouldn’t want them coming out and embarrassing me. I try to stay steer clear of the NBA guys (laughs).
SLAM: Who are some of your favorite players right now?
Lecrae: Aw, man. As a team, I’m loving the Atlanta Hawks. I see what Danny Ferry is doing by coming in and trying to change the culture of the team and flip the script. I got some homeboys who play for the Hawks as well and I’m excited to see what they’ll do. I just love the competitive nature—I’m digging the dudes who bring something different to the game as well. My man Brandon Jennings, people don’t look at him like that, but I think he’s dope.
SLAM: He’s someone who’s usually blindly hated and I don’t get it. He’s improved every year and I think he’s going to have a big year this year.
Lecrae: I’m hoping so too, man. A lot of times people don’t get the opportunity to develop as fast as everyone would like them too but you can tell they have a unique gift. When Kobe first came to the League, he wasn’t the player that he is now. Like you said, Brandon is getting better every year.
SLAM: What are you up to now, any solo projects or tours? Where can people find you?
Lecrae: Gravity is my album that I’m pushing right now. It’s in stores, make sure you go get it. That’s really the movement right now, I’ll be in a lot of cities touring so be on the lookout for me. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, the whole nine. L-E-C-R-A-E, I’m out here.