Christian hip-hop can be broken into two eras: before the arrival of Lecrae and after. When the rapper and record executive (born Lecrae Devaughn Moore in 1979) dropped his debut, Real Talk, in 2004, the genre was stuck between worlds—sitting outside mainstream hip-hop while relegated to second-tier status in gospel. Lecrae changed the game. His fusion of street-bred realism with a Christ-centered worldview has resulted in a run of albums, including 2014’s career-defining Anomaly, that have raced up Billboard’s gospel, Christian, and pop charts. Having endured a hardscrabble childhood that led him to seek refuge in the self-reflecting verses of 2Pac and Nas, the Houston native generally places himself within mainstream currents. “I come from the class of Big K.R.I.T. and Kendrick [Lamar],” he revealed to Apple Music. “There was an understanding or a depth that was warranted. You could talk about some deep stuff that was going on in your world.” This last point is key. Lecrae doesn’t merely offer up Sunday-morning feel-good jams (though that’s certainly an aspect of his mission). Rather, he uses his faith as a lens through which to probe life’s hardships, such as his struggles with depression and self-doubt, as well as the socioeconomic conditions under which Black Americans are forced to live. One of his most powerful songs, 2020’s “Deep End,” details his sense of helplessness and need for spiritual healing in the wake of the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It’s precisely this kind of gritty, soul-baring honesty (as well as some truly brilliant pop hooks) that makes Lecrae one of the most important rappers of his generation.
BORNOctober 9, 1979