The Lecrae Controversy: To be or not to be a Christian Rapper
February 4, 2015By Billy Delgado

Exactly what is this new direction Lecrae is going with his music that has his loyal fans questioning and scratching their puzzled heads? First, let's ask ourselves a couple of questions about the Christian rap genre. Is it safe to assume that every Christian rapper wants to pen quality lyrics and vocalize them over quality production? Is it safe to assume that every Christian rapper wants to have the broadest audience they can possibly get without compromising the message of the Gospel IF their aim is to evangelize with music? So exactly what is every scrutinizing blogger talking about with this “new direction” Lecrae is taking? 

 

We can logically conclude this must mean Lecrae is deliberately writing EXPLICITLY less Gospel references in his music than we’re used to. He is inviting non-Christians onto his projects to collaborate, albeit not an unprecedented strategy. His spotlight is getting bigger, the world is (suspiciously) inviting him into their circles. He is giving props to fellow emcees that drop F-bombs in their cypher exhibitions. Busta Rhymes is giving him a nod of Hip Hop approval. Lecrae has arrived to the top of the mainstream mountain of credibility. 

 

However, there are many fans that are not happy with the change Lecrae is making. They believe he's sold out for mass appeal. They believe he's turning his back on the church when he says he doesn't want to be labeled a Christian rapper anymore. His recent material suggests he's fed up with the church, in general. But does that make him any less of a Christian than artists like W.L.A.K. or Flame? Where do we draw the line when a Gospel artist is no longer about the Gospel? 

 

Music is a tricky business because businessmen MADE IT A BUSINESS when they saw that they could put tunes on phonograph vinyl and they found people who would pay for it and attend concerts. It went from grand symphonic concertos to packaged records, cassettes, CDs and MP3s. So, I guarantee you will not find an answer on what the Bible thinks about the Music Industry—just gray areas of tradition that we created. In the Earth’s 6,000+ year history, music didn’t get duplicated and sold until a little over 100 years ago! So we’re left with matters of the heart and history when it comes to God's take on it and what the Bible says about music.

 

 

What do we know about music and its relationship to the Bible?

 

It was used for entertainment. (Ecclesiastes 1:8)

 

It was used for therapeutic purposes. (1 Samuel 16:23)

 

It was used for praise & worship to YHWH. (Psalms)

 

It was used as a clarion call to worship pagan gods. (Daniel 3:4-5)

 

It was for the Church to use to minister and edify each other. (Colossians 3:16)

 

We may not know what the Bible says about the Billboard charts or MTV but we have examples of what it was used for in scripture. The choice is ours of how we use this powerful medium. There is no explicit command that says you must evangelize in your music if you’re a Christian musician. There is no commandment that says music can only be used for Christian purposes and for the first half-hour of church on Sunday morning. So Lecrae is well within the Grace of God to un-obligate himself to the number of times he says "Jesus" in his lyrics. That doesn't make him a sellout or a heretic.

 

 

How can you spot a sellout or heretic in the church?

 

"By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" - 1 John 4:2

 

Admittedly, that's a little oversimplified but a basic litmus test for Christianity nonetheless. And by news clips and interview accounts, Lecrae is still a devout Christian. Would I make some of the decisions he is making if I were in his position? No, but let me explain why...

 

When it comes to Gospel music, many artists like to relate to King David who was himself a stringed instrumentalist and prolific songwriter. He was described as “a man after God’s own heart” so he's the Poster Child (or King of Israel) of how to do worship music. With that said...

 

Did King David ever employ Philistines to play lyres and tamborines? Lecrae has employed secular producers such as Don Cannon. 

 

Did King David ever ask the Hittites or Canaanites to lend their vocals in the 288-member worship band of the First Temple? Lecrae has shared his microphone with B.O.B., David Banner, Paul Wall, Kendrick Lamar, among others (I wonder if these secular artists would have been so open-minded to Christian artists on their albums). 

 

But that's my personal conviction, not essential doctrine. As a local (very local) producer and Christian rapper in South Florida, I went through my "I don't want to be labeled a Christian rapper" phase and that's just what it was. A phase I went through that was indicative of my spiritual condition at the time. 

 

 

“I'm not a Christian rapper. I'm a rapper who happens to be Christian.”

 

Lecrae has expressed this statement and I want to gag every time I hear this because this sentiment is about as old as the Gospel Music industry itself. The problem with this sentiment is the hypocrisy of it. Lecrae doesn’t want to be a Christian rapper but if you browse through iTunes and Amazon, you will find his music under the “Christian rap” category. He will perform at Christian concerts and take the financial support of Christians and accept the Christian Grammy award for Gospel Album of the Year, but he doesn't want to be labeled a Christian rapper? Why? Because Eminem thinks Christian rap is corny? Why do you care what Eminem thinks? 

 

Honestly, I have not seen or read every single interview or quote Lecrae has said to explain his views. I've read enough to come away with this: Whatever is going on in his mind is between him and God and the “controversy” is a little too fresh to fully understand Lecrae's intentions.

 

We won't really see where he goes until he's further down the road. I've heard enough to theorize that he's going through a phase or he truly is on a mission to reach people WITHIN the music industry: flawed method of evangelism or not. 

I'm listening to his current album (well-produced), Anomaly, while I type this column. I've already listened to the whole album once and I haven't heard any overt Christian tones so far -- just subtle references to spirituality and, again, that's his right. I'd rather Lecrae be honest with his audience than to sing Hallelujah all over the place while remaining a hypocrite inside. I'm not a Lecrae fan by any means, so I don't really have a reason to defend him. As a parent, I would be comfortable with teenagers listening to this music. I don't have to worry about them listening to lyrics glorifying fornication, violence and drug use (at least I hope not). It's hard enough listening to the radio like you're playing dodge ball with the amount of trash you have to avoid. 

 

Is this good? I don't know if it's bad, but that's not saying much. It just tells me that Lecrae wants to go in a different direction, which means less Jesus or Jesus is more “in the cut.” That's my impression because the music is the same. The lyrical delivery is the same. The themes and the way they're presented, though, have changed. That just tells me he's not going to do praise & worship on his album this time and he's open to collaborating with unbelievers. I don't know what Lecrae's goal is; only he does. Reach more industry people? Reach more lost? I don't know how you do that without the Gospel being clearly told.  

 

This new direction is an effort to reach out to non-Christian collaborators and listeners by finding topics they can all relate to. That's wonderful and noble. But when you have their ear, then what? You're going to preach being community-minded but WHY should they WANT to be community-minded if it doesn't take them to the cross? Just sayin'. (By the way, I'm trying hard to understand the message of some of these songs. I may have to listen to it like five more times before I really get it.)

 

 

Are Christian rappers trending away from “the Church?”

 

Lately, it feels like a handful of rappers are trying to distance themselves from the stigma of “Holy Hip Hop” and the Church. It feels like they want to be rebels among the flock. They’re the “cool ones” that managed to not sound “corny,” but in the end, as long as Christ is your identity, the world will not identify with you no matter how much you look like them (which in some cases is not a good thing). We are called to be set apart--a holy priesthood. That in and of itself makes you a revolutionary rebel against darkness and principalities. 

 

I got news for every Christian artist out there. The only thing that will EVER make you stand out in the world or your congregation is LOVE. That’s it! Just genuine love in deed and truth. You could have the dopest beats, have the most approachable personality among intoxicated musicians, hang out at the club to “evangelize,” keep Jesus to a minimum in your music so the world can like you, and all these other moves to make you appear to be a Christian “rebel” but none of that matters without a genuine love for the Church and the lost. You’re a clanging cymbal or in modern times, a poorly-produced trap beat without love. 

 

The same is true for those Christian rappers and fans who are gung-ho for the Lord and consider Lecrae a sellout. Your lyrical theology is not going to determine how Christian your music is. Only love for the lost and for the church will. 

 

I don't think it's wise to diminish the Gospel in order to relate to the world or to be more enticing in their eyes. In regards to that, I think it’s time to stop the nonsense. Besides, secular radio ain't all that. For every “corny” Christian rapper out there, there’s an Iggy Azalea propped up by the industry. For every alleged weak beat produced in Christian Hip Hop, the world presents “Only” by Nicki Minaj on a track that a middle schooler could have produced. I mean, come on, the world has its fair share of talentless Billboard residents, so I hope this new wave of Christian rappers, or rappers who happen to be Christian, or non-conformist lyricists or whatever they want to be called would lighten up on their brothers and sisters because we are still family, after all. 

 

Whew...but I digress. Let's agree to keep Lecrae in prayer, in whatever his mindset may be. He's in enemy territory for most of the time. It would be naïve to think that there is no spiritual battle going on while Lecrae makes the magazine interview and award show rounds. But is the battle overt like “Hey, wanna smoke some weed? Mu-hahaha! Want some Patron? Chug-a-lug?” That would be too obvious of the enemy. No, the world comes with a smile on its face, an angel of light, and begins chipping away at your shield of faith, piece by piece until you’re left holding a nub for self-defense. 

 

Although, my reasons for disagreeing with the direction have more to do with my personal zeal to write a song for the Lord than for people, I don't want to sound self-righteous by saying Lecrae is NOT inspired by the Spirit when he writes. I just hope his new direction remains on the road to everlasting. 

 

 

 

The self-proclaimed Zig Ziglar of rap, Billy Delgado, is a Music Producer/Artist and Writer by day and sleeping pillow-drooler by night. He is currently producing the debut album for his band The 288's, a God-inspired Hip Hop/R&B group that combines soul-baring lyricism with an electric innovative sound, breaking from the norm and reaching all cultures & ages (save senior citizens). He still can't believe he's a family man with a beautiful wife Mari & three boys Chris, Nelson and Joshua, so he continues to pinch himself silly to this day.

 

 

 

The self-proclaimed Zig Ziglar of rap, Billy Delgado, is a Music Producer/Artist and Writer by day and sleeping pillow-drooler by night. He is currently producing the debut album for his band The 288's, a God-inspired Hip Hop/R&B group that combines soul-baring lyricism with an electric innovative sound, breaking from the norm and reaching all cultures & ages (save senior citizens). He still can't believe he's a family man with a beautiful wife Mari & three boys Chris, Nelson and Joshua, so he continues to pinch himself silly to this day.

 

 

- See more at: http://www.newdmagazine.com/apps/articles/web/articleid/79282/columnid//default.asp#sthash.rR184hJD.dpuf

 

 

 

 

The self-proclaimed Zig Ziglar of rap, Billy Delgado, is a Music Producer/Artist and Writer by day and sleeping pillow-drooler by night. He is currently producing the debut album for his band The 288's, a God-inspired Hip Hop/R&B group that combines soul-baring lyricism with an electric innovative sound, breaking from the norm and reaching all cultures & ages (save senior citizens). He still can't believe he's a family man with a beautiful wife Mari & three boys Chris, Nelson and Joshua, so he continues to pinch himself silly to this day.

 

 

- See more at: http://www.newdmagazine.com/apps/articles/web/articleid/79282/columnid//default.asp#sthash.rR184hJD.dpuf

 


Visitor Comments (1)
No it doese make Lecrae a sellout!
Posted By NATNAEL on September 29, 2017
Sir with all do respect don't sart telling lyes. I'm not sure if you are aware that the Bible says that enything of this world is not of God. It means also everything not of God is of the World.(You could replace World with Satan) And also Ephesians 5:19-20 sais "Sing and make musik in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." And read also Gallatians 5
Hope to hear your respond
Natnael
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