Lecrae lets Gravity hold him down but not back
Unashamed is more than just the motto of Reach Records superstar Lecrae it’s his lifestyle. Unashamed reflects not only the content of his music but his approach in life. It makes him one of the most authentic emcees of the last decade because he’s transparent about who he is and what he’s here to do. The Houston native has used his personal convictions to create a brand centered on faith and built through art. He’s been recognized by many in the Hip Hop industry as one of the hottest rappers in the game. He happens to be a Christian.
Notice I did not refer to him as a Christian Rapper. Lecrae isn’t a Christian rapper, he’s a rap artist and this conundrum seems to confuse some listeners and casual fans. However, for those in the know Lecrae doesn’t make musical sermons but rather introspective music that questions his world but provides an answer with faith in God. Although he is open about his Christianity he has found firm footing in the game with several solid projects like “Rehab” and “Church Clothes“.
Ironically his latest offering is titled “Gravity“. Lecrae has landed but don’t think he’s ready to stay put just yet. His leap of faith-which now seems like a flight- is just starting. Assemble Media Network caught up with Lecrae before he prepared to take off into the stratosphere with “Gravity”.
Assemble Magazine: I just saw the teaser trailer for Gravity. Who came up with the idea?
Lecrae: “We were trying to just take it there. Trying to push the limitations of what promoting this album might look like. My man Kyle who does video over at Reach Records said ‘Hey I got this idea’. And we were like what you wanna do. ‘I wanna make a car float’ I was like…Okay Kyle”
AM: Whats the symbolism behind wearing the helmet in the trailer and furthermore using the helmet as the centerpiece for the album cover?
Lecrae: It goes into the whole idea of gravity. The helmet is really like a symbol of trying to exist in a world that is full of gravity. But it’s a catch 22. It’s a lot of ways to look at it. Life is full of realities that are unavoidable. You can’t escape gravity, everybody wants to escape it but there’s no real escape under the sun. But those of us who have found a source of hope and a sign of escape we come back and know how to deal with it but we need to embrace the gravity. I just got the helmet on as someone who’s experienced anti-gravity.
AM: Obviously the term “Gravity” is associated with staying grounded. Speak about how you interpret gravity.
Lecrae: You have to embrace the reality that we have now. A lot of people want to look like they’re above it. They’re above things, they’re above problems, they’re above the things that humble you in life. And give off this aura of ‘I’m better than’ But that’s not the reality. All that is, is an image. The sooner you do away with trying to portray some false image and embrace who you are the easier life is. That’s really what it comes down to. People want to connect with someone that’s real.
AM: Let’s go back to the Church Clothes mixtape. What is your interpretation of Church Clothes? And ultimately what was your motivation in penning the single?
Lecrae: For me it was just like Let’s expose hypocrisy on all sides of the fence. It’s people in church that full of hypocrisy…it’s people outside the church thats full of hypocrisy. It’s like both people blaming it on each other and nothing’s getting better. It’s really just kinda like if I’m outside the church don’t tell me I gotta put certain clothes to be embraced. I come in here putting this gear on for you trying to get myself cleaned up and I come to find out that you’re stealing money from my Grandmother to buy yourself a BMW. And then on the outside its like don’t use that as an excuse to say I ain’t gotta trust anybody…I don’t have to trust in the establishment of the church. Because as we’ve seen there’s been a lot of truth. The Civil Rights Movement, the church was the foundation for that. It’s not just I’ve seen the bad part about it and I’m through with it. Hopefully it was a wake up call.
AM: One thing you’ve done effectively with your music is embrace themes of the confessional and the personal. Some things that are considered taboo in the church and you shed light on some of these things. A song that comes to mind is Black Rose. Who was that song for? Did You have a certain person in mind?
Lecrae: It was a community of people. A community of disenfranchised women who are frowned upon and who are not given love or care. It’s just really like taking a step back and looking at us from a different vantage point. Like what Lupe just did with his most recent single. Look at how we see women. Look at how twisted our perception of women is and he flipped it on it’s head. And that’s really one of the things I try to do is to try to flip a lot of these misconceptions on their head and try to look at from a different vantage point. With Black Rose it’s like look at these women that you talk about and you frown upon but no one is willing to reach out and give them a helping hand.
AM: You just brought up the term misconception and you have a song called “Misconception”. Its like the posse cut on the mixtape. You’re building a crew so who’s next? Who should will looking out for? How is the process of working with that type of talent.
Lecrae: Everybody that I rock with is super talented. Outside of our views on life and our beliefs…We really do hone our craft with one another so our craft matters. Dudes like Trip Lee who is a young dude on the label who’s a monster. Guys like my man Thi’sl and my man Propaganda out of South Central. These are all incredible emcees and lyricist and poets and so on and so forth. They transcend culture…you can’t qualify them in any genre because they transcend. The dope thing about them all is that they run in different lanes. So you got dudes from the West Coast, from the South, dudes who are into Indie super conscious battle rap style Hip Hop, mainstream sounds and Southern gritty sounds…We just all over the place but the connecting thing is the talent.
AM: Talent breeds competition. Which is ironic because with you coming from a Christian background, many faith based communities don’t teach or shy away from competition. However, on this journey there is a sense of competition among us as humans that we have despite our belief systems.
Lecrae: I think that’s ridiculous. Competition doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Competition is a good thing. Anyone that wants you to be against competition tell them to stop go grocery shopping. Anytime you go to one store over another, you chose a competitor. When you buy Coke over Pepsi, you chose one over the other. You do in some ways participate in competition unless you buy both equally and you buy every box of every cereal brand. So in that way you endorse competition. It doesn’t always have to be negative. It doesn’t always have to be about me being better than you. It has to be about us making each other better.
AM: You got Malice to jump on a track with you. What I’ve always appreciated about the Clipse is that there is a spirituality to their music. What’s your relationship like with Malice and will we see him in the future on any other Lecrae records or vice versa?
Lecrae: Yeah I mean that’s my dude. We’re good friends and he’s like a brother. I don’t know why you wouldn’t see him in the future…I just recently got to meet Pusha-T and it’s all love. They’re great guys who are definitely passionate about being authentic and about being real about what they talk about. That’s why I think there’a a mutual respect. They’re never going to sugarcoat anything or try to lie about anything. With Malice specifically he’s like “Yeah I sold and did my dirt but God is real to me…if I can talk about that I can talk about this…If I can be as real as ever about one aspect of my life…I can be as real as ever about another” And that’s really where we find the mutual respect. None of us are ashamed of that.
AM: The theme of being unashamed is something you’ve been carrying the torch for, how did that influence “Gravity”?
Lecrae: My faith is a part of me and I’m not going to be ashamed about it and at the same time I’m comfortable in my own skin. So I’m not going to try and force it to prove to anybody that I’m serious about my faith. It is who I am and I don’t have to over do it to make people buy into my seriousness or dedication and I don’t have to under do it to get people to buy into me. For me it’s just being unashamed of who I am and making good music. I say all the time my art doesn’t have a faith but I do. Every song may not bleed out something that says what I believe in necessarily but there’s going to be times when you’re listening and you’re gonna say, “Man I’m getting to know him. He’s more well rounded than these songs and there’s more depth to him than the songs that I hear.” My music-especially with Gravity-my aim was to make good art. It wasn’t to sell C.D.s is was to make good art that would inspire people and enrich people and for people to say “Man this is dope” when they listen to it. And if more comes from it beyond that, then I’m grateful.
AM: You talked about being inspirational and one of the artist that featured on Gravity that’s an inspiration is Big K.R.I.T. Take a moment to reflect on your connection with him.
Lecrae: Man it’s dope, he’s another brother that’s just like…Man I respect what you do…And he’s multi-dimensional. When you listen to his music you get different dimensions of him. You can’t judge him based off of one song, which I’m sure people will but there’s many facets to him. So I was appreciative of him for jumping on a track and saying, “Man I’m just telling like it is about my interactions, my thoughts” And you know it came out real. It came out very transparent and very sincere. And that’s what we want…that’s the kind of music we want.
AM: What’s your favorite track on Gravity?
Lecrae: The album. I don’t know it changes from day to day. I’m not even saying it to be funny. I just think it’s a very full and well rounded album that’s good music. Right now I’m probably feeling the song “Violence” because I grew up with West Indian musical influences. It has that West Indian feel and those elements to it. Arguably the birth of Hip Hop comes from West Indian influences.
AM: The album drops September 4th. Are you anxious?
Lecrae: I can’t wait. I feel like I been holding on to a secret that I can’t wait to tell. I’m just ready to get it out there.
AM: What’s extremely fascinating is that you were able to put out a full mix tape and then a full album right behind it. Where are you getting all this material from? You don’t get writer’s block?
Lecrae: The way I look at it…It’s two perspectives. One, this is what I do. If you wake up everyday and you’re a construction worker that’s what you do. So you need to do it and that’s your life. And two, Hip Hop is such a vast playing field that people are not being exposed to every aspect of it. So if the industry is going to work hard so that the radio is full of club songs and strip songs and misogyny and murder…Then I have to work doubly hard to make sure that there’s a different perspective and vantage point put out there. So if they’re not taking a day off then I’m not either.
AM: November 3rd you have a show at the Hollywood Palladium. The Unashamed Tour 2012. Tell us what we can expect from the tour.
It’s gonna be ridiculous. It’s gonna be my second time at the Palladium and I guarantee it’s gonna be sold out and that’s not me trying to be braggadocios that’s just me stating reality. I think it’s gonna be hot like Houston in the summertime. It’s gon’ be nuts man. The tour is gonna be nuts. We gotta a couple guests. My man Propaganda is from South Central and he’s hosting it. It’s gonna be crazy, High energy. It’s gonna be a dynamic show. If anyone knows anything about my label…they know we put on shows. We put on a phenomenal show…we take that very seriously. It’s not too many people in Hip Hop where you remember the performance. But I think people will remember this one.
-Eric Montgomery (@E_MONT_3)