Unashamed is the name of rapper Lecrae's autobiography, out next May, in which he promises to go into vivid detail about the childhood abuse he suffered, his struggles with drugs and alcoholism, and an attempt at suicide. It will also undoubtedly elaborate on how he came out of the other side of that inner turmoil as a born-again Christian. But, as Lecrae let us know before his stop in Miami last year, he is not keen being labelled as "the Christian rapper."
"I think Christian is a wonderful noun, but a terrible adjective," he says. "Are there Christian shoes, Christian clothes, Christian plumbers, Christian pipes? I think, if you're going to, you should label it hip-hop. Hip-hop is a particular poetic style. Labeling it with the faith assumes that the song is going to be some kind of sermon; but there's a lot of social and political things that I don't think make it gospel, or Christian music."
One adjective you'd have to use to describe his brand of hip-hop is popular. Another is boundary-crossing. 2008's Rebel was the first hip-hop album to top the Gospel charts, while his sixth album, Gravity, was the first hip-hop album to win the Grammy for Best Gospel Album, and his last record, 2014's Anomaly, was the first to top both the pop charts and the gospel charts simultaneously. This popularity, which allows him to headline arenas like BB&T Center this Friday, comes from the strong narrative voice he brings to his lyrics. But now that he's refusing temptations and striving to lead a righteous life, how will he give voice to the sinners that sometimes populate his verse?
"I like to wrap my mind around a total situation," Lecrae says of his songwriting process. "I'm a social anthropologist. If I never been homeless, let me try to be homeless for a week and soak up that information — more like a method actor. So, for me, it's spending time with people and talking about things from their perspective."
The high expectations he has for his songwriting rise even higher when it comes to his audiences and their level of participation. "I don't want people to be spectators, watching us on stage. I want you to be part of the experience. I want you to taste the songs, hear the songs, feel the songs, see the songs."
Xtreme Christian Music Conference with Lecrae, Mercyme, and others, 7 p.m. Friday, September 25 at BB&T Center, 2555 NW 136th Ave, Sunrise. Tickets cost $29-$199. Call 954-835-7000, or visit www.thebbtcenter.com.
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