It boggles my mind and, yet, it’s the primary example that it can be done with hard work, faithfulness, and, most importantly, the grace of God.
It boggles my mind because I first met Lecrae back in the early days of college when he performed a concert at Christ United Methodist in Memphis, TN where I was a youth group intern for the summer. He was also well-known by my friends who worked at Kanakuk Kamps over the summer. We all had hope for Lecrae because, while he was a Christian rapper performing in Christian environments, he was not like most of the other Christian rappers. He was not like most of the other Christian artists.
His work was at a higher level than most other Christian art, whether they be film, music, or television. It was at the next level.
But not in my wildest imagination did I ever dream of the day where Lecrae would sit in with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and be introduced as having the #1 music album in America.
Not the #1 Christian rap album or #1 Christian album or #1 rap album.
Nope. Lecrae’s latest album, Anomaly, is the #1 album in America. Period. Full stop.
Lecrae has his haters all across the spectrum. Evangelicals have said the theologically Reformed rapper is doing a disservice due to his collaboration with so-called secular rappers such as Kendrick Lamar. During Lecrae’s appearance on Fallon (with #LecraeonFallon trending on Twitter), Anthony Bradley said it best.
The most well known evangelical in America right now is a black man rapping on Jimmy Fallon. Evangelical elitists are being proven wrong.
— Anthony Bradley (@drantbradley) September 19, 2014
What this gets to is a fundamental misunderstanding that exists within Christian circles that returns to heresies faced by the ancient Church… and actually to misunderstandings between the Pharisees and Jesus Christ himself. It’s something I often wrestled with growing up in church – the division of the sacred and the secular.
It leads to sin at every turn with every perspective. Some turn from the broader culture, creating a cultural ghetto without any orthodox, confessional, loving Christians having any influence at all. Others turn completely from Christian subcultures, assuming automatically that secular culture is better than Christian subcultures.
These are divisions and distinctions in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reconcile and redeem all of creation. This is an essential truth Lecrae has thankfully and gracefully understood. He has never allowed himself to be categorized as a Christian rapper or secular rapper.
He is an artist, powerfully transformed by the grace of God, and creating art from the work God has done and continues to do in his life. He lives with, works with, and loves the communities God has put him in. He is living faithfully. He is rapping about faith, but also how that should speak powerfully into our nation’s history of racism and so much more.
I won’t stay here another night
If I gotta sacrifice
Who I am on the inside
I’d rather be an outsider
And you can stay if you like
I’ll see you on the other side
I wanna live the free life
I’d rather be an outsider.
These are the opening words of his new record, Anomaly. The track, “Outsiders,” is an in-your-face statement about who Lecrae is as an artist. For years, now, he has occupied a unique place in the music industry, refusing the labels and accompanying pressures of being a Christian artist and a hip-hop star. The resounding message of Anomaly is about the 34-year-old Atlanta-based rapper’s commitment to this unique place; an uncompromising commitment to his sense of calling.
“I really can’t tell if I’m overdressed or I’m underdressed / If I’m underpaid or just overstressed / If I’m cynical or just over this,” he continues on “Outsiders.” There’s an angry weariness in these verses, a sense of being fed up with pressure to conform to other people’s expectations of him. […]
Which brings me to the last thing that needs to be said. Lecrae’s success doesn’t need to be spiritualized to be explained. It’s overwhelmingly evident on Anomaly that Lecrae is talented, and this record—with its tight production, smart collaborations, and provocative lyrics—is the product of an incredible amount of work and dedication.
I encourage you to listen to his latest Billboard list-topping album below. I encourage you to watch Lecrae’s story in the video below as well. What God is doing through Lecrae has a lot of lessons for all of us, in all of our communities and callings, in our jobs and with our families.
His success is not a sign of God’s grace in his life; but the platform he’s been given is from God’s grace. I pray that Lecrae continues to be a top-tier artist proclaiming the Gospel through his hard work, excellent art, and faithfulness. And I pray that we all learn from this what living out the Gospel truly means. Or as Lecrae said after his appearance on Fallon, “It’s a lot to take in. I haven’t had time to download it all. I am so grateful for the support. I know I represent something much bigger than me. Thank you! I thank God for a voice into culture. I pray I use it wisely.”