How did you and Zaytoven first meet?
Me and Zay met through some mutual friends. He knew Shawn Holiday, Senior VP at Sony, who helped A&R my last album All Things Work Together. He also knew 1K Phew, a young artist that he was grooming and who I later signed to my label Reach Records.
You and Zaytoven both reside in Atlanta, and the project feels very closely tied to the city. Did you set out wanting to go a certain direction sonically and in your content?
Absolutely. I’ve been a fan of Zay for many years. I just never imagined we’d be working together on an album. But we just had this chemistry from the jump. He actually works a lot like I do. We tend to make song after song. But neither of us like to follow any kind of a script; it’s more of a feeling. That’s how the south moves as a whole, and we wanted to bring that into the music in every way.
So it’s more intuitive than formulaic.
Yeah, it’s like the blues, man. Blues and gospel. You just feel it and do it. I think of people like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Isaac Hayes. They all came out of the south, and they followed a certain tradition and energy. That’s no knock to groups like The Temptations or The Supremes, not at all, but they were way more polished in how they did things. But the heart of the south is based more off of instinct and feeling, and following wherever that feeling takes you. It’s natural, and visceral.
What was the process of writing and recording the album?
We were together a lot while creating all of the songs. It was a really easy process, actually. We would just trade ideas in the studio; he would tell me what he thought a track needed and I would catch a vibe right there and jump in the booth. Or sometimes I would record separately and show him when he came into the studio, and he’d be like “wow!”
LTSA features Lecrae at his freest. Overall, the album captures the essence of Lecrae’s label Reach Records, with an emphasis on the “Reach.” This trap-infused and trap-inspired hip hop album tells a different side of the story to and from the trap, while reaching an audience that may be unfamiliar with the Atlanta-native artist. LTSA also bridges the genre gap for everyone who decided to stick with Lecrae after his controversial 2017 album, All Things Work Together. Where All Things Work Together weaves in and out of Lecrae’s story about his struggle to find peace being himself—save the evangelical backlash for speaking on issues of justice—LTSA unbuckles the seat belt and mashes the gas straight into a culture that’s known for glorifying the struggle of the trap.
But it’s not just talk and rapping; Lecrae uses his talents to aim at the hearts of men, even when people don’t understand his message.
You may be wondering what is meant by “the trap”—it’s a two-fold term. According to Urban Dictionary, the trap is a house or neighborhood where “people there are stuck in a cycle of selling drugs and hustling to survive, and are therefore ‘trapped’ and unable to leave and make a better life for themselves.” The original connotation refers to a house in a low-income neighborhood where drugs are either manufactured, sold, consumed, or all of the above. It is a place where money and weapons are also likely to be. If the house gets raided by law enforcement, everyone present is essentially “trapped” and could face extensive jail-time. Trap, as it relates to the music, is a particular style, or sub-genre of hip hop. The sounds of trap music are usually heavily laced with 808s, auto-tuned rap vocals, pipe flutes, and thick snare kicks.
But this is not an educational album about the trap—it is authentically trap. Lecrae merely reveals a different side of the genre and the lifestyle. Teamed up with award-winning producer Zaytoven, the duo produces a collection of hits that is authentic and inspiring.
In case anyone wondered if Lecrae would sacrifice substance for style, he poignantly puts listeners on notice in the opening track when he starts to get “too deep.” The assumption is that he “better fall back.” But armed with a mission that hasn’t changed since 2007, he warns everyone listening that they’re going to “get this work, you shoulda wore a hard hat” (“Get Back Right”).
Like all his previous albums, LTSA aims to “heal the blind with a speech” (“Preach”). But it’s not just talk and rapping; Lecrae still uses his talents to aim at the hearts of men, even when people don’t understand his message. In the bass heavy and vibey “Holy Water,” he addresses the people that “say he forgot that truth, Now all he talk is money,” to which Lecrae responds: “I say truth is that my people in the hood and hungry,” a fact to which an uninformed audience wouldn’t “really know (is his) calling.”
Probably the most surprising track—“2 Sides of the Game”—is so for a couple reasons: it features Waka Flocka Flame, an in-your-face, brash and most notably violent lyricist, and it is a song that warns of the consequences of the trap—facts not usually heard in the trap sub-genre. Lecrae and Zaytoven’s ability to get an artist like Flocka Flame to rap about the dangers of trap life is a talent in itself. Flocka raps, “A thousand eight grams get you 32 bands, Or 32 years with some cell mate fans.” Overall, the track works as a cautionary tale as Lecrae raps about his uncle’s downfall and as Kso Jones raps on the hook, “You get rich off of dope if you let em tell it… They gon make seem like that lil money worth your freedom.”
Never one to highlight problems without possible solutions, ‘Crae unashamedly redirects his audience to a richer and better source of security on the next song, “Plugged In.” In a not-so-subtle message, he points to a person who’s always available to supply all his needs: “I got a real plug, Never let me down.” “I told em, ‘Buy a business get a house, Take the money rinse it out.’ ” For Lecrae, the goal is always to lead souls to greater freedom, and the way he sees it, “They don’t want you free, that’s slavery, don’t play with me” (“Plugged In”).
Why was it important to you to show a different side of the trap? You seem very intentional about offering people a different angle from what they might be used to.
I think a lot of people don’t realize the diversity of the trap. Especially people that don’t understand what goes on in some of these communities. They don’t see the nuance. They only see the dope pushers, the money, the crime, and all that.
They don’t see the circumstances that might lead to people embracing a particular lifestyle.
Right, and these are real people we’re talking about. People with real emotions and thoughts, hopes and dreams. A lot of the time, the stories that get told are the ones that folks want to hear. They want to hear a story that sounds like an action movie. They don’t want to hear about growth, intelligence, and development. But all of that is there. I’ve seen it. My man T.I. has seen it. Killer Mike has seen it. 2 Chainz has seen it. And we still do. We’re all intelligent entrepreneurs. So yeah, we can tell you horror stories all day. But we also want to tell hero stories. The question is, what do the people gravitate toward the most?
You've spoken a lot in the past about the struggle of having to grow and mature in the public eye. The scrutiny that comes with it. How do you deal with people's expectations of you these days?
Truthfully, I’m at a point now where I’m not even worried about what people think I should be saying or doing. They don’t tuck my kids in at night. They can’t answer to God for me. I’ve got to be who God created Lecrae to be. That’s all I can do. Anything else just makes me a slave. A slave to the opinions of people who don’t know me; a slave to their money; a slave to their desires for me. But I don’t have time to focus on that. I’m free. So, every time you hear me, just know that I’m speaking as a liberated person.