“If Wu-Tang can spit 5 Percent gems, I can rap about Him who died for my sins.” This line from “Co-Sign” summarizes everything I dig about Lecrae’s new mixtape Church Clothes conceptually.
The Houston native not only sticks true to his message of faith and divine intervention, but manages to break down that wretched “secular/sacred” barrier that people tend to place upon rappers in his lane by referencing one of the most openly mystic hip hop acts ever. In a more functional regard, he shows a clear change from his landmark LP, Rehab, not only lyrically but thematically as well.
Lecrae’s lyrical change is slightly hard to explain. He ostensibly raps about the Gospel and the work of Jesus Christ in his life with the same Southern rap standard, but the tact he takes allows the impact of the message to hit harder. Whereas on Rehab he would simply personify Death and perfunctorily name-check the Seven Deadly Sins, here he finally takes these vices head-on. This not only allows him to explain the spiritual and mental vapidity of physical attraction on “The Price of Life,” or the ill-conceived notion that simply being a Christian is enough on “Misconception,” but also gives him the soapbox to point out hypocrisies in the modern church on the title track. Its a brutally honest scathing of the conventional faith system, and due to how hungry and convicted he sounds on the track, its his most career-defining track.
And although he constantly reduces his career to a medium for a higher purpose, there’s no denying that the exposure from the BET cypher and the critical acclaim for his work has given him more production variety. In fact, this can be seen as a blessing and a curse: Lecrae and guest feature Thi’sl sound exceedingly hype on the show-stopping “APB” due to the beat’s thematic tone and the siren blaring in the distance; the use of a slurred beat on “Welcome to H-Town” and the pseudo-romantic production on “The Price of Life” make more than enough sense; the inclusion of not one, but two 9th Wonder beats on the project, adds a nice palette cleanser. Read More Here
Church Clothes 2
For those keeping count, it takes Lecrae exactly 66 seconds to address his distaste for the label of “Gospel Rapper” on , “Church Clothes 2.” It’s a legitimate gripe, considering that Rakim and members of the Wu-Tang Clan are rarely called “Muslim” or “Five Percent Rappers.” Yet over the course of the 16-song, DJ Don Cannon-hosted project, it’s fair to wonder if the “Best Gospel Album” Grammy he received for his 2012 album, Gravity has become more of a hindrance than an accomplishment.
For the most part, “Church Clothes 2” plays out like a hybrid of Alt-Pop music with Hip Hop sensibilities. Those familiar with Lecrae won’t be surprised that his various cadences are formless enough to tackle a Blues-inspired track like the DJ Official-produced “Devil In Disguise” just as effectively as “The Fever,” which combines elements of both EDM and Dancehall. While the likes of DJ Burn One and fellow Grammy winners Boi-1da and Reach Records A&R and in-house producer Street Symphony all contribute on production, the project has a largely amorphous sound. This most likely serves as a positive for casual fans, looking for the ratchet-inspired tempo of “I’m Turnt” without the MDMA and debauchery that come to mind when most people hear the phrase, “Turn Up.” But when coupled with the broad strokes that Lecrae tends to favor, it adds up to a project that doesn’t particularly function on multiple levels. Read More Here
Church Clothes 3
continues Lecrae’s mission of reaching those outside of Christian circles and cliques with the message of Jesus.
The first Church Clothes mixtape in 2011 started Lecrae’s journey, of speaking as a Christian to unchurched, non-religious urban youth. The concept of “church clothes” is someone who feels the need to come “dressed up” to God – needing to be clean before you meet with Him. Speaking in the language of hip hop and in ways that will be most clear, Lecrae tries to show through his own life that you don’t need to come to God wearing church clothes.
With a strong focus on social justice in America, Church Clothes 3 is probably Lecrae’s darkest record yet. In the wake of the past year in America, with racial tension, police brutality, growing social unrest, as well as frequent criticism, Lecrae expresses a lot of anger, frustration and struggle.
The mixtape starts brutally quickly, addressing paedophilia in America from the very first line, in Freedom (feat. N’Dambi). The track is passionate and aggressive as Lecrae reflects on the brokenness in the world, and in America. “Freedom has a price nobody’s paying… I’m out here chasing my freedom, they’re out here chopping my feet off.” He mourns the fact that so many are content with slavery to the things of this world.
The second track, Gangland (feat. Propaganda), is quite central to the whole mixtape. Lecrae addresses the history of gangs in America, and why the urban community is so full of devastation. Propaganda shares, “It was a crooked system just like this that left the King of Kings bloodless.” Jesus was killed by corrupt officials in his day, and we who follow him should not be surprised by the same corruption in our day.
Lecrae is also angry at the harsh attacks his critics have been firing towards him over the last few years. If Facebook is anything to go off, Lecrae is harshly criticised by many so-called Christians who frequently condemn him to hell. It is a sad reality that most of the hatred he has received has been from people calling themselves Christians.
Each track is dark yet passionately driven. However, it isn’t all so negative – in Cruising, Lecrae shares a simple story of a day in his life, and recognising God’s goodness and peace in the simple things. He accepts the reality that many just won’t like him, in It Is What It Is, and Can’t Do You (feat. E-40).
In Misconceptions 3 (feat. John Givez, JGivens and Jackie Hill Perry), Lecrae continues the trend of having artists that he admires share what they think are big misconceptions about Christianity, and Christian Hip Hop. It is a powerful track that compels you to listen. Read More Here