- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2014

If the idea of Christian hip-hop music sounds like an “Anomaly,” then Lecrae’s seventh studio album is aptly named.

Released last week, the 15-song collection already has shot to No. 1 on iTunes, Amazon and Nielsen Soundscan charts. It is expected to top the Billboard 200 chart Wednesday, besting new releases from mainstream acts such as Maroon 5 and Ryan Adams.

But what makes “Anomaly” so well, anomalous, is its subject matter. Verses about abortion, freedom, fear, marriage — even the artist’s own experience with molestation — flow from Lecrae with alacrity and purpose.

The album’s lead single, “Nuthin’,” is a call to action for mainstream hip-hop to address meaningful issues rather than promote the false glamour of the gangsta lifestyle.

“There’s just limited perspective in hip-hop outside of money, cars, girls and so on and so forth,” Lecrae told The Washington Times. “The one [hit] song that talked about something was Macklemore [‘Same Love’] and, you know, that’s his perspective.”

His musical aim, which has been prevalent in his previous albums, has brought attention to the 34-year-old Christian (whose full name is Lecrae Moore), but also has generated tension in his industry.

At last year’s South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, underground hip-hop musicians Kuzzo Fly and Champagne City took offense to Lecrae’s performance of “Fakin’,” a hit song from his sixth album — the Grammy Award-winning “Gravity” — which derides rappers who fake glamorous gangsta lifestyles. They confronted him after his set.

Both felt the lyrics, which include “Quit tryna’ act like the trap is cool / ‘cause we tired hearin’ that garbage” and “You ain’t really no ghetto boy / why you fakin’ that hard face,” belittled their own experiences and those of others with similar backgrounds. The pair of now-reformed performers imagined “Fakin’” could provoke hard-core rappers still embroiled in the gansta lifestyle.

“[Lecrae] had so much power,” Kuzzo Fly told The Times. “I noticed that the kids in the crowd were singing along. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘He’s going to get someone hurt.’”

Lecrae, himself a former drug dealer, clarified his intent in “Fakin’.”

“Even though I don’t agree with what you’re doing, this song really isn’t about you,” he said. “It’s about people who are pretending to be you, yet they don’t have to do that. The industry spends big budgets to perpetuate a false ideal, and that’s what ‘Fakin” is about.”

He told them that he understands where they came from but refused to condone what contradicts his Christian faith. He told them about the song’s featured rapper — Thi’sl, a former gang leader who, like them, grew up in the streets. Like Lecrae, Thi’sl converted to Christianity and now raps against drug dealing rather than about it.

Lecrae’s willingness to talk it out earned Kuzzo Fly and Champagne City’s respect.

“I really jumped online and Googled [Lecrae] for like a whole day,” Champagne City said. “I really like this guy. It was because he stuck behind what he believed in.”

Lecrae acknowledged that he could have worded “Fakin’ ” differently.

“Pointing fingers at people is never an effective way to demonstrate that you care about them and that you believe they are made for more,” he said. “I think if you’re going to challenge somebody, help them understand that they were made for way more than what they’re doing currently.”

Which is what Lecrae aimed to do on “Nuthin’.”

Another artist overheard part of Lecrae’s conversation with Kuzzo Fly and Champagne City — Boston rapper Millyz, who performed “The Plug,” a song about selling marijuana, at South by Southwest.

What Lecrae said impressed Millyz, and, months later, he reached out to him to talk faith.

“It opened my eyes to a different world,” Millyz told The Times. “It wowed me how authentic and genuine a Christian rapper could be. Lecrae’s just different.”

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