Lecrae: Engaging Culture or Forsaking Christ?


It’s not often that mainstream media show interest in a gospel artist. But at this year’s Grammy Awards, MTV and XXL Mag took notice as Christian rapper Lecrae won “Best Gospel Album” for Gravity.

“[He] has done well to exist within hip-hop’s secular sphere” said MTV, highlighting Lecrae’s past collaboration with DJ Don Cannon and rapper Big K.R.I.T., and his participation in BET’s Hip-Hop Awards Cypher in 2011.

Lecrae had been garnering attention outside of the Christian sphere since he released his free mixtape “Church Clothes” in May of 2012. At the time of this publication, it has had almost half a million downloads.

But for all his popularity in the mainstream, Christian opinions have been split into two distinct camps. “Either Lecrae is doing God’s work by making music that will reach more people, or he has lost touch with the Gospel and forsaken the name of Christ,” said Evangelical Outpost. In other words, some claim that the absence of the explicit gospel or Christian doctrines in some of Lecrae’s songs is simply not God-honoring.

Put me in the first camp. I’m proud of the way Lecrae has been bridging the gap between Christian and secular music. He’s a pioneer of our culture, leading the way for artists to let go of stereotypes and unnecessary genre labels and just be real and transparent.  

“I know that my people rock with me. It’s more than just good music. It’s good music, but it’s honest music. It’s music that’s transparent and people relate to that,” Lecrae told MTV.

Don’t get me wrong, as a Christian, I know there is a place for overtly spiritual music intended to build up and encourage the Church. But why do we limit God from using music as a medium to reach the not-yet-Christians and speak their language? Many Hip Hop artists love to namedrop Jesus and crucifixes, but when was the last time a rapper speaking of love, hope and redemption truly engaged the mainstream culture?

I’m reminded of when Jesus associated with the tax collectors, adulterers, and other low-lifes of society, and he took the flak from the pious religious leaders. Jesus reminded them: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

Or when Apostle Paul said he “became like a Jew, to win the Jews, [and to] those not having the law I became like one not having the law…so as to win those not having the law, [becoming] all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22)

In Lecrae’s recent interview with PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, he describes his journey from a drug dealer in high school to the artist he is now. Growing up, he loved the Hip Hop culture and the unique ways in which it delivered messages.

As he began experimenting with rap as a medium to express his faith, Lecrae thought the only way to make a positive difference with his music was to fill the song with bible verses, or attempt to stuff a theological discourse into four minutes. He has learned over the years that not every song needs to have a happy ending for it to bring hope to his listeners.

"Maybe there’s a song that needs to be written about my past or…about a relationship with me and my father who I don’t have a good relationship with…Those are the types of things that can provide hope and insight and encouragement.”

In the near decade of his career, Lecrae has faced criticism from those who fully believed that it wasn’t possible to be Christian and to rap at the same time, as if there was something inherently evil in the medium of rap. Lecrae said, “Culturally, [rap] has been used as something that’s negative and bad, but I think you can take it and use it for redemptive purposes as well.“

In a recent blog post, Lecrae was not afraid to call out the cowardliness many of us Christians face.

"We [Christians] limit spirituality to salvation and sanctification. As long as we are well versed in personal piety and individual salvation, we think we’re good. But most Christians have no clue how to engage culture in politics, science, economics, TV, music or art. We tend to leave people to their own devices there. We subscribe to views like, ‘Politics and movies are evil or of the devil,’ and we don’t touch them. Leaving them to be dominated by non-biblical world views…We are missing out on the gospel’s power of redemption and glorification in all things.”

What do you think? Is Lecrae watering down his Christian faith or engaging the culture in a God-honoring way? Leave your comments below.