How do you follow up the most important Christian hip-hop album of all time?
That's the question standing before 33-year-old rapper Lecrae, a freshly-minted addition to Atlanta's hip hop community.
After his 2012 album "Gravity" hit no. 1 on the rap charts (not the Christian rap charts) and no. 3 on the Billboard 200, won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel album and his "Church Clothes" mixtape racked up 100,000 downloads, certified platinum by mixtape kingpin Datpiff.com in 48 hours, Lecrae has our attention.
He's also got the attention of hip hop heavyweights like Kendrick Lamar, DJ Premier, Freddie Gibbs and Saigon, and has been named checked by athletes such as Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and PGA golfer Bubba Watson.
"Christian is my faith," says Lecrae, "not my genre."
Clearly, he is defying not just the boundaries of Christian rap, but of hip hop, altogether. So where does he go from here?
In this interview with the Atlanta Daily World, one of hip hop's most sought-after and talked-about lyricists talks about where he is, where he's going and the state of hip hop, Godly and otherwise.
ADW: You're coming off a huge album – you had the number one rap album, won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel album, you were the first holy hip hop artist to do that. What's next for you?
Lecrae: For me, it's just continuing to make good music. I'm gonna work on the album, I got a mixtape, "Church Clothes Vol. 2" coming out with Don Cannon, and for me it's just bridging the gap between the faith world and the world that is...that doesn't really explore faith in music. You know what I'm saying? So, for me it's about bridging that gap and stepping outside the box.
ADW: What can people expect from the new album and the mixtape? And where are you in the process with each of those?
Lecrae: I'm about near done with my mixtape, so you should look forward to that real soon. The album I'm still in grind mode, so we gonna be working on that for quite a while, but I'm excited. I'm still bringing the same passionate content that I brought in the first place, but now it's a little more mature, a little more well-rounded. ...
ADW: Talk to me about the condition of holy hip hop and of hip hop in general. In your opinion, what is the state of music, from the Christian side and from the secular side?
Lecrae: My thing is, I applaud anybody who wants to be very explicit in saying, "Look, I do Christian music." I applaud them. For me, I've gone through a season of giving my philosophy of faith, you know what I mean? And now I'm in a season of putting some action around that philosophy.
So I'm not gonna explain to you why you should love your brother, I'm gonna tell you a story about me loving my brother. I'm not gonna give you a Bible doctrine on why thou shalt not kill, I'm gonna do a song like "Fuss and Fight" with Scotty ATL where we articulate why and the detriments of killing.
So, I think hip hop is in the same shape that I'm in, that everybody's in, that is a part of the culture. Some of us are healthy and well and some of us are sick and need help and so I'm here to help the sick.
ADW: What brought you together with Scotty ATL?
Lecrae: Me and Scotty got a few mutual friends and Scotty's a real deep dude who loves to just bring out different aspects of his life in music and we connected on some various different topics and issues, man, and I just wanted to come and support him with music and do something to stop the violence, because that's really what I'm about is about putting some skin on the bones of my faith. You know what I'm saying? ...
ADW: How do you feel about the Atlanta music scene?
Lecrae: I'm excited about Atlanta, man. Atlanta brought us Outkast and Goodie Mob, the Dungeon Family, and I thought they did a great job of balancing the reality, the truth in the streets, as well as faith, consciousness. Because consciousness is just us being aware of circumstances, of surroundings, it's not us acting like it doesn't exist. And that's what Atlanta brought us and I see some of that coming back up again, where there's an exploration of awareness and consciousness and faith and that's where I want to be able to have a voice, a consistent voice.
ADW: Anything else we missed?
Lecrae: "Church Clothes Vol. 2," go get that. It's coming soon, so stay on the lookout.
(This story courtesy of the Atlanta Daily World.)