My husband and I recently took a trip down to Seattle to take our kids, 13 and 8, along with 2 other kiddos, 19 and 15, to see Lecrae in concert for his Anomaly tour.
Depending on what evangelical circle that one subscribes to, I know the response to our family listening to Christan rap varies – from “ooh, you guys are so hip” to “it sounds too mainstream, secular or worldly to really make a difference”.
So, to answer any questions that arise from either camp, a review might help. I just want to apologize in advance for how long this is. I wish I was a two word explain-er, but I’m not. So pull up a chair because this is gonna take awhile.
The opening segment began with a background video of a woman giving birth to a baby. For any mothers in the audience, there was an immediate connection to this scene. All momma’s, regardless of ethnicity, culture, education or socioeconomic status, who see another woman in the throes of pushing out a baby, this God ordained painful, yet beautiful experience, has a way of allowing all moms to connect with one another based on the shared emotional and physical stresses of birthing babies.
However, this particular birthing scene is missing something. This birth scene is void of a father….a daddy….and just like that….the concert becomes instantly real.
The kids in the audience…..who were raised in single parent homes…..their lives were laid bare.
To all the mom’s who birthed their babies alone, wounds exposed, even if self inflicted, reminded them of the harsh reality that having babies without daddys is hard. The burden…..heavy.
That was Lecrae’s reality. That was my reality as well when I gave birth to two babies at the age of 18 and 19 and no father in sight. I am sure that was and is the reality of many in the audience.
1 out of 3 children in our country today, for a total of 15 million kids, are being raised without a father and nearly half of these single parent families live below the poverty line.
The audience can relate to this and are now emotionally invested. They live these statistics.
And just like that Lecrae won their hearts even more. He got their attention and opened his concert with Welcome to America.
This opening song delves into the reality that many want to come TO America simply because of the enticing probable “unimaginable benefits” of living in a free democratic country. However no one wants to think about or talk about the backdrop stories. So he does.
You know, those stories of single mom’s raising kids alone, the stories of millions of kids deeply influenced by their immediate but violent neighborhoods, or an over-sexualized culture. The stories of soldiers losing their lives and veterans being ignored. Stories of invisible immigrants that desperately want to fit, but don’t. The lyrics of his opening song are rich with stories of those that make up the horizon that is America.
Lecrae belts out:
, I was made in America land of the free, home of the brave
Right up under your nose you might see a sex slave in your trade
And will do anything for the money
Boy, a momma might sell her babies
Sell porn sell pills anything to pay the bills
Anything to bring that pay
Gotta scratch that itch gotta scratch them ticks
Ain’t rich but I might be
And I’ma shoot these flicks I’ma turn these tricks anything for a slight fee
Yeah, made in America
Momma told me that I belong here
Had earn all the stripes had to learn all rights had to fight for a home here
But I wouldn’t know a thing about that
All I know is drugs and rap
I probably could have been some kinda doctor
Instead of hold-in guns and crack
I was born in the mainland
Great-grandpa from a strange land
He was stripped away and given bricks to lay
I guess you could say he a slave here
But I was made in America
So I don’t know a thing about that
All I know is Uncle Sam look-in for me working on his corner so I know I gotta pay tax
Getting paid in America
I was raised in America
And this is all I ever known
If I’m wrong then you better come save me America
Those are some pretty heavy lyrics to open up a concert with. It takes boldness and courage to “go there”. I’ve seen that America he raps about. That’s as real as it gets. That’s the America he was born into. That’s the America his children are born into. That’s the America we all live in, and it ain’t’ pretty.
Lecrae then takes his audience on a journey of his life, which is nothing more than a product of the culture that we all subconsciously inhale. He was transparent and opened up the book of his life for the world to see. Woven into his personal life journey, he perfectly mixed in the various songs on Anomaly to reflect the emotional baggage that one endures when living out life in our culture.
A moving video clip of his mother running out into the street to snatch a gun out of his hands and then moving on to the time he received a letter from his dad, basically telling him “since your mom is doing a good job raising you, you don’t really need me”. The fear of not being loved enough by his dad is reflected in his song Fear, but if you listen closely, the song’s true meaning is of a fear that is not necessarily of him missing out on his earthy father, but a fear of not truly measuring up to his heavenly Father.
My nightmares are having nightmares
I’m quite scared of what’s right and fair
How I fare an eternity
Will I hear well done when He turn to me
Will I hear you care too much
About all of this stuff that really don’t matter
You chased the wind and you won it
Got to the top of a two foot ladder
What’s after I can capture
All this mess my heart was after
Will I end up empty handed
When I stand before my master
Did I master the mathematics of a passive disaster
Adding my selfish ambition all the while subtracting what matters
I don’t know
I love that he wrestles with this, as all Christ followers ought to do. This song amazingly chronicles the psychological journey of trying to be tough, but the reality is that an outward show of toughness merely covers up those paralyzing moments of fear…fear of not measuring up to others expectations and fear of not hearing “well done” by his Creator. That’s heavy…but very much real.
With another video clip of his teenage years, he uses the song Nuthin to express the emptiness that typical hip hop culture glorifies. The audience goes crazy with this song. An analysis of the song is not needed as the title and the lyrics speak for itself. It’s quite comical that my kids love this one, even though they have never heard the words to secular hip hop or rap. They only know what I have told them and I am thankful that Lecrae teaches my kids that they are not missing much due to their mamma not allowing them to hear the “nothin” that is classic hip hop.
Dirty Water is probably one of my favorites on Anomaly. For the majority of single parent mommas that live below the poverty line, its pretty typical that there are generations of kids spending hours in laundromats so their mamma’s can wash clothes. I know I did.
I love how Lecrae uses a laundromat scene, with its deep implications, to introduce Dirty Water. The first verse and the second verse of the song are two different sermons but combined reflect the landscape that is American culture. For time sake, I will focus on the first verse because it pulls back the blanket of the American church. With words like
Champagne, champagne, celebratin my campaign
I just dug a well in West Africa
But how many of my friends is African, huh?
No habla español, just show me tu baño
Ain’t trynna get to know you, I’m too busy readin Daniel
Most segregated time of day is Sunday service
Now what you think that say about the God you worship?
First of all, I know it ain’t a song that’s gon change the world
There’s no way
It’s not a guilt trip, it’s a field trip that’s gon last more than one day
What you thought, huh?
Faith ain’t bout no soft stuff
I heard you just went overseas, now come back home and boss up
He spotlights the culture of typical American Christianity, but not to condemn, but to show, to teach, to expose where there could be improvement.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly…well the title says it all. For this song, he uses a video clip of a certain point in his life where he dropped off his then girlfriend at an abortion clinic.
Remember back in ’02
When I was in school and actin’ a fool
My soul got saved
My debt had been paid
But still I kept running off with my crew
Sex on my brain and death in my veins
Had a main thang we stayed up til 2
Waking and bakin’ we naked
My body was lovin’ it
Soul was hatin’ it
Time and time after time
Our bodies grew close the girl was so fine
Heard a heart beat that wasn’t hers or mine
The miracle of life had started inside
Ignored the warning signs
Supressed that truth I felt inside
I was just havin’ fun with this
I’m too young for this
I’m thinkin’ me myself and I
Should I sacrifice this life
To keep my vanity and live nice
And she love and trust me so much
That whatever I say she’ll probably oblige
But I was too selfish with my time
Scared my dreams were not gone survive
So I dropped her off at that clinic
That day a part of us died
I know that it’s easy for Christianity to look at abortion as a dividing line that separates believers from non-believers. However, no one talks about the kids or the young adults that have abortions. Suburb or middle class Christians often rally around and condemn abortions but no one takes the time or effort to cross over into questionable neighborhoods to reach out to young adults who find themselves a product of their over-sexualized culture. I have witnessed too many Christian moms that have turned delivering a baby into an idol. They sport the trendiest baby carrier or stroller, all the while screaming “abortion is wrong”, while never once contemplating the young teenage girl that finds herself pregnant at 16….alone….scared…regretting. Maybe…just maybe abortions might decrease when affluent Christian mom’s take the time to help single parent mom’s know how to be a mom. (ok…I’m done with my rant)
This song also ventures into another consequence of an over-sexualized culture- which is child molestation. I am not even going to give my opinion on this topic because I literally could go on for hours. However, I did address this particular topic in a previous post HERE.
Enter the song, Wish. Here he addresses past regrets along with current regrets. For myself, being saved a little over 10 years ago at 33, I know all too well the weight of past regrets.
I wish I repented
A little bit quicker
Then again I didn’t pull the trigger
I know I said I have no regrets but I sure do wish every chance I get
I have often shared here on this blog that I sometimes wish I had been saved sooner. Past burdens and regrets still haunt…even knowing and taking comfort that God’s will is perfect.
He tells his audience that the act of his contribution to death through abortion, along with his lack of having a dad, along with all the other things that encompassed his entire life up to that point, caused him to look for validation, significance and numbing in all the wrong things- specifically all the negative things from his immediate culture. He ultimately finds the wrong people to imitate.
Hello…..that was my former life too and I am sure it was the current life of many in the audience as well.
He skips the main meat of the song and goes right to the heart of it, which I am thankful for because its the best part.
I was created by God but I ain’t wanna be like Him,
I wanna be Him
The Jack Sparrow of my Caribbean
I remember the first created being,
And how he shifted the blame on his dame
For fruit he shouldn’t have eaten
And now look at us all out of Eden,
Wearing designer fig leaves by Louis Vuitton
But God sees through my foolish pride,
And how I’m weak like Adam another victim of Lucifer’s lies
How he coordinated and collaborated the lyrics off his previous albums along with the songs on his current album, well it simply just made sense. In my opinion…..pure genius!!!
The concert could have ended there, as most testimonies do and people probably would have been ok with it. Heck, I would have been ok with it.
The beautiful story of how someone’s life is utterly messed up, seemingly broken beyond repair, then goes on to find redemption, true significance and all encompassing validation once Jesus shows up on the scene is a story told from pulpits across the globe. I know this story too. I never tire of hearing redemption stories.
The messed up part, then the saved through Jesus part. Beautiful!!!
However…life goes on and there is more to the story. What does it look like when one is saved by Jesus?
Lecrae goes on to share how other people had come into his life to help him grow in faith. Can I just say it takes some serious humility to allow others to pour into our lives. With the help of the Holy Spirit, new creatures in Christ are able break all self reliant tendencies. The confirmation that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our soul is profoundly evident by letting others guide us as Christ following people. That is the complete opposite of self reliance.
One of those persons that Lecrae specifically mentioned was his wife. He shared how much she means to him and I loved how he encouraged husbands to love their wives. He also encouraged men to put a ring on a woman if she challenges him to grow in leadership. Oh, what a perfect way to usher in the song All I need is You.
In his song, he admits that being a man in our crazy “hook up” culture is a temptation waiting to happen but a woman that helps, gives him courage and strength to maneuver through it all is a woman worth keeping.
If you are a woman and you are reading this, please take the time to pray for Lecrae’s wife – for continued strength as she raises Lecrae’s children and for herself, just for being the wife of a man on a mission.
However, as real as real life gets, life does not have fairy tale endings that begin with marriage, not even for Christian couples. Married life is not the culmination of our existence, especially as followers of Christ.
Once again he goes back to a song from his 2012 Gravity album. With Tell the World, he exhorting-ly instigates and reminds his audience that the reason we are saved, the reason we have breath, the reason we get new mornings and days with our loved ones, is so that we can glorify God. He reminded us that our main goal with brand new lives is to be a billboard for God.
Tell the World, I might add, is probably my favorite of all his songs….well, maybe second favorite….no…. I’m sure it’s my top favorite.
I know one thing’s true: I don’t even really deserve to know you
But, I-I’m a witness that you did this, and I’m brand new
So, I-I’m read’ to go, and I’ma tell the world what they need to know
A slave to myself, but you let me go, I tried getting high but it left me low
You did what they could never do
You cleaned up my soul and
Gave me new life – I’m so brand new
And that’s all that matters
I ain’t love you first, but you first loved me
In my heart I cursed you, but you set me free
I gave you no reason to give me new seasons, to give new life, new breathing
But you hung there bleedin’, and ya’ died for my lies and my cheatin’, my lust and my greed, (and Lord!)
What is a man that you mindful of him?
And what do I have to deserve this lovin’?
You adopted me, you keep rocking me
I’ma tell the world, and ain’t nobody stopping me!
In typical concert fashion, he says his goodbyes and scoots off the stage. The audience takes the bait and begins chanting for more.
He, along with Andy Mineo, who opened for him, come back on stage to genuinely finish off the concert with the ever popular Say I Wont.
This particular album is clearly a reflection of Lecrae wrestling with where he fits in the music industry. His beats clearly represent a genre that is classically yet contemporary hip hop through and through. However, the lyrics are far from classic anything.
The lyrics may be the complete opposite of typical hip hop, but they are written in such a way that allow him to connect with the masses on deep raw issues. The simple fact that his music can be impressed upon the hearts of people from the hood and the suburb alike, the young and the ones a bit older, the educated and the not…that speaks for itself.
It’s evident that Lecrae just loves to create and share good music. The fact that his music has crossed over and made it to #1 on the music billboard charts does not mean it’s any less “Christian” or has become more “secular”. Those are just silly labels to try to categorize his music. Labels are irritating.
Brokenness has no borders. Lecrae helps us wrestle with that. He puts pen to paper in such a way that Christians are given a reality check and reminder that sin permeates every thing in life, from self to relationships to church. For the non-Christian, he walks with them and helps them understand that he gets them because he was also shaped by a culture that glorifies self, even if in that self glorification there are self inflicted wounds. His lyrics are loaded with words that pierce hearts and punch guts. He brilliantly gives clarity to the Hope that saved him, without sounding preachy or appearing to have an agenda.
It’s also evident that he wants people to know him as simply a music artist, not necessarily as a “Christian music artist” but an artist who loves hip hop, loves rap, loves his wife and kids, and most importantly loves Jesus.
The world does not know what to do with that…but then again, many Christians don’t seem to know what to do with it either, especially the ones that can’t get past the thump-thump-thump of the base or the pictures in the media of him posing with secular music artists or celebrities. They annoyingly question his “Christian loyalty”.
Yeah, yeah, yeah….I get why he wants to be known just as an artist. But in my humble opinion, I think he should not try so hard to shake off the title of Christian artist.
From a concert audience sitter perspective, sitting in the middle of young adults, older adults, and every one in between. I heard the conversations on the venue floor. Most of the people that support and listen to Lecrae’s music are either brand new Christians, all their lives Christians or have been Christians for a few years. Even people on the Christian fence that are questioning or wrestling with what real faith looks like are part of his fan base too.
Regardless of what category Lecrae creates to put himself in, even if its the “dare to be different” category, my 8 year old son sees the reality of the situation with much more clarity.
During the concert I frequently looked over to see my son intently observing Lecrae’s on stage presence and how he interacted with the audience. As much as my son loves his music, at least the songs I allow him to listen to, I give him the freedom to enjoy his favorite artist on his own terms. Surprisingly, my son did not fall into full blown idol worship, instead, my son watched Lecrae carefully and contemplatively.
When I tucked my son into bed after getting home from the concert, I was expecting to have one of those deep meaningful conversations over his observations. Instead, we had the following conversation.
“Did you enjoy the concert?”
“Yes mom. It was pretty awesome”.
“Just from what you saw tonight, do you think that Lecrae loves Jesus as much as mommy loves Jesus?”
“No” said my son, very confidently.
“What? Why not?”, I asked surprisingly.
“I think Lecrae loves Jesus more”.