Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
This edition of Head to Head means a lot.
For months, Soul In Stereo Cypher member and family friend Alison Moore hounded me to do a Head to Head with her on her favorite artist, gospel rapper Lecrae. There was one issue, though – Lecrae’s discography is pretty extensive and I was only familiar with a couple of albums, so I would need a lot of time to brush up on his nearly 20 year career.
Unfortunately, 2020 has constantly reminded us time isn’t always on our side.
Alison suddenly passed away last month, leaving a massive hole in our hearts. But I won’t let the promise of a Lecrae post go unfulfilled. A huge thanks goes out to longtime Soul In Stereo contributor and fellow Lecrae stan Nicolette Carney for volunteering to join me for this one.
This Head to Head (and eventually, a Lecrae album ranking – it’s coming soon) will be dedicated to Alison’s memory.
Lecrae is a man of faith, and that permeates through each of his 10 albums and multiple mixtapes. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our girl. I hope we made you proud, Alison.
What are Lecrae’s three best albums?
2. All Things Work Together
3. Rehab: The Overdose
This was difficult to list. Seeing Lecrae’s progression and evolution is amazing. I’ve been listening to him since he was on Cross Movement Records, so a lot of his earlier work was essential growing up because of the limited choices I had with music. I’m picking Anomaly because that’s the project that I feel both Gospel and mainstream listeners respected a lot.
2. All Things Work Together
While I greatly appreciate Lecrae’s music and contributions, I certainly wouldn’t characterize myself as a hard core Lecrae fanatic, so it’s cool to see my picks line up so closely with a mega fan. The old folks call that spiritual alignment. I’m totally with Nicolette – in the early 2010s, Lecrae really began to find himself as an artist, with Anomaly being the apex of his work. All Things Work Together is pretty close behind. Rehab: The Overdose was a major step up from the original Rehab, but I have to put Gravity slightly ahead of it. All four of those albums, along with this year’s Restoration, represent Lecrae’s best work.
What’s Lecrae’s weakest album?
Nicolette: Real Talk
Real Talk had some untapped potential, but by no means was this debut abysmal. It showed that Lecrae was going to be one of most respected MCs in (Christian) Hip-Hop.
Edd: Real Talk
Ever go back and listen to early albums of guys like Rick Ross and TI and say to yourself, “man, they don’t even sound like this anymore!” That’s the feeling I got from hearing Real Talk for the first time. Nicolette’s right, it’s certainly not bad, but Lecrae hadn’t found his voice yet. It’s a decent release from his formative years that showed a lot of potential – potential he’d capitalize on down the road.
What’s your pick for Lecrae’s most underrated album?
This was a dope follow up from his sophomore album. You can really hear that he was in his groove and production wise, it’s one of my favorite projects.
Edd: After the Music Stops
Again, I’m a bit of a Lecrae neophyte (especially when it comes to his early work) so I’m sure someone will scream at me in the comments if I’m off base, but I haven’t heard too much discussion about this release over the years. That surprises me because it’s big step up from his debut, speaking more to the social issues that would define his later hits. Even though it’s 14(!) years old, its themes are as relevant as ever.
Which album cut should have been a single?
Nicolette: “Come And Get Me”
It’s so gritty and funky. I couldn’t move on for a while on ATWT because I was stuck on this track.
Edd: “Hammer Time”
Blame it the wifey. When All Things Work Together dropped a few years back she played this thing NONSTOP. I went from hating it to being cool with it to vibing with it to kinda loving it. It swings from being absolutely ridiculous to INSANELY catchy. I can picture scores of little kids milly rocking to this one at somebody’s Youth Day event.
Lecrae’s Church Clothes mixtapes are pretty beloved. Which is the best installment in the series?
Nicolette: Church Clothes 2
I really want to say all. But Part 2 was the one part of the series that I would have absolutely been OK with dropping $10 on iTunes.
Edd: Church Clothes 3
I see why Nicolette went with Church Clothes 2; it’s the one that feels the most like a fully-formed album. But I can’t deny Part 3, a brief but fulfilling release that I’d rank pretty highly among his best LPs.
Which Lecrae lyric is most meaningful to you?
Nicolette: “Identity is found in the God we trust; any other identity will self-destruct.” – “Identity” from Rebel
Just a friendly reminder that people and things can not define your identity. That message never rings so true at this moment in time.
Edd: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Lecrae’s Rehab album but the last few lines of “Divine Intervention” hit me, especially in today’s climate:
It’s all needles in arms full of life’s drugs
Lust, pride, hate, death running through our blood
Need a blood donor, need a transfusion
He’s over hanging on the cross for your substitution
So in conclusion, only one solution
Trust divine intervention as your resolution
If you wanted to put someone on to Lecrae’s work, which song or album would you recommend?
This was the project that he came into his own. Lyrically and production wise this when he really began to dig deep into that untapped potential discussed earlier.
Edd: All Things Work Together
Not only is it one of Lecrae’s best releases, it’s probably the most assessable. Those who are usually run off by the usual gospel rap clichés have nothing to fear here – the beats are as trendy and hard as anything on mainstream playlists, the hooks are infectious and the themes are poignant but never preachy. This isn’t just “a good gospel rap album,” it’s a great album, period.
Is Lecrae overrated, underrated or properly rated?
Nicolette: Slightly underrated. Although he has received lots of attention and recognition, I still feel that he’s underrated. However, the more people come to know who he is, the closer he gets to receiving the much deserved props.
Edd: Y’all know me – I do my research before running my mouth on this here digital playground. I was shocked – but probably not surprised – when I saw mainstream music outlets give very mediocre reviews to some of Lecrae’s best albums.
These are the same outlets that try to push the most mundane mumble garbage as album of the year contenders, of course.
I think the fact that Lecrae raps about his faith is enough for these reviewers to automatically deduct points or write him off as corny. That’s unfair. Some gospel rap has been rightly criticized (including me) for being of subpar quality (oh, hi, Jesus is King), but Lecrae doesn’t fall into that category. He’s lyrically sharp, his production is strong, his discography has very few holes (I just sat through 10 albums and three mixtapes, trust me on this) and he’s been cosigned by rap legends. What more could you want? Underrated for sure.
OK, let’s expound on that: Why do you think Lecrae’s work has gone so unappreciated?
Nicolette: It’s a wild situation. If you were a fan of Christian Hip Hop and Modern Gospel artists in the late 90s – 2000s, then you know how struggle of being judged by the church because the music sounds too worldly and the artist are not “saved” enough. Or, you played it around your non-church friends and caught flack because it’s corny.
Lecrae is one of the few Christian Hip-Hop artists that has evolved and mastered how to really blend the message of Jesus, the music, and even addressing the current issues that affects us outside the church’s four walls. While mainstream and Hip-Hop heads are taking note and welcoming him in, there is still some heat from part of the church who would rather not hear him address social issues. This is when the phrase, “You can’t please everyone” comes in. However, he’s doing what the word says, “Go out into the world and announce God’s good news to one and all (Matt 16:15MSG).”
Edd: Nicolette nailed it again. It’s amazing that we will celebrate some artists for rapping about their truths – be it their roots in the trap house or on the pole – but alienate others for speaking about the truths of their spiritual journey. No matter what your story is, it deserves to be told without restrictions or judgement.
Spirituality can be intimidating, no doubt, especially when so many wield religion like a weapon. Unfortunately, artists like Lecrae, who use their music to spread love without judgement or guilt, are unfairly lumped in with politicians who use scripture as manipulation or phony faith leaders who refuse to practice what they preach. The world probably will never appreciate what Lecrae brings to the table, but I certainly hope that doesn’t stop him from speaking his truths.
I know how much those truths meant to our girl Alison. If she was here, she’d definitely amen that.
Are you siding with Nicolette or did Edd come through? Let us know your favorite Lecrae projects below.