Call it what you will, those who stand on the fringe of society are often handed any number of labels throughout their lives. Some complimentary…others, considerably less so.
And whether those individuals embrace and adopt said label or not, they can’t undo the reality that they’re just a bit different. Their perspective, level of intrigue in the world around them and, most of all, their inability or complete lack of desire to conform for conformity’s sake.
These are the people that change the world—for better or worse. Einstein, Newton, DaVinci, Hitler, Stalin lived within their own paradigms and earned either the hatred or love of millions.
But it is Jesus Christ who threw the bell curve to the wind.
It’s His story that inspires Lecrae.
“I always find it fascinating that He was coming to be a King, just not the kind of King they thought He would be.” Lecrae says. “They were screaming, ‘Hosannah’ for their political savior, and then they execute Him. I get a sense of what it might have been like to be loved and hated.”
No stranger to criticism himself, Lecrae has been on a unique journey to initially indentify, reconcile and then build upon those things that have placed him on the fringe of society at various points in time.
“I’ve always stood out,” he says. “It’s not a bad thing. I’m an African American Christian male in urban culture, but existing in evangelical Christianity. That’s who I am and I’m embracing it and encouraging others to embrace it as well.
“If you’re an outcast or outsider, which is just about every middle school student, you’re probably insecure. It starts with acknowledging that,” he continues. “Then, you step up and embrace your unique story. Find your confidence in that and then move towards the person you want to be.”
Lecrae decided many years ago the man he wanted to be. Abandoning a reckless lifestyle of alcohol, drugs and, ultimately, emptiness, he met a man who saved his life, showed him a different way to live and gave him a how-to, end-all, be-all for the rest of his life.
That interaction with Jesus Christ radically changed his life.
His Dove Awards and Nominations, Grammy Award, numerous tours, speaking engagements and record sales offer visceral evidence of the fruit that has bloomed in his life sent he surrendered it. But for Lecrae, the greatest things he has accomplished are in need of new school shoes.
A husband and father to three kids ages 2, 5, and 6, he is an engaged father and intentional husband.
“I put a lot of emphasis on being present at home, trying to be a good father and husband,” he says. “My reality is getting my kids’ stuff ready for school or going to family camp. My family dominates a lot of my mind and time. Between that, getting an album ready and recording it seem like little interruptions in the midst of what feels like reality.”
It’s a reality that has required thought, planning and intense follow-through, as well as the wisdom of others.
“Years ago, Mark Hall [Casting Crowns] sat me down and said, ‘Don’t ride the train to success and see your family lying on the tracks behind you.’ That sent a chill up my spine. How many artists sacrifice their families on the altar of success?
“The first season of marriage was really dark and really hard,” he shares. “They were probably the toughest two years of my life. But we had a lot of people and time and books invested in those years. Now, with care and action, my family is a priority and everything else takes second place.
“I’ll work in the studio from nine to five, then I go home and I’m Dad. I do what normal guys do. Then, it’s back on a stage. The kids get it. They know that Daddy’s communicating the heart of Jesus through music and life. The music is just another aspect of that. We’ll go from talking about our faith at the park to the stage. It’s just a different aspect of who we are and what we do.”
Over the years, his commitment to family and home has seeped into his music—a departure from earlier work.
“I have historically waved a banner for and about explicit theology,” he shares. “But the world is often disinterested in theology and mission trips and sanctification. What they do understand are things close to home. Believers, though, sometimes think you no longer care about the things you used to focus on. The hardest critiques come from the people you consider family. But it’s tough when you’re grossly misunderstood.”
Rather than allowing feelings of defeat affect his trajectory, Lecrae has used that criticism to create music that reaches people who experience the same. Anomaly is laced with messages to offer encouragement to those on the fringe.
“There are so many songs that stand out on the new record,” he says. “’Dirty Water’ touches on the water crisis in the world and some of the racial tensions that surround that. Another song, ‘Good, Bad, Ugly,’ is about the time I pressured my girlfriend at the time to get an abortion. I talk through some of that pain.
“Sonically, I’m very secure now,” he continues. “Before, I was trying to figure out what I was doing. In a sense, I was hiding behind Jesus. This album, I have a little more wisdom. I know enough to not know it all.”
Armed with spiritual wisdom, street-smarts and a genuine desire to be a good man, Lecrae has intentionally embraced the person God made him to be. And be it in mainstream culture or evangelical culture, he has found his voice.
“I think art is a very telling piece of culture,” he says. “A lot of artists are today’s philosophers. We do well, specifically as Christians, to remember the arts reflect culture.”
Lecrae’s art reflects truth. It reflects redemption. Most of all, it reflects a life patterned after the greatest anomaly of them all.