Interview: Trip Lee talks ‘Rise’ book and more
Before he embarked on his Rise Tour, Trip Lee hopped on the phone with Rapzilla to answer questions about his book “Rise,” which released on Jan. 27.
The Reach Records rapper dropped an album by the same name three months ago that the book inspired. He spent the last week in Nashville rehearsing for his tour, which will highlight both projects. Here is an excerpt of the interview.
Rapzilla: Have you had enough energy to celebrate the release of your book over the past two days?
Trip Lee: A little bit. It’s been a busy week. Of course, stuff with the book, but I’m also rehearsing for the tour. The past few days have been long. I’ve found little bits of time to celebrate, but for the most part, I’ve been working on the tour. It’s cool, though, because the tour is both a book and album tour, so it’ll be an opportunity to really give people a sneak peek into the book and get the word out about it.
RZ: Now, the last tour that Reach did was pretty over the top (The Anomaly Tour). Is there anything you have planned that’s going to surprise fans?
TL: I think the cool thing about this tour is it’s going to be a unique experience, where we bring both the book and album together into one experience over the night. I don’t know of any tours quite like what we’re trying to put together right now. If God gives grace, I think it’ll be a really cool, unique experience.
RZ: In your book, you wrote about society sending a message to young people that they don’t need to live for God until they get older. Since you wrote the book, have you heard a song or seen something in pop culture that made you say, “That’s what I’ve been talking about!”
TL: Yeah, of course. I listened to a podcast recently where Lena Dunham was being interviewed, and she was basically saying that nobody in their 20’s is actually really happy because you haven’t really found yourself or figured yourself out yet. I listened to a different podcast talking about, “Millennials are too narcissistic to really have an impact on our world.” There’s just this very general idea in culture that youth equals, “You have no idea about anything. You’re not very useful yet.” Then with us when we’re younger feeling like, “Yeah, I’ll just wait until I’m older to really be useful. Right now, I’ll just party and hang out.” That’s what I really wanted to combat with the book.
RZ: In chapter 12, “The Grey Rule,” you call your younger self, who refused to listen to any music that wasn’t about Jesus, immature. When did you adopt this Grey Rule, and what made you adopt it?
TL: It was gradual, man. It was really just overtime maturing, thinking about things a little more clearly. I wouldn’t want anybody to think that I’m saying, “If the only thing you listen to is music about Jesus, that means you’re immature.” I had immature reasons for it, and I thought if I listened to a song that wasn’t talking about Jesus, then it must be sin somehow. I think it was just over time, understanding scripture better, God’s lordship over all of life better and how God can be glorified in everyday situations better.
RZ: In the same chapter, you write that media is good. Hip hop is good — not inherently evil, yet there remain Christians who disagree, even in the reformed circles you’ve run in over the years. You saw the NCFIC panel. What are they missing?
TL: As far as reformed circles go, I haven’t really heard a lot of people say that. That one panel was so strange. The cool thing was that, especially in the reformed circle, what you saw was people get really up in arms, so I never said anything about it publicly. Lecrae never said anything about it publicly. We were aware of it. One of the guys said we were ungodly cowards, but we didn’t feel the need to, and one of the things that helped us not really need to was that so many of brothers came to our defense. I think the reason, and what people are missing when they say that, is that the gospel is not just effective for one kind of person and one kind of culture.
When you see what seemed to be a cultural superiority complex come out, the people who really love the gospel want to say, “No, the gospel saves people in all cultures, and there’s more than one way to culturally express your love for Jesus, more than one way to express yourself culturally that can honor God.” There’s nothing inherently evil about hip hop. I think when people say that, they’re actually downplaying the gospel and saying that the gospel only works for people in certain cultures. I don’t think that’s true.
In hip hop, just like other cultures, you have people with sinful hearts within it. I think if we’re able to look at culture from a more unbiased perspective, we’ll be able to see that our culture and all cultures have people that are in a sinful. Of course, hip hop is more in your face about it. That’s part of the problem, but to say that Jesus can’t redeem people within a culture and use it for his glory I think is ignorant.
RZ: In chapter four, “There Are No Super-Christians,” you mention a Jay Z & Kanye West song that references Jesus in a way that left you thinking, “These guys don’t understand who Jesus is.” Do you write songs with secular hip hop’s tendency to misrepresent Jesus in mind?
TL: Yeah, sometimes. If hip hop often gives an incorrect picture of who Jesus is in music, I want to be a voice that can give a clear picture of who Jesus is, a correct picture, a Biblical picture, a strong, mighty picture of who Jesus is, so that people who loves hip-hop music will be able to hear somebody talk about him the way that he actually is — not some little guy who’s just another a historical figure, but actually the Lord of Lords, the savior of the world. I love having the opportunity to do that with my music.
RZ: In the same chapter, you use Macklemore’s song “Same Love” to transition into an argument that all Christians not only can, but will change. Were you hesistant to use such a hot-button track to do that?
TL: I wasn’t hesitant at all. My goal wasn’t even to address the topic of homosexuality in general. It was just that song, that line, “I can’t change even if I tried.” I think that is a message that’s contrary to the gospel. The gospel can change us. The Holy Spirit can work in our hearts and change us, whatever our sin issues are.
RZ: I see you dedicated “Rise” to your two children. How early in life are you going to make them read it?
TL: I don’t think I’ll ever make my kids read my book. My son loves my album, which is a blessing to my soul. “Shweet” is his favorite one. He’ll rap with the hook with me. He’s two and a half. I hope they like my music, but I would never force them to read my book. That takes a little more time and effort than listening to a record. If I write something that I think will be helpful for them, of course, I would encourage them to read it. I dedicated it to them because what I pray for them every night is that God would change them at a young age and use them for his glory.
RZ: What is next for Trip Lee?
TL: I’ll be out on this tour. Hopefully we’ll be doing another run and hit some more cities. I got a lot of people mad at me right now, “You ain’t coming to Atlanta! You ain’t coming to Cali!” But we’re hoping to do another run later in the year. This book I’m excited about. I’m working on another book right now that is due this summer. I’m very excited about as well. One thing that will take a lot of my time is a church plant in Atlanta, Cornerstone. I’m really excited about it. I’m one of the pastors there, and we’ll be starting services in June. That’ll take up a lot of my time and energy, and gladly so because I love the church and I love walking with God’s people.
RZ: One last question: What will you do if Lecrae beats Eminem, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino for Best Rap Performance at the Grammys next week?
TL: That sounds impossible, but with God all things are possible. Amen. I don’t know, man. I would be incredibly excited. I would text message him — blow up his phone with happy-face emoticons. I would tell all my friends. Whenever stuff happens like that with Lecrae, I just smile endlessly because that’s my brother. We’ve been doing it together so long … He’s the right guy to have that kinda of success. It’s exciting.
RZ: Pop some Martinelli’s.