Natalie Lauren will add another Grammy-winning album to her songwriting résumé if Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic wins Best Rap Album at the 2015 Grammy Awards.
Lauren celebrated her four-song contribution to Gravity, Lecrae’s sixth studio album, in London when it won Best Gospel Album in 2013.
“She’s probably one of the most phenomenal songwriters that I have had the privilege to know,” Lecrae said.
Lauren, a professing Christian, was in London helping pen the last of five tracks for Azalea’s debut album The New Classic. Which could not be mistaken for gospel, as evidence of a tracklist that includes songs titled “New B—-“ and “F— Love.”
Some Christians avoid working with artists who make music that does not fit in a Christian subgenre. Not Lauren, who also raps and sings.
“Mainstream artists have the ears of our generation,” she said. “Christian hip hop isn’t on the radio — not even gospel radio. … If my personal music never reaches the households of millions, the next best thing is to put my voice, my thoughts, my perspective, the right words into the mouths of the influencers.”
Lauren, who had moved from Tampa to Atlanta in 2007, met Azalea when she also settled there two years later. They shared producers, FKi and Jon Jon Traxx, and built a relationship in the studio. But not one strong enough to sustain communication when Azalea, born Amethyst Kelly, moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2010.
Then in Nov. 2012, Shawna Peezy, Azalea’s manager and a mutual friend, asked Lauren if she would fly to Wales to help write The New Classic. Lauren was already scheduled to tour in December with rappers Tedashii and KB, Reach Records label mates of Lecrae. And she was not sold to begin with.
“Some of the [Azalea] content that was already put out was a little risqué for me,” Lauren said.
She soon received another call from Sarah Stennett, founder of London-based management agency Turn First Artists, who pitched that they wanted to commercialize Azalea more.
“That’s what lured me in,” said Lauren, who skipped the last of four tour dates to fly to Wales on Dec. 12. “Okay, you’re trying to commercialize the image up, meaning less provocative and explicit. I went over with that in mind.”
Lauren returned to America for Christmas and flew to London on Jan. 19 for a second stint. She helped pen the songs “Work,” “Bounce,” “Change Your Life,” “New B—-,“ which was called “New Chick” when Lauren wrote for it, and “Just Asking.”
However, in the months that followed the conclusion of her work, she developed regret.
“I wasted an opportunity to make music that matters,” Lauren said, “not on every song, but a few. I squandered three minutes and 45 seconds contributing to the over-saturation of materialism, image obsession and a whole bunch of random, pointless stuff.”
The New Classic remained on the Billboard 200 chart into the fall after it debuted at No. 3 in late April. In October, “Work” went platinum, and Lauren revealed her involvement on social media. She received criticism from Christians for taking part in the creation of risqué content, which KB — a childhood friend and accountability partner of Lauren’s — believes some of is justified, but he encouraged her to continue to work in mainstream music.
“I think that there is a calling for Christians to engage with that [secular] world and write things in a way that doesn’t violate their convictions,” KB said.
Lauren, 28, learned that maintaining a clear conscience while navigating secular music can be difficult, but she believes that she is more prepared to do so than her previous attempt.
“Opportunity and the idea of success led a lot of my decisions before,” Lauren said. “I feared not making it. Afraid to take my own route, I often settled for what was given out of ignorance … When you’ve come from a low-income home, all you’ve ever know is check to check and somebody throws a lot of money in your face, it’s so easy to compromise for financial security. But the reality is, long after that money is gone, I still have to live with those decisions and the consequences.
“Now I’d rather take my chances and walk away from money. When I look back on what I’ve contributed to this industry, I want it to be an eternal impact — one that pushes people towards the reality that there’s more to life than what they tell us.”
Lauren’s mainstream associations may make her Christian associations wary, but not her most prominent one.
“She navigated through writing as best as she could,” Lecrae said. “She didn’t have all the answers. She did the best with what she had. She’s since grown leaps and bounds. And I’m proud of her.”
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