What Lecrae winning Best Rap Performance would mean for Christian hip hop
Few would debate her. Whether or not this game-change would include monumental impact to the subgenre from which Lecrae came, though, is less certain.
“I don’t understand why people keep acting like what happens for Lecrae can be leveraged by Christian hip hop when he — and most his immediate circle — spent so many years adamantly, emphatically disassociating himself from Christian hip hop,” The Ambassador, a Christian hip-hop legend formerly with The Cross Movement, said.
Coffee Jones, another Christian hip-hop pioneer as a member of the group Grits, isn’t entirely sure what a Lecrae victory would mean for the subgenre either.
“He’s more in the rap lane now than in the Christian rap lane, if that makes sense,” Jones said. “That’s not a slight to him. I think that’s smart. You got to play the game how it’s supposed to be played.”
Jones added that he could imagine more labels attempting to tap into Christian hip hop for the money, which is why Tim Trudeau, CEO of Syntax Creative, believes a Best Rap Performance win for Lecrae would be a win for the subgenre.
“Yes, Lecrae’s being broader with his message now, but he’s not saying he’s not a Christian, and he’s definitely doing hip hop,” Trudeau said. “The rest of the industry, they know the story. The story’s been told five billion times that he’s from [Christian hip hop], so much so that I’m out there in board rooms meeting with people all the time, and what area do they want to go into? Christian hip hop. They want to see if they can sign some Christian hip-hop artists, and they’re all excited about it. Why are they excited about it? Because of the noise, the awards and all that.”
Despite Lecrae’s “campaign” to distance himself from the Christian-rap label in the past, The Ambassador still believes the Reach Records rapper can serve as a reference point for artists to achieve Grammy-level success.
Both The Cross Movement and Grits were nominated by The Recording Academy for Best Rock Gospel Album before the turn of the decade. However, before 2013 when Lecrae’s Gravity won Best Gospel Album, never had a Christian rapper been called to the podium. If his song “All I Need Is You” edges Eminem, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino’s nominations, further ground would be broken.
“For [Lecrae] to win, I think it would just be another example of, give yourself fully to the work, and you never know what can happen,” The Ambassador said. “I think Christian hip hop is going to take note because he continues to be named in association with it, even though he himself doesn’t name himself in association with it.”
The Ambassador added that Christian hip hop must be careful about over-celebrating a victory by Lecrae — in terms of expecting the door that he kicked down to be open yearly for a Christian artist to walk through.
“I just think that it’s always an exception for someone to be so equated with that which is Christ and be embraced at the highest level,” The Ambassador said. “That would be a major feat because, by virtue of criteria, Lecrae doesn’t rival them in every way. The things that he’s done are phenomenal, but by earthly standards, some of those phenomenal things have also been achieved by the Drake’s and the Eminem’s, so it’s not like he’s outclassed them according to the earthly standard of judgment.
“If he [wins], I think we got to remember we’d be seeing an exception not a rule. That’s just my perspective … but if he does it, I think people will ride that wave, and hopefully it will encourage people to give themselves fully to the work and then leave the results to God.”