Hip-Hop artist, Lawren is getting ready to drop his new EP As You Pass Go tomorrow. The Miami-born emcee decided let Rapzilla in on the meaning of the album and it’s songs, and broke down the whole project beginning to end.
Before jumping directly into the album, Lawren enlisted the help of Matthew Amor to create a promo animation for the album.
He said it was “100% his idea” brought to life. Lawren gave Amor videos to capture the mannerisms of him rapping.
“I’ve had this in my head since the album art was complete,” said Lawren. “Even the album art was a collaboration between me and Kevin [Hackett]. I’m very involved in all aspects of the project.”
As far as this record is concerned, Lawren drew a lot of inspiration from his friend nobigdyl. Hearing how good of an album Canopy was pushed Lawren to try and create his own fire. What flowed out was AYPG in about a month’s time.
“Some artists write 100 songs and narrow it down. I come up with a concept that I believe in and I start writing songs around that concept. I wanted this project to sound exactly how it came out,” he said.
“Railroads” was the last song I wrote for the project. The song is meant to set the tone for the EP. I’m talking about my frustrations with the church and how things are going in the modern church. I also talk about saints being persecuted overseas. It’s a song that set the mood for the EP.
Slums ft. Ty Brasel and WHATUPRG
Anthony Mark Damon made the beat. I knew it was going to be a big song because the beat was epic. I wrote it in like 10 minutes, I was inspired. I knew the hook, I knew what the song was going to be called. Immediately I knew, that I was going to say, ‘I came from the slums, I came out my slums’. That was the direction I gave RG, that it was a fun song but at the same time it’s talking about where a lot of us minorities or poor people in general come from, and how those experiences and those areas just shape who we are. I want to be an artist who can exist at the church pulpit at the summer camp and I want to be the artist who go into the hood in Chicago and to tell people about Jesus. That’s basically where the song came out of to reach the urban community, more specifically inner cities.
RG established himself even further on that song. I don’t look to work with names, I look for people I can hear on a song. When I made this song I had Ty in mind. Originally it was going to be me and RG. This is up Ty’s alley as far as content. He came super out of left field with the flow he had on the beat. It was very different than what he normally does and that’s why I respect him because he’s not afraid to do different things.
Balance ft. ikilledmarlon
Funny thing is that I was originally going to do the hook and me and RG crafted something together for it. He sent it to me, I ended up doing it, and then he sent me a version of him doing it, and I didn’t like either version that well. I liked what we were saying but I wasn’t super satisfied with it. So I asked Marlon if he could do something. I didn’t send him the reference track, I just sent him the beat and told him the concept. When he came back to me, it was exactly what me and RG created. It was what we were saying but in his own style and his voice went well on the beat. I’m a fan of Marlon’s artistry so it worked out well.
It’s a song that’s really needed in Christian Hip-Hop. The whole point of the EP is about being the people that Jesus wants us to be. Being the people that go and reach people for Jesus. It’s a call to action. This song specifically is about CHH. There’s a guy who can be really liberal and doesn’t want to call himself a Christian rapper. At times the artist can be manipulated by culture and not really stand up at times and can get lost. As people of God, we should reach culture. Some of us want to be so much like culture that we end up just looking like a very slimed down Christian version of what culture is today. Then you have the alt right of that – these all the way artists who are super judgmental. They don’t make relevant music, the music is dated the message is not what people need to hear now-a-days. We live in day where people don’t respond to the gospel the same way you would deliver it 2000 years ago. The culture is secular so the way that we present the gospel should never take away from the truth of the gospel, but our presentation does need to look differently.
What I’m trying to say on this record is, ‘Look man, it doesn’t matter if you call yourself a Christian rapper or you don’t call yourself one. At the end of the day, we all need to find that balance’. It’s really hard to put it into practice. So that’s what the song is about.
I say, ‘Nobody claiming the genre, they say it’s a box/ but I disagree, they talk about haters, sprinkle some Jesus and then rinse repeat’.
You got artists who are making music about themselves that are masquerading as Christian music.
Hip-hop can be braggadocios, but not everything has to be like that. It’s not always about that. When I put something out, ‘What am I saying?’, ‘How am I saying it?, and ‘How can it be interpreted?’ At the end of the day we judge ourselves by our motives, but people judge us by our actions, so I’m very intentional about what my actions look like. Not to say I’m a people pleaser, I just want to make sure that I’m above reproach. Hip-hop is so braggadocios and egotistical, but at the same time balancing the humility of a Christian, knowing that we’re not saved by our works. I can have the best album in the world, but is Jesus going to say, ‘Hey man, Pieces was dope. You’re in’. He’s not going to say that. We are here for his mission. We need to represent Christ as well as he deserves to be represented.
South Miami Heights ft. Benjamin Rhea
The area I’m from is a 50/50 Hispanic and Black neighborhood. Some of the best moments of my life happened in that neighborhood and some of the worst moments of my life happened in that neighborhood. It’s a really small area that has a lot of violence in there. This is the area that made me who I am today. I fell into gang lifestyle because of South Miami Heights, but I wanted to make a song that celebrated the nice things but also the realities.
I was originally going to do the hook but I got a sneak peek at Canopy and was super impressed by what he [Rhea] did on ‘Burn’. I reached out, told him the concept and the hook is literally the first take of what he sent me.
As You Pass, Go
A lot of people will say it’s their favorite song, even more so than ‘Slums’. I wanted it to be an anthem. I wanted it to be something I can perform at a concert and you don’t need to know who I am to know the lyrics right away. The song is fun, the song is vicious. I change up my flow and cadences on it. It’s probably my favorite song.
It’s the last thing I say on the album, ‘Dead in my sin, but you know we got hope now/ the point is, you passed away, gotta go now’.
That literally is the album in one bar. We have hope because Christ removed our sin. We passed away our old life. We gotta go share the gospel. Whether it’s Judea (our local community), Samaria (other cities), and some are sent to the ends of the earth. Not everyone is a missionary, but Jesus gave us the Great Commission, so we all gotta go wherever we’re sent whether it’s the guy at Home Depot, the journalist, the doctor, or the Christian rapper. Whoever you do life with, are the people you are set to minister with. Acknowledging what Jesus did for us and sharing that message with other people.
As You Pass Go release tomorrow on April 28. Grab the preorder here and tune in to JuceTV to see Lawren perform “First Day,” “Castro,” “Balance,” and “As You Pass, Go” live.
Watch Lawren’s AYPG documentary below:
Learn more about the vision behind the project here.