Lecrae on Convos with Kanye, KB Leaving, Unashamed Tour Returning, & More [Interview]
Last week we took a deep dive into Lecrae and his journey of restoration. The rapper opened up about his fight against the voices in his head, the self-doubt, and the loss of identity. The subject was definitely heavy and personal.
While the goal of telling a proper story reflecting one’s art is to sometimes highlight the more intense and vulnerable moments, every conversation should also have a lighter tone as well. The following article is Lecrae expounding on his relationships with Kanye West and Rapsody, talking about the Unashamed tour and artists, and finally giving his thoughts about KB leaving the label.
In the last article, Lecrae referenced having a conversation with actor Anthony Mackie. That’s a pretty casual name drop, so the question that followed asked about Crae’s relationship with newly-crowned Christian rapper – Kanye West.
“There are so many misconceptions about Kanye,” Lecrae said. “Even us as Christians don’t all agree. Just because someone is proclaiming the name of Jesus doesn’t mean they are going to walk in stride with all the things a Christian should walk in stride with. As much as I am grateful for him as an artist and believer, I just want him to grow.”
He continued, “My prayer for Kanye is that he would slow down and continue to not have to press forward trying to navigate art, culture, business, and he would take time to say, ‘What does it mean right now just to be a follower of Jesus’? because all those things can get misconstrued.”
It was obvious he and Kanye have had a few private conversations about God and what this new faith journey would mean for him as an artist. Lecrae ultimately wanted to be respectful of what those conversations sounded like but also offered advice based on things he himself has probably been through.
“When you’re a believer and that big, everyone wants to co-op you. Everyone wants to make you a part of their camp and I don’t know how healthy that is. I think it’s healthier for us to stop and grow. But you have to have time to discern what voices you should be listening to, what places are healthy, and that’s what I would say my prayer for Kanye is,” he shared. “He has access to great folks and he has access to some people who are not the best. It’s going to take some time to figure out who he should be around and shouldn’t.”
That’s the beauty of being an early Christian as well. Obviously, no one wants to see anyone stumble but when you first get saved, it takes a while to settle into what sort of believer you’re going to be. There is a certain evolution each person goes through before they become the person God wants them to be. Kanye is on fire out the gate, so let’s see where he winds up.
Another artist that Lecrae has a great relationship with is Rapsody. Her story is exceptional and she inspires many with her music. Although not a Christian artist, she has a lot of respect for Lecrae. In fact, she name-dropped him in her song “Maya.”
“Knock on wood that we make it through the day/I ain’t the one to cross, I left that burden to Lecrae”
“Rapsody is my sister,” revealed Lecrae. “I love her and we connect on a musical tip. I think I’m very respected by her. I’m honored to be mentioned.”
Lecrae’s break down of those two bars would prove his sentiment right, but with a caveat. “She’s like, ‘I respect him for picking that up’ and for me, my prayer is that people don’t say, ‘Lecrae can have that. I’m not trying to pick up that cross’. I want everybody to pick it up too.”
He and Rapsody featured on a Pete Rock track called “Be Inspired,” produced by 9th Wonder.
Reach Records Artists
Shifting from very gifted emcees, Lecrae then spoke about the talented team he assembled himself. Reach Records consists of Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, Andy Mineo, GAWVI, 1K Phew, WHATUPRG, Wande, and Hulvey.
Lecrae used an NBA analogy to describe how his knack for finding talent has developed over the years.
“I used to look for talent as a player. ‘Can they ball with me’? If they can, let’s put them on the team,” he shared. “Now I’m more of a coach who played the game. I realized the game changed. People are shooting 3s on everyone. They aren’t posting up or dunking on people. I know the game changed, I learned how, I don’t necessarily play that way, so those are the type of players I’m looking for.”
The original Reach Records was like the 90s Houston Rockets with Hakeem Olajuwon anchoring the team. Now, they are the fast-paced Rockets with James Harden and Russell Westbrook running up and down the court.
“I know we are in a different era. Hip-hop doesn’t teach as didactically as before. People ask, ‘When are rappers gonna just preach a whole sermon in a song again’? But rap doesn’t even do that anymore,” said Lecrae. “That was an era of hip-hop where you broke stuff down in songs and that’s just not happening in the broader culture.”
He continued, “‘Can they execute scripture in a song’? is not on the top of my list. I’m looking for heart setters that want to grow and learn and that are articulating who they are and things that God would cosign in their music. Hopefully, their lifestyle begins to bear fruit and they find new ways to share their story.”
“That’s not to say you can’t preach a sermon in a song. You can have an Olajuwon, but Russell Westbrook and Harden is the general movement out there.”
Lecrae then spoke about last year’s Unashamed tour being a “reset” for Reach Records.
“The first thing it was – we need to do this for ourselves. We need to be together and on the same page. Brothers grow distant and they raise families and haven’t communicated as consistently. We have group texts, but some people are closer and they may talk every day and some may talk every other day,” he stated. “Also, we needed that tour for Wande to get acclimated and for RG and Phew to be around everyone consistently. That’s generally how everyone got discipled in the past. We needed that just to put some air in us and the fans needed to see that just to see that this movement is still alive and breathing.”
The Unashamed leader said the tour will be back as soon as all of this chaos calms down. The 116 tour is here to stay.
“We also see that this is not about Reach. It’s bigger than reach. Unashamed is a global expression of Reach. Moving forward I want to see more artists on those bills than us.”
One of the biggest parts of the label was KB. KB’s last project and his singles since then have been huge. From the time he signed to Reach until now, he has grown exponentially. Now, he has left the label and gone to Sony. Lecrae had some thoughts on that.
“That was a hard day. One of the things I said to KB was, ‘Moving out the house does not mean you’re not family anymore. It just means you’re leaving to start your own family’,” said Lecrae. “KB is an entrepreneur. He built Native North with Natalie Lauren. He would even admit he felt this was a betrayal to go off and do something like this but he knew that’s what his heartbeat was.”
Lecrae didn’t see it that way and said, “For me, I’m like of course, go do it. It’s like working in the family business and you saying you want to start your own business. At the end of the day, you’re pushing this agenda and this message forward. Business-wise you are free to have your own desires and your own building but agenda wise I’m always going to as he would me, hold you to that same agenda. It’s family man. I’m proud of him and I really hope it takes off and does really well and he can go further than he could at Reach.”
The Restoration artist wants to “let people fly” and “win” just like Ambassador let him do off of Cross Movement. He likened KB’s departure to Derek Minor who has gone on to expand RMG which further pushes the message of Christ.
Finally, with KB leaving, it brings up an important question. Will anyone in the space currently be able to surpass what Lecrae has accomplished?
For Lecrae, it’s difficult to say.
“I don’t know. I know some things are lighting in a bottle, and I don’t attribute it to me. It’s God. It’s also the season I existed in. There were certain things that just happened that helped propel things in a unique way,” he shared. “It has nothing to do with the quality of the music or the talent, you have to look at the fact that iTunes and streaming were in their infancy when things started taking off. I was walking through doors that people didn’t walk through and taking all the backlash for it. Now you see people walk through these doors and it’s not as big of a deal.”
“I don’t know, I think people will make better music than me. I think people will have unique opportunities but I don’t know if all of the circumstances in this tornado surrounding me will ever be replicated.”
It’s important to note that Lecrae is not saying that with any sort of arrogance. He’s not saying no one will surpass him. What he means is that many of the doors that he opened no longer need to be opened so there isn’t that explosion of “LOOK AT THIS CHRISTIAN RAPPER!”
So what doors haven’t been opened?
“In terms of breaking boundaries as an artist and entertainer period, there are boundaries that can be broken there. There can be some that are broken in terms of Christians who exist in multicultural spaces like I do. For me to be a black man to continue to lead in these multicultural spaces hasn’t been tapped out,” revealed Lecrae. “The biggest thing for me is being a voice and the elder statesmen of the culture. In the same way, we listen to Diddy when he says, ‘Hey y’all, we need to do a dance-a-thon to raise money’. To have a Christian artist have that kind of cache to raise that awareness to those types of things [is huge]. Outside of that, not much.”
“I’ve really been blessed and privileged to go to those incredible heights but they come with so many perils I don’t even know if it’s worth it. People say they want things but it comes with so much hell,” he said with an exasperated voice. [Read about those perils in part one]
Perhaps Lecrae will break into that final space of entertainment as well. He started a film company called 3StrandFilms and this summer you’ll get a taste of what they can do when they drop a documentary about Lecrae and his new album.
He hasn’t spoken too much on it yet, but wants everyone to know “we’re working.”