You never know what someone is going through, and Lecrae is walking proof that music carries healing powers. The multi-Grammy-winning recording artist, New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, actor, and co-owner/President of Reach Records has one mission: restoring faith in God through music and culture.
Most recently, Lecrae unveiled his newest single titled ”Your Power,” alongside gospel singer Tasha Cobbs Lenoard. Beyond the long-awaited collaborative synergy between the two artists, it was the commonalities in their past experiences with mental health that allowed them to really peel back layers and wear their hearts on their sleeves. They also recently sat down for a powerful conversation on mental health and controversial collaborations with secular artists, and how the backlash impacted them. Tasha was criticized for her single, “I’m Getting Ready,” ft. Nicki Minaj, while Lecrae was blasted for his “Blessings” single ft. Ty Dolla $ign.
Speaking on his most recent album, Church Clothes 4, Lecrae states, “I am a hybrid, a bridge! Authentically Hip Hop, authentically a Christian. Just living in that space in-between. A lot of folks, like myself, needed to find a voice someone in that middle space who relates to both the rap and gospel heroes. I’m honored to live in that middle space.”
While his contributions to the genre of Hip-Hop alone are very well-respected, it’s his own love and passion for the greats that’s allowed him to in turn, create powerful, timeless music for audiences all around the world.
Just take a look at his music video with Andy Mineo called “Been About It,” where both Reach Records’ artists are seen paying homage to the legends that came before them: Tupac, 50 Cent, Eminem, Outkast, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Jay Z, DMX, and many more. In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop, in the music video, they recreated the hip-hop album covers that they consider to be iconic.
The Source spoke with Lecrae via Zoom to discuss tour, what Hip-Hop means to him, Tupac’s impact, paying homage to the greats in “Been About It,” new single “Your Power,” his journey with mental health, being righteous and ratchet, acting, and more!
How’s tour been? What’s been the highlight so far?
The Church Clothes 4 Tour has been good. City to city, state to state. It’s crazy being in the game so long, and still have people coming out in droves. Performing the new music, seeing the multiple generations rocking with it. Seeing the fathers bringing their sons, mothers bringing daughters, it’s crazy. It’s wild. https://open.spotify.com/album/4GnEecDMWGwbCKsd3KTFny
Do you have a favorite song off Church Clothes 4 that you want fans to listen to?
My favorite is probably “CC4.” Take that back, my favorite is “Still In America.” It sets the pace of my perspective, and lets people get a glimpse of how I see America. Where it’s not like I’m blindly choosing sides, but I’m being out front and forthright about how I see things.
I was going to ask about that song. Did you write it intentionally to follow up “Welcome to America”?
Absolutely. S1 is one of my favorite producers, we collaborated on “Welcome to America.” I always loved the energy around it and thought “man, it’s time for a re-up.” So much has happened since then till now. Every year, somebody does a wrap up of the year in a song. I felt like let me do a quarterly, every four years let’s talk about America in general.
Hip-Hop celebrates 50 years this year. What does Hip Hop mean to you?
Hip-Hop is everything, it’s the culture that raised me. I wouldn’t be here without hip-hop. It’s the culture I’m most connected to. Boombox, the mp3’s, the records. In my office, I got Dilla in the background, Tupac on the wall right there. It’s the culture that I understand, I live and thrive in. For me, it’s really special. I don’t think the kids these days understand the distinction that Hip-Hop is. Once upon a time, you had to go looking for it. You saw a pair of pants or a shirt, or you saw graffiti, ah! I’m at home. Now, it’s everywhere. It’s mixed into everything, so it’s easy to take it for granted. I just remember a time period where man, you found something. You found a tribe.
Do you remember the distinct moment you fell in love with Hip-Hop?
When I was a little kid, my cousins were watching Yo! MTV Raps. I remember looking over their shoulder like whoa! I saw a whole nother world. When it really engulfed me and it was my everything. My mom worked at a detention center in one of the halfway houses and one of the guys who just got out of prison had made a mixtape. I had to be 10 years old, he slid me this mixtape that had everybody on there! LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, EPMD, all the old school joints. Wow, that was a wrap for me. That mixtape did it!
You mentioned Tupac. Have you seen the new Dear Mama docuseries?
Have I?! The Dear Mama docuseries is phenomenal. That’s one of the best docu series I’ve ever seen. That’s how Tupac should have been encapsulated. That’s how it should’ve been done. I think it’s perfect.
Is there a moment that resonated with you the most?
The whole thing! Not trying to be funny, but Tupac’s like a father figure to me. Because I’m a kid, growing up without my dad. My mom was raised by the Black Panthers, I related on that level. I’m at an artistic school, a magnet school, but I’m in the hood. I was embarrassed to show my intellect or my sensitive side because I’m surrounded by wolves. Oh my God, finally somebody understands me. His music was water in my veins.
Do you have a favorite Tupac song?
Man, that’s tough. His catalog is strong. “Only God Can Judge Me” off All Eyez On Me. That’s probably my favorite. I love so many of his songs, but that’s one that I run back. “Life Goes On,” it’s so many! So many!
Watched your “Been About It” music video with Andy Mineo, that was iconic. Talk about the creative vision with that, who came up with that idea?
It was a collaborative effort. Shout out to my guy Marcus Hollinger, who was at the time our Vice President at Reach Records for brainstorming that concept. Shout out to my man Dust, and of course Andy. It was us being us, we love Hip-Hop. All of the classic albums: Jay Z’s Blueprint, Beastie Boys, N.W.A., DMX, Tupac. We wanted to pay homage to all of those Hip Hop icons in that video, that’s why we did “Been About It.”
How much work went into that? It wasn’t that easy to pull off, was it?
You know what, it wasn’t that it was a lot of work doing it. On the front end, it was getting the pieces. Alright, what are the album covers? What pieces do we need? Shout out to the director Dust, Dust ran productions. They already got all this stuff ahead of time, so all we had to do was show up. I just had to show up and take my shirt off, and pretend like I was DMX and 50 Cent. That was it.
Out of all those albums, do you have a favorite?
All Eyez On Me, Tupac for sure. Hands down, that’s the one.
You said you were only vegan for a weekend?
Yeah, “I was vegan for a weekend now I’m back to beef and broccoli.” Couldn’t do it man, I don’t like enough fruit and vegetables. I can’t do it. I like eggs and steak too much, so it ain’t for me.
They got some fire vegan burgers out now though.
I rock with them! I rock with the Impossible Burger for sure. Until they figure out how to make chicken wings, and don’t give me that cauliflower nonsense. I need some wings, lemon pepper wings.
Definitely want to talk about “Your Power.” Can you tell us the story behind that record?
It’s two sides of it: there’s making of the record, then there’s the heartbeat behind the record. The making of the record was I did this project with Zaytoven called Let the Trap Say Amen.
Tasha heard the project, she’s like “man, this is dope.” Oh, you rocking with trap music? I didn’t know, because she’s a gospel icon. I said “we gotta cook up something, let’s figure it out.” I didn’t know how that was going to happen.
Fast forward, I went through some dark times and overcame them. I didn’t realize that both she and I had a lot of transparency around mental health. We said man, this is a perfect opportunity for us to talk about some of the struggles we’ve had to navigate. Anxiety, depression, and overcoming that. She’s been very vocal about it on her side, I was vocal about it on my side. We came up with a song saying man, it’s by the power of God we’ve overcome. Obviously, there’s therapy, meditation, medication, whatever you need. But we look at it like man, God gives you the strength to make those wise decisions and to carry through. That’s why we collaborated on the song, to inspire people.
Do you mind if I ask what you were going through?
For me, I’ve dealt with some very severe depression. I have gone through a tough year. My DJ, DJ Official, he passed away. God bless him. I was dealing with a whole bunch of stress from a real weird fanbase. Of course, all the shootings that were happening back in the day with unarmed black folks get killed. I had some family members lose their lives, it was a rough time all together. I had a meltdown, went into a dark place.
Coming out of it, dealing with the anxiety: is it going to happen again? Is it going to come back? Now I’m paranoid about being depressed again, so it spun me out of control. But I’ve been very grateful to have some of the best therapists God could have put on the planet. Got me through that. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot. Now, I’m trying to share wisdom.
Growing up was therapy ever an option for you?
Hell nah. [laughs] It was like, you better shake it off. The crazy part about it is, now hindsight 2020, there’s a history of mental illness in my family. It never got resolved, never got dealt with. Either people sweep it under the rug, or they have coping mechanisms like alcohol and drugs. That’s really been the thing, I’m trying to break that cycle. Now, I know. Even for my kids: alright, I got it on my radar. Making sure I keep them in the loop and make sure they understand the detriments of it all.
What do you do for self-care? What do you do to get your mind right?
The biggest thing for me is exercise and sleep. Getting proper sleep is really important to me. When I’m on the road, my band or my crew may want to stay up till 2am or 3am. Kicking it, doing what they do out on the town. But I had to discipline myself to say nah man, I gotta get my sleep. That’s how a lot of artists end up messed up too, because they ruin their thyroid system. They ruin their whole sleep patterns. You look at Prince, Michael Jackson, they were all struggling with sleep because it was go go go. You mess your nervous system up, so make sure I get a lot of sleep and a lot of exercise. One thing I’m really big on, especially on the road, I just get up and walk in the sun. Get some sunshine, walk.
I said that in an interview recently: all I want to do is feel the sun on my face.
That’s it man, nothing better! That’s God’s medicine right there.
Who do you listen to when you exercise?
I’m pretty ratchet when I exercise, not going to lie. I’ve listened to the most ratchet music when I’m exercising. I’m listening to my own Reach Records family: shout out to WHATUPRG, 1K Phew, Trip Lee, Andy [Mineo] of course. But then I listen to some old school ratchet West Coast music. Some Tupac, DJ Quik, Death Row catalog. I could listen to YG’s first album. I don’t know why that is, it just gets me through.
That struck me in the Tupac docuseries, the influence Suge had on him.
Man, but he was a young guy. You realize he was profound, but he was still young and impressionable. That’s what we get. Because I was a kid when he was really at his height, I thought he was the wisest person in the world. But now being an older man, going back and listening to him talk: yeah I probably wouldn’t have said that. I don’t think that’s how I would have ran that one Pac. [laughs]
Talk about being righteous but ratchet.
Hey man, that’s the motto. That’s what I live by, it gives you permission to be yourself. Everyone has a box they try to put you in. You draw your own lines. I’m a product of Hip-Hop, I’m a Hip-Hop kid. I’m a product of so many things. I go to a family function, a family barbecue, they gon’ be out there smoking, drinking, playing music loud and being themselves. I’ma fit right in because that’s my family, I love them.
At the same time, there’s a righteous element as well. Where man, I really want to honor God and love people, do charity work and be a leader for the kids. It’s not a full-time ratchet fest for me. Yeah, I’ma be in a backyard when they’re cooking up, drinking and having a good time. But I’m also going to be in the house, teaching the kids how to play a game or telling my little cousin the history of gangbanging and why this might not be a good decision for him. Because we never had those models in my family, we never had men who were painting the righteous picture for us. That’s really the ambition. I’m Sharif from Menace II Society: the guy sitting on a cooler kicking knowledge to you, but I’m still in the mix.
Talk about the movie you’re in, congratulations.
Shout out to my guy, Alex Anders. Journey To Bethlehem is the name of the movie. It’s a musical. Anders did all the music for Glee, for High School Musical. An incredible producer, writer, musician, director. It was time for him to make his own movie, and he wanted to make a Christmas musical. The Nativity scene, but it’s from the perspective of Mary. What she’s seeing and how she’s moving through life, what she’s experiencing.
The beauty of that film is it’s a musical, but it’s written by one of the best writers in the game. The music is next level. I got to play the Angel Gabriel. I got some lines. I got to get my big angelic stature in the game. I do a little bit of singing, just a little bit. The film is phenomenal. When people see it, it’s crazy. Make sure you support that, y’all will love it.
Can we expect more acting from you?
You know what, I want to do more. My team’s been pushing me to do it. I feel you got to choose. I’ve got to hang with Queen Latifah, Meagan Good, Devon Franklin, and know about Will Smith’s journey, Ice Cube. When I look at Latifah, Will, Cube, they had to choose. And I’m not the type of person that can go back and forth. If I’ma do it, I’ma do it well. If I’ma be an actor, I’ma be an actor. I won’t be acting and rapping, I’m letting one of them go.
I’m sure there will be movies where you could play yourself though.
That’s true. I had a small role in the new Superfly where I was a rapper. It’s a commitment, so you gotta be ready for that commitment. I don’t do anything halfway. If I’ma do it, I’ma do it. Plus, I may have to cut my hair for some of those roles. I don’t know if I’m with that.
Talk about being the host of Unashamed Radio as well.
I’m on Amazon AMP. I’m joining the likes of Joe Budden, Nick Cannon, Nicki Minaj, all of them got their radio shows on Amazon AMP. I got mine, it’s called Unashamed Radio with Lecrae. It’s been a blessing to be able to have my tribe over there and talk my talk. Again, I’m that middle ground for people. Folks who are like “man I want to talk about faith, but I’m not with all the extras. Just bring it to me at a natural level. We can go deep, but in a way that I can understand and relate to.”
I also break down stuff for me because I didn’t grow up in church. To me, the first gospel album I listened to was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, because it was talking about God. I played those songs, I play the Unplugged album. I talk about what those songs mean and break them down, allow people to see the depth in those things and the spiritual components from that perspective.
Any goals for yourself at this point in your career?
I really want to be able to inspire the next wave of artists and creatives, that’s a goal. I’m moving into that legacy space, where I can really become influential in a real legacy way. Whereas only so many artists have been able to do that. They don’t get corny or eww, why are you still doing that? People still go to them for insight, wisdom, and game. That’s how I look at it. Like Pharrell, he’s a beacon of wisdom. He’s still relevant, still an artist. You sit back like man, there’s nothing he hasn’t done. But at the same time, you still want to see him do more. Pharrell’s the GOAT man, respect.
Anything else you’re excited for?
Check out “Your Power,” and Church Clothes 4 out now. I got a few tour days left, come check me out. Stay tuned, music to come. Follow me every @Lecrae! I’ll take you somewhere!