After tracing Lecrae’s career trajectory (an musical growth), I had high hopes for his first mixtape, Church Clothes. I was sorely disappointed.
As was discussed in Part I, this mixtape was obviously a strategic move to gain mainstream attention: Lecrae featured a different artist on almost every track. What I found, however, was that the musical quality remained stagnant, and the content was compromised. In “Special,” featuring Lester L2 Shaw, the harmonies, melodies, and (synth) orchestrations do not show growth since Rehab: The Overdose. I was hoping that bringing in collaborators would expand Lecrae’s technique and artistic perspectives, but it merely seems to box him in. On top of that, I was shocked by how much Lecrae distanced himself from his outspoken Christian lyrics. Instead, he opted for social themes in line with his religious values – a much softer approach than he used in the past. It is no surprise that the Christian community accused him of selling out.
You can hear what I mean in “Special” from Lecrae’s first mixtape, Church Clothes:
With Church Clothes under my belt, I dreaded listening to Gravity, Lecrae’s sixth album. I feared that his continued collaboration would mean a continued compromise of his lyric content and musical exploration. Lucky for me, Lecrae didn’t stagnate.
Take a listen to “Tell the World” on Gravity:
Do you hear what I hear? Lecrae included some of the lushest melodic and harmonic work in his career to date. And just at the point when I started to get bored, he brought in variations to make his music more meaningful. On top of that, Lecrae made a move back toward his original lyrical goals: speaking about his faith and struggles explicitly.
The best part is that Lecrae became much more visible after the release of Church Clothes, so Gravity had not only a larger audience, but a more diverse audience as well. The blip in his musical and artistic integrity necessary to get to this point may prove to be a worthwhile investment after all.
To be continued…