With a #1 album and over two million Facebook followers, Lecrae is well known for being both a rapper and a Christian. The artist is taking his message of faith beyond his music in Unashamed (B&H Books), a memoir publishing this spring. In it, Lecrae recalls his troubled past of abuse, drugs, and alcoholism, as well as his discovery of faith. Lecrae is embarking on a three-month-long national concert/book tour starting on February 9.
In your book, you talk about how it’s easier to share a Christian message through music via the mainstream than it is through the Christian genre. Could you explain more about that?
I think there are preconceived ideas when you play something in the Christian genre—that it’s only for Christians. That it’s only valuable if I’m a Christian. Or that whatever I believe Christianity is, this is a validation of my views on that. I think that becomes a hindrance a lot of times. You see that across the board, and I think a lot of biased perspectives arise. I try to help people understand that I write from different vantage points, so when they hear my music, there’s no preconceived ideas or genres attached to it—they just receive it as it is and say, “Man, this is really good.” And someone might say, “That dude’s a Christian.” And they say, “Is he? Wow!”
What do you find most challenging about sharing your faith as a Christian in the entertainment industry?
There are all sorts of challenges, but the biggest piece in the entertainment industry, and in the world in a lot of ways, is that the millennial culture is very “for the moment;” whereas, in my faith, I appreciate the moment but don’t necessarily live for the moment. I value the past and the traditions, and I have a hopeful outlook for the future. So the moment is not all that matters to me. I think a lot people in music, through their art, provide a depiction of what it looks like to live for the moment, which presents some challenges. You don’t want to appear to be a staunch, narrow-minded, old-school person, but, at the same time, there’s value in the traditions of the past.
In Unashamed, you write, “If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.” How did you come to that conclusion?
It’s been a journey with milestones along the ride. You have to get crushed and get your feelings hurt, and I think, ultimately, that I was just crushed and broken. When your dreams and hopes are crushed, with family members leaving you or taking advantage of you, you get this sense of, okay, well maybe the answer is if I do better, then I’ll be loved. And you keep trying to do better to be loved, and better to be loved, and better to be loved. You’re just this big ball of insecurity, and the more I grew in my faith, the essence of my faith was that I don’t have to earn God’s love. He loves unconditionally. I think when you come into that reality, you can apply that everywhere. I was made with dignity and purpose and worth and value, and I don’t have to earn that. I don’t have to work to be valuable. I was born valuable. I need to rest in that reality.
You write about your childhood, an experience with abortion, and a suicide attempt in Unashamed. How difficult was it to recall all those experiences and share them with your readers?
In the book, I share on a macro level, so there are going to be some challenges I haven’t even anticipated. I’ve done it on a micro level, in a smaller setting, though, and I’ve seen freedom in the people I’ve mentored. I learned a long time ago that good leaders lead in vulnerability. You can open yourself up and humble yourself and show your cards— that frees people to show theirs, to accept that they’re not as terrible as their minds would allow them to think they are. Just leading in vulnerability, I think, liberates people. When you’re healed, you can say, “Hey, look. I got the same scars that you have.” It gives people a sense of freedom and confidence, where they can say, “If you can do this with those scars, there shouldn’t be any limitations for me. Maybe I’m not where I thought I was.” I’m hoping that on a macro level, my message in the book will have the same effect I’ve seen on a micro level.