Breaking new ground as a Hip Hop artist in the mainstream, HotNewHipHop chopped it up with Lecrae to find out just what makes him stand out in today's rap culture. In an era where records sales are hard to come by, Lecrae shares his thoughts on success, substance, his collaborations and his critics.
HNHH: You were the first rapper to win a Grammy for a gospel album - What was the first thing that ran through your mind when you found out?
LECRAE: I was on the red carpet talking to Baron Davis and he was telling me he wanted me to do an interview with Nas and 2chainz and it was getting around the time for my category to be announced. I’m thinking "I’m not about to win this anyway" so I might as well do this interview with Nas and 2chainz so I’m standing there and time is ticking away. And then my category was about to go on and my publicist said we needed to go so we took off running, then my phone starts blowing up with people saying I won. I rushed back and see my mother crying….. mad and happy at the same time.
HNHH: Wow. So, I’m assuming you learned your lesson and don’t leave the awards now, huh?
LECRAE: *Laughs* Hahaha yeah, since then I’ve been hanging around at awards to see what happens.
HNHH: You've been killing the hip hop game and selling more records than most rap stars, yet still fairly new to it. What makes you stand out from the rest?
LECRAE: I wish I could attribute it to something significant and special - I think there’s a sense of people missing substance, and that’s what people want. Substance. And I unashamedly give it to them consistently. I don’t know how not to. I feel like my life deals with substantial things a little more than the average rapper. I don’t smoke and I’m not saying that if you do you don’t have substance, it’s just my brain is consistently thinking about what’s going on with Haiti and how I can help. Also, faith - my personal conviction.
The average person is trying to figure out what the heck to do with their lives, and how to russle with the ups and downs. I’d love to see Rick Ross and Wayne address that stuff, but it makes rappers feel less like supermen. It’s not shame to either one of them but I think their fans would love to hear that.
HNHH: On that faith note, do you believe God’s purpose for you is to step into this industry that lacks that faith and substance so you can bring that change?
LECRAE: Yes and I accept it full-fledge. Get used to me - this is what I’m here to do, and this is what i’m going to do until something different comes along.
HNHH: What's the best compliment you've ever received from a fellow rapper? I feel that because you're so unique, you surprised and caught some off guard. Any in particular that come to mind?
LECRAE: Honestly Bun B. I grew up on UGK. He said on his Twitter timeline “I wanna be more like Lecrae.” That was big for me because it was a very humble thing of him to say and it showed me that he respects what I’m about and from there we developed a friendship and he’s given me wisdom on a bunch of different perspectives.
HNHH: What is one piece of wisdom he has shared with you?
LECRAE: Coming into the hip-hop world, the industry, it’s kind of like I don’t know what to expect, and no one is direct about what they think about I’m doing. I don’t know how they feel about it but Bun was the first one to call me out the blue sky and said “Keep doing it. I respect it because you’re not putting an image or respect, you’re you. You can’t lose at that.”
HNHH: You worked with a lot of people on “Church Clothes 2” from B.o.B., David Banner and more. You've said in previous interviews that you grew as an artist with this mixtape - how so? What have you learned from this project that you're going to carry on to the next?
LECRAE: To not second-guess myself so much. Really just saying be human, that’s what you are. You’re not going to get everything right or everything perfectly so don’t second guess yourself in terms of your music and the stories you write. So confidence.
HNHH: What's your response to the criticism from some Christian circles who question why you're working with artists that often rap about drugs and sex?
LECRAE: My fans rock with me but there’s people who pop off and don’t get it. They don’t live in the same world I live in or the detriment of the culture. They also don’t see artists as people, they see them as characters. You know that’s a person, right? I know what he’s talking about is foul, but you can have a conversation about it with him. Like Paul Wall - I told him this is what I want the song to talk about, and he was cool with it and respected where I was coming from. I think we make rules up for music that God never wrote. We’re not doing strip songs together.
HNHH: Who's on your wishlist for artists you'd love to work with in the future?
The first artist that showed me that you can be honest about your faith, love, pain, joy was Lauryn Hill. I love “Miseducation” and would love to channel that Lauryn up and do some music. Also, Andre 3000.
HNHH: What is the single most important thing you want people to know about you as an artist?
LECRAE: As an artist, one is, I’m unashamed of what I believe in and I’m here to help. I’m not here to preach to people, I’m here to walk with people. If you’re suffering, I want to suffer with you, if you’re excited let me be excited with you. Let me be the artist that is like a cousin or relative, not a superstar that has it altogether.
HNHH: Any last remarks?
LECRAE: Shoutout to HotNewHipHop. “Church Clothes 2” go get that!