Lecrae Answers the Questions Many Have Asked: “Rebel” or “Gravity”?

A couple weeks back, Lecrae released a track exclusively through Rapzilla, one of Christian hip-hop’s top sites (if not the top site for the genre). In the track, Lecrae pits a version of his old self (“Mr. Rebel”, named after his third album) against his current views (“Mr. Gravity”, after his fifth album, released just last year).

If you’re not familiar with the debate Lecrae is having with himself, here’s the short version: “Rebel” spends time talking about the Gospel in extremely straightforward ways. Jesus is mentioned in nearly every track (if not every track). Lecrae has songs called “I’m a Saint” (where he mentions that scripture describes all believers as “saints”), “The Bride” (talking about the Church), and “Indwelling Sin.” The album doesn’t pull any punches, lyrically speaking, and you’d never listen to any song and wonder what Lecrae was talking about. In contrast, “Gravity” is an album that, in some people’s eyes, hides a bit behind the music. “Free From It All” doesn’t mention God at all, unless you make the jump from “Freedom from the frustrations of fame” to “Freedom in Christ.” While “Mayday” features explicit references to Christ (“Got a couple Scriptures from my Grandma/Sayings from a preacher/But can’t live out these standards that we heard it takes to reach ’em/But when I look at Jesus/He lived the life I couldn’t/Suffered for my crimes so I wouldn’t”), it also includes Lecrae professing respect for secular artist Big K.R.I.T. (who also appears on the track). He respects K.R.I.T. for confessing, but it is still a far cry from the Rebel days.

Fans have been quick to point these truths out. They’ll push back every time Lecrae releases a new track. We saw it when he came out with the title track from his mixtape Church Clothes, we saw it with the BET Cypher, we saw it with his involvement with Statik Selektah’s album, and I’m sure we’ll see it again on both Church Clothes 2 and his next full length album. The controversy finally got strong enough that Lecrae felt he should respond to his old views, in the form of the rap above.

Christian music has fought this fight in many other genres. And we’ve even fought it in Christian hip-hop. We’re just seeing more mainstream success than ever before, so people feel the need to jump into the discussion.

A good friend of mine, Calvin Moore, argues that the real failure of Lecrae’s argument isn’t actually his current position, but rather in the way he relates to those fans who agree with the “Mr. Rebel” verse.  If I follow his argument correctly, it’s relatively simple: Lecrae is in a mature place, but not everyone can be there. If Lecrae doesn’t work to bring people, he’ll only continue to face criticism, and possibly even tacitly harm those who don’t stand in the mature position with Lecrae.

If that’s the argument Calvin’s making, I think he’s right. But the whole discussion has a lot to do with a broader discussion of how Christians ought to interact with culture. I’m indebted to Brett McCracken for his thoughtful work on culture. His book has helped me articulate my position a bit more clearly. The broader discussion is this: how should Christians interact with art? Should every piece of art we make contain an expressive representation of the Gospel, of Jesus’ name, of God’s great love? The key word there is “expressive”, and you could easily substitute “explicit.” Can you make Christian art that doesn’t mention Jesus’ name?

If you answer the question with a “no”, you’ll be disappointed in the direction Lecrae is heading with his art. But if you believe that Christians can reflect their Creator without an explicit “Jesus” reference in every bit of it, there may be room on your iPod for Lecrae’s newest music.

Published by

J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).

  • http://www.twitter.com/jaymajor514 Jay Major

    One Word… ”Hate”… Fella knows his convictions and where he’s goin… Quit tryna be his directions… No human called him, God alone is the ultimate Judge.. If he so troubles your conscience, quit listenin’ to his music rather than bring Gods judgment and condemnation on yourselves by tryna analyse and judge whom none of y’all created, much less, called into this level of ministry… And for those worried about him carryin folks along, that’s not his (I mean Lecrae) to worry bout, the Spirit and power behind him is able to handle that… Just swerve… Haters… And for y’all who encourage, love and pray for Lecrae, God bless you.. Just keep in your consistency, enjoy and roll with his flow… One last word of advice… ”Whatever’s worth complaining about is best praying about” (apply it above).. Complaining prevented the Israelites from the promise and kept’em wonderin’ in the wilderness, 40years… Complaining could keep y’all from the blessings God’s gat for y’all brethren via Crae’s music and leadership..


  • jamesfarnold

    I’m definitely a fan of what Lecrae’s doing.

    I think there’s a time and a place for us to measure what someone is doing publicly, and to discern whether or not we ought to look into it more closely. There are some things we should avoid, and some we should embrace.

    I love Lecrae’s music. I have no problem spreading the word about what he does. But if he were putting out music that was leading people astray, isn’t it the place of believers to point that out?

    I don’t mean just making music that is less explicitly Christian, necessarily. No harm, no foul, so to speak. I just mean that if Lecrae (or anyone) is encouraging someone towards sin, or towards complacency about sin, or anything of the like, Christians absolutely should be willing to reject that. Even publicly.

    That said, I don’t think Lecrae’s there. I think Lecrae’s doing great work, isn’t sacrificing his message, and is still managing to produce better music every time we hear him.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jaymajor514 Jay Major

    I really appreciate your comment bruh… Thanks a lot.. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for the ”Paul rebuke Peter” mentality.. When ”Peter” tends to lead immature brethren astray…
    My gravamen is that, rather, Christians have adopted the ”Pharisee- Belzebub” accusation mentality.. The Christian brotherhood is going against what it was made to be, and instead of being a fellowship of love, everyman is exploiting the ”Judge the things of the Spirit” mentality as a weapon, Hence every christian possesses a stone and is anxiously waiting to sling it another christian brother… ”Pharisee’s in Davids clothing”…
    The brotherhood has become as the ”gladiators of the house of Batiatus”, slaying each other before common foe is defeated…
    Yes.. Analyse Lecrae.. ”The Bible tells us to test the spirits”, comment on his music… But if you are sure he’s on the wrong path, we can’t bring him back by slinging rocks at him, that’ll injure him and prevent the assumed purpose..
    As sons and daughters of love, we should let love lead. But it is so sad that the Christians are the first ones to listen to a Lecrae song and scream.. ”Illuminati!!”…
    To all such folks, I call ”Haters” and ask’em to ”swerve”, get off the ”Lecrae” lane if you can’t tag along… Adopt the ”King Kulture” mentality and ”Stop the condemnation traffic”…

    Once more to my brother, @jamesfarnold:disqus I say a big ”Thank You”, for your support of our brother in Christ… We should look onto the bigger and brighter thangs…

    Whatever are lovely, true, deserves praise, whatever brings God glory, we ought to think on these things…. Rather than look out for the weak points to puncture and bring a brutha to his ”perfect fall”…
    I Love You, Folk…

  • jamesfarnold

    Agreed, man. Grace grace grace. There’s a time and a place for criticism, but grace ought always be our first instinct.

    If you want more writing on this, here’s an article I wrote about No Malice’s recent conversion: http://ccca.biola.edu/resources/2013/sep/12/giving-grace-crossover-artists/