Lecrae is often compared to a modern day Tupac.

With today’s hip-hop engulfed in dance-crazed and trap-infused one hit wonders, the Houston-raised rapper recognized the window of opportunity to fill a lyrical void in hip-hop.

Songs such as his “Just Like You”, “Good, Bad, Ugly” and “Confe$$ions” touch on subject matters that include gang culture, teen abortion rates and perceptions of money.

What sets him apart even more is the way he proclaims his Christian faith. A Bible in one hand and a mic in the other, Lecrae has polarized popular social perceptions of what it means to be a young Black man. By promoting faith, monogamy and justice amongst many other things, the 35-year-old artist aims to show fans a different perspective by providing solutions in his music.

Gaining momentum off of his seventh studio album, Anomaly, the Grammy-award winning artist has been touring across North America from Atlanta to New York City. In Toronto, for yet another sold out show, Lecrae took time to interact with fans, making jokes with them.

Before the show, dressed in a black-striped shirt, casual jeans and multi-colored Jordans, Lecrae took some time out to discuss his album, artistic approach to delivering his faith and lyrics that challenge dominant cultural ideologies.

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RIGHT NOW YOU ARE ON TOUR WITH ANDY MINEO AND THE CREW, ARE THERE ANY PRANKS OR SPECIAL MOMENTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? Yeah the pranks come heavy on tour with us, so it’s kind of like as the days get longer the pranks get stronger. Right now we are just trying to figure what we can make somebody eat, for a price of course, we are willing to chip in and pay you to maybe eat all the old condiments. The biggest prank so far was the Canadian border waking us up at four o’clock in the morning to go through customs. That was the biggest prank that hurt. It wasn’t a prank, it was real, but it felt like one.

I GET A SENSE OF BROTHERHOOD, HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT CONCEPT TO YOU? It’s extremely important, you know to keep a close circle of friends, people you can trust … we do life together and we share unique experiences and there’s no secrets, there’s no lies, there’s no hidden agendas. We are not here to try to fix each other we are here to face each other and make each other better.

LET’S MOVE ON TO THE ALBUM, ANOMALY, WHERE DID THE NAME COME FROM? Anomaly just comes from me embracing the uniqueness that I am. I’m authentically hip-hop, I’m a part of hip-hop culture, but I’m also unashamedly Christian, that’s just who I am. It’s just kind of like being from the south. I’m not ashamed of my collared greens, my chicken, my macaroni and cheese. You know we go to church on Sunday mornings and I’m not saying we are perfect people, but it’s just who we are. So it’s almost like telling a southerner, that he can’t wear his gold teeth or ride in his Cadillac. Me being an anomaly is just understanding that hip-hop is really one kind of genre of music that really has stiff-armed Christians … So it’s kind of weird and different for a person to say ‘nah I’m a Christian, that’s just me. I’m an anomaly, but I’m still hip-hop.’

WHAT TYPE OF IMPACT WERE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE THROUGH THIS ALBUM? If you’re different, embrace your uniqueness. Sometimes we spend [so] much time living for other people’s acceptance that we are struggling to become who we are, who we’re suppose to be. Be an anomaly. If you’re different, be different. If that’s the way God made you, then that’s who you are.

If you like sipping lean and you like getting high, you talk about it. If you like money, you love money and buying expensive things, you talk about it … my faith is a part of who I am, so I’m going to talk about it.

ARE THERE ANY MENTAL BARRIERS OR STIGMAS THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO BREAK WHEN IT COMES TO RAPPERS THAT SPEAK ABOUT THEIR FAITH? At the end of the day I think hip-hop can talk about anything it wants to and use its freedom of speech. There shouldn’t be any reason why I can’t talk about who I am and what I believe in. If you like sipping lean and you like getting high, you talk about it. If you like money, you love money and buying expensive things, you talk about it … my faith is a part of who I am, so I’m going to talk about it. You know that’s not all I talk about, but if it’s me it’s going to come up.

YOU ARE CLASSIFIED AS A CHRISTIAN RAPPER, BUT YOU DON’T COME ACROSS AS PREACHY OR OVERLY RELIGIOUS. WHY DO YOU USE SUCH A DIFFERENT APPROACH? I think people are changed through stories. When you go see Lord of the Rings, it’s about how messed up our hearts are and how we all covet and desire something and it corrupts us, but nobody goes to the movies to see the heart is corruptible and then walk out of the movie theatre. We want to hear the story around that statement. Nobody wants to listen to a song with a whole bunch of statements, like you want to hear the story about it, you want to hear the whole thing and that’s what changes people’s lives. The Gospel is a story. It’s not just Jesus died. God created a planet; He made the earth, the moon and the stars. Humanity fell and He loves them so much that He sends His son to come back and restore them and that’s a story. So stories are what change people’s lives. I don’t try to be a whole bunch of ‘get it together, get right or turn and burn,’ type of stuff. That’s not what I want to use my art for. I want to use my art to tell beautiful stories and make beautiful art.

SOME OF THE SONGS ON THE ALBUM REVEAL VERY PERSONAL, INTIMATE OBSTACLES YOU OVERCAME. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BE SO TRANSPARENT? It frees people when you’re honest. It helps people to be okay with themselves and the skeletons in their closet. They say hurt people, hurt people, but healed people heal people. I’m not hurt by that stuff anymore. There’s a lot of people who are still hurt, but if I have experienced the healing process, I want other people to experience that too. Sometimes you have to put your pain out there and again, tell a story.

WHAT TYPE OF FEEDBACK DO YOU RECEIVE FROM SONGS LIKE “THE GOOD, BAD, UGLY”? All the time people are like it’s life altering for them. People are like, ‘I didn’t know anybody else went through this, I thought I was the only person,’ and it frees people up to say, ‘Man I’m okay. If you can make it through that and you can be who you are and have the confidence that you have, then there’s hope for me too,’ that’s what I get from a lot of people.

I don’t mind being a leader. I don’t mind being a role model. A lot of people run from that, but I think that just comes with having influence. If you have influence, you have to be mindful of that and use it wisely.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT YOU REACH THE YOUTH? I don’t try to, but I always consider them. I consider young people; it’s not like I’m trying to think about kids or anything like that, it’s just I understand they’re impressionable and they’re listening. I don’t mind being a leader. I don’t mind being a role model. A lot of people run from that, but I think that just comes with having influence. If you have influence, you have to be mindful of that and use it wisely. You know people like Bob Marley, people like Marvin Gaye realized they had influence and they tried to learn how to use it to help people into being revolutionary and that’s kind of how I want to use my music.

ARTISTS LIKE 2 CHAINZ AND A$AP FERG ARE MATERIALISTIC BASED, BUT ALSO HAVE INFLUENCE, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FANS LISTENING TO THEM? Those guys are made in God’s image; they have dignity, they have worth, they have minds. They are obviously intelligent and people could benefit from hearing every other aspect of their lives. Some of those guys are fathers, you know they have lost loved ones, they have experienced some hardships and I think they would help a lot of people in telling those type of stories … You know sometimes you don’t realize the influence you have … They are just trying to get what they can get, get their money, and live their life and they don’t realize that the words that you say echo into eternity and affect people’s lives.

Life is … more than the club, more than getting drunk, more than getting high, life is way deeper than that and everybody has lost somebody; everybody has experienced pain and depression.

IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT SMOKING, DRINKING AND HAVING SEX IS A PART OF BEING YOUNG. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THAT? We don’t give enough credit to young people. We perpetuate this idea that they are young and stupid and that it is okay to make dumb decisions, but if you go back in time historically, at 14 and 13 years old people were functioning like adults. They were responsible and they were mature. I think if you continue to spoon-feed the young folks and treat them like they don’t know anything, that’s how they are going to act. You see the same thing with grown men. You watch certain shows and it just makes you think that men are dumb and they sit on the couch and they drink beer and we are just idiots. It’s deeper than that. If we believe the media’s interpretation of who we are, then we will never know what we could aspire to be. I would say you could only be what you’ve seen; you can only become what you’ve beheld. So if you haven’t seen it, you don’t know if you could be it and if you haven’t beheld it you don’t know that it’s something you can become.

CAN YOU GIVE SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOUR, BUT ARE FINDING IT HARD TO BREAK OLD HABITS? It depends on who we are talking to. It’s not about modifying your behaviour, but it’s about your worldview and how your heart is being transformed. If you don’t have a change in heart, there is no point in modifying your behaviour because all you’re doing is creating new laws for yourself. It’s kind of like somebody saying ‘I’m going to stop smoking cigarettes,’ you can stop smoking cigarettes, but it’s like you don’t really have a changed perspective about it, you’re just trying to modify your behaviour and you’re probably going to keep going back and doing it because you don’t really think it’s bad. But if you smoke a cigarette and you fall asleep and your house burns down, now your whole mindset, your heart, is transformed about the situation. It’s not about just rules and regulations – stop doing this and stop doing that – it’s about really being transformed.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF PUTTING OUT THE MUSIC THAT YOU DO? Showing people a different perspective. Stuff like monogamy, stuff like transparency, positivity, faith, justice, those are things we can talk about in hip-hop and those are good things. Life is … more than the club, more than getting drunk, more than getting high, life is way deeper than that and everybody has lost somebody; everybody has experienced pain and depression. We need music that talks about those lows and also give us solutions to help us walk through some of those low places as well.

Photos By. Moreblessing Munangwa