Lecrae’s astonishing performance at the Independence Events Center on Saturday indicated that Christian-oriented music fans no longer need to settle for inferior faith-based hip-hop artists. The members of a capacity audience of about 6,000 were inspired by Lecrae’s powerful testimony, riveting music and dazzling production.
After steadily building a following during the last 10 years, the rapper from Houston topped Billboard magazine’s Top 200 album chart in September with his seventh studio album, “Anomaly.” Lecrae’s ascent isn’t a fluke. The quality of his work has improved as he has learned to temper his evangelical rhetoric without diminishing the impact of his message.
The first half of Lecrae’s 65-minute appearance was on par with the elite artistry of Jay-Z, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. Supported by a lush film, the show’s musical narrative followed the trajectory of Lecrae’s life. The opening selection, “Welcome to America,” is a damning depiction of social and economic disparities. Lecrae delivered his screed from a podium in the role of a polished and possibly corrupt politician.
During footage of an actor playing a teenage Lecrae engaged in a gang initiation, Lecrae spat “Nuthin,’” an attack on rappers who get rich by “selling poison to people.”
He introduced the harrowing “Good, Bad, Ugly” by suggesting that “tonight I’m going to show you some of my scars.” The celebratory audience that repeatedly broke into a chant of “Let’s go Royals” was silenced by the lines in which the narrator confesses to taking his girlfriend to a clinic for an abortion.
“Give In,” a song in which Lecrae extols spiritual salvation, marked a musical turning point in the show. The subsequent material about the glories of God was less compelling than Lecrae’s painful songs about his earlier struggles. He moved to a platform at the back of the arena to deliver three selections, including his breakout hit, “I’m Turnt.”
The transition allowed him to interact directly with his rabid admirers. Lecrae had previously referenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote that “the most segregated hour of Christian America” occurs during church service. Saturday’s youthful audience was a model of diversity.
Almost everyone in attendance knew every word of the opening performance by New York-based rapper Andy Mineo. “The Saints,” one of Mineo’s best songs, addresses the secular world’s perception of Christian hip-hop.
“I know what they thinking,” Mineo rapped. “We some ‘Kumbaya’-singing corny Christians.”
The stereotype was accurate for far too long. After decades of failing to produce a truly worthwhile artist, Christian hip-hop finally has an artist of merit in Lecrae.
Lecrae set list
Welcome to America; Nuthin’; Outsiders; Fear; Dirty Water; Good, Bad, Ugly; Wish; Just Like You; Give In; All I Need Is You; My Whole Life Changed; I’m Turnt; Tell the World; Say I Won’t