ChurchLeaders: Do you consider the music you create Christian music and does it brother you when someone places the Christian label on your music.
Lecrae: There’s been different iterations in my journey where there’s been seasons where I was trying to figure out how to participate as a Christian in a mainstream music. And Christian was working as a better noun and then adjective, right? Because it was like how do you describe these shoes are these Christian shoes? Is a Christian a person or is it an adjective to describe a thing or genre or something along those lines? So I was trying to navigate that [then].
For me now—I don’t care. I’m kind of like, Alright, whatever, man, whatever works for you.
As far as Reach Records is concerned we sign people who are Christians, and create music. If they would, if they want to call themselves Christian artists, then by all means, if they don’t, we understand that as well.
Andy: I think it comes down to each person’s philosophy on what they believe, like, what do you define as Christian content.
For example, people think that all things that are labeled Christian, equal, acceptable for all ages. That’s just not true. When you look at the Bible, you couldn’t read Song of Solomon until you were 13-years-old—until you became a man. David chopped Goliath’s head off. So then when it comes to what’s labeled “Christian” is chopping someone’s head off Christian. You know, David did it, it’s in the Bible. Right? Those are things that parents don’t want their kids to play on video games, because they’re violent, So I think we have a weird definition of what we consider Christian art anyways, or what you labeled as Christian.
What I understand is people like to label things so they can understand it quicker in their brain. I I have an understanding for artists that hate being labeled Christian and those who like it.
The title can be useful when you’re trying to find something—for example—is there any good Christian Rap out there? Oh, I found it because it was labeled that. But then it can also work against you when you’re trying to reach outside of that niche, then people like, Oh, that’s not for me.
I think that’s always been the conflict because I don’t want my music to only be enjoyed by Christians and sometimes that label can stop that.
For example, we were in the airport the other day and an NBA player came up to Lecrae and “he’s like, Oh, my God, I love you, bro”. While other players recognized he was a rapper Lecrae told them that he was doing a show that night. All the NBA players were, “Yo, what? Who was he?” The NBA player who recognized Lecrae told the others, “Yeah, man. He’s Christian rapper!” And you just watched everybody just be like, “Oh, I’m good. I’m good. Yeah, like, oh, never mind.”
Now if you just would have said, “Oh, he’s a rapper. Yeah, he’s dope.” They would have been like, “I gotta check out your music.” Then they may have given it a chance. And then they might have experienced something dope or heard something that’s impacting.
So that’s what it is. Sometimes the title is helpful and sometimes it’s it really works against you. And that’s why there’s a nuanced conversation to be had. I think when I tell people, I don’t want to be called a Christian rapper, they think I don’t want to be a Christian—so there’s just a lot of confusion and I get why there’s confusion. Because it’s a nuanced conversation and people don’t like nuanced—they like simple fast, boxed up easy to package.
ChurchLeaders: Andy, elaborating on “some people think you don’t want to be a Christian,” did you get pushback when you used a mild swear word in your song “Family Photo” you released on “I: The Arrow—EP?”
Andy: Yeah, from certain places. But it’s funny, because like when I say the word “damn” I was using it in the most like, emotionally present way. I was talking about my dad not showing up at my wedding and how emotionally hurt I was.
So it is sad to see that we can’t understand swear words in context or even like emotionally, jolting words in context.
The Apostle Paul uses very strong language in scripture to describe a very strong situation. When he talks about filthy rags and literal “curse words” of the day. I just think we got a lot of growth to do in how we define, consume, and label Christians who make art. It’s got to be a bigger conversation, a bigger understanding than just, “This is good for my four year old.” It might not be. You might need some parental advisory to consume.”
ChurchLeaders: Because of who you are as successful artists people all over the world look up to you and listen to what you have to say, especially regarding today’s cultural topics you speak into. Although many put you on the level of a pastor/teacher but you aren’t and you don’t see yourself as such, how do you handle the influence you have on people?
Lecrae: For me, I try to demystify it as much as I can. I try to be as transparent as realistically possible to let people know that I’m in process.
Because people start holding you to standards that are unrealistic in terms—I’m not a seminary professor. I think they start wanting to like zero in on every little thing you say, or do and, looking at how you’re doing it. For me, I’m like, “Hey, this is a way,” I’m not saying, “It’s THE way to do what I’m doing—It’s a way.”
I understand people are influenced, I get it. Andy’s song, “None Of My Business” kind of rings to mind where it’s like, I, I’m sorry, I just can’t be responsible for everyone’s opinion out there about what they think I should be doing and how I should be doing it. I have a close circle of friends, I have my own church, I have my own kind of leadership that I’m connected to, and those are the people that I have to be most concerned with about—how I’m moving and navigating. But I can’t be worried about you know, “madamj744” out on YouTube, you know I’d just lose my mind.
Andy: When you do anything in the public eye, you you serve the public. And there’s an exchange, like my art or the thing that you enjoy, because at the at the core of what we do, like, we are entertainers, like we entertain you and so you enjoy the things we create in your homes and in your cars. And with that comes a certain level of responsibility when people consume it.
Outside of being an entertainer I try to live my life to a standard. I try to please God, my family, and my wife. And I think those things translate publicly, but the internet has given us access to people in a way to criticize them or praise them, and probably ways that are unhealthy. But like what Lecrae said, you can’t, you can’t engage all of it, because it’s just literally impossible. So I just try to do the best I can with what I’ve got.
Lecrae said something one time that I thought was really helpful. He said, when people don’t know the whole story, they just make one up. And so I think that happens a lot. Is people see what’s happening. They don’t really understand it. So they just make up a whole story. “Oh, he got a Grammy because he’s in the Illuminati. Right?” Like, wait. What? So I have more compassion for people, I understand how they can be confused or judgmental, because I probably would have been them at one point. But I try to move with integrity and kind of let the chips fall where they may because it’s too overwhelming of a task to pay attention to everybody.
ChurchLeaders: We live a in culture that pressures artists like yourselves to explain how and why you believe something. For example if you aren’t vocal about a cultural topic they pressure you into answering if you support this or that, and why you do or do not. How do you navigate fans pressuring you to affirm or speak out against things happening around us and how do you handle the stress when someone approaches you regarding such issues?
Andy: From what I can see, I think people have a really tough time thinking for themselves. When I look at Jewish culture, where Yeshua was from, the way he taught his disciples was primarily by answering their questions with questions. Because when you ask questions, it causes the person engaging, to think process feel coming to their own conclusions.
We kind of live in like an answer driven culture, where the pastor is the guy who has all the answers. It’s heavily focused on a single person being the director—the leader of all things. I think that can be unhealthy because it can remove the thinking and the processing out of the individual. And what I want to do with what I have is help, not just people get good answers, I want to help people ask better questions.
I want to give better questions so people can think for themselves. So I don’t necessarily feel even compelled to always have to have the answers.
For example, yesterday, I did a meet and greet and some kid was like, “What do you do when you feel down?” And I just was like, Hey, I talked to my friends. And then he goes, “But you talk to God too, right?” Like, he wanted me to give him a Christian answer, and I said, Yeah, but sometimes I don’t feel like talking to God. And some people in the room were like, “Thank you,” because finally someone was honest. Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to God. I talk to my friends, who are wise, and I feel like, God can speak through them—through community, the church.
With public attention comes public criticism. Once I stopped saying I have the answers, they they’ve kind of stopped looking to you for that.
ChurchLeaders: With deconstruction being a large topic within Christian circles, and something you’ve addressed personally Lecrae in your podcast, can you explain how deconstructing your faith has helped your journey as a Christian and has resulted in you growing closer to God not further from Him?
Lecrae: I’m really excited to talk about this in in a lot more depth in the future. So really stay tuned, because I plan to write on it and I plan to do some music on it as well.
I think that the first problem is the etymology, or just the terms in themselves, get us to riled up. So we tend to get paranoid and freaked out with terminology, and start creating these categories for [deconstruction] that were never meant to exist—or are we just lumping all the negative things with the term.
So now, you can’t say deconstruction without it, meaning all of these terrible things,—right? We’re not advocating at all right, because people are looking at the worst cases of deconstruction it is where people have essentially said, “We’re done with Christ, and we’re never coming back.” And I think that’s what they think, a promotion of deconstruction is.
But what I would say is the goal of a healthy deconstruction is reconstruction. So so when you find out you have mold in your house, you’ve got to tear it out. We’re not saying you break up the foundation, we’re not saying you take away the foundation, which for us is as followers of Christ is Jesus Himself. We’re not saying we remove him, but we’re saying we built a lot of things on the foundation of Jesus that should have never been they’re more cultural. They’re more political. They’re more economical than they are biblical, or Christian. So now it’s making people say, “I don’t even want to call myself a Christian because every time I think of Christian I think of all these political and all these other terms.” Which is making people say “I’m done with it.”
So I’m okay with a healthy deconstruction, which is one where the goal is to build back up. I want to build, but I’ve got to tear down all these things because I don’t know where the mold is. So I know you guys think I hate church because I’m not going for a season but I don’t know if that’s where I’m being triggered so for season, I’m not going to go there. I need to figure out what this means and process it. I think that if we’re really serious about our faith we are walking with people through that process. You got to think that disciples walked with Jesus for three years and they didn’t really get it until it was over.
All of these things in our culture that are coming out, we we just need an opportunity to sit back and say, “Okay, Lord, what does this all mean? And how can I be a faithful follower of you while understanding what is more cultural than than biblical?”
Andy: I actually wrote a whole project about doubt. It’s called “The Arrow,” and the catchphrase was “I hope I get the benefit of the doubt.” The opening song “Clarity” talks about, “all I want is clarity, because all of my heroes are frauds, just like me”
A lot of times you build up these people that you look to as spiritual leaders, they fail, they feel like they lead you astray. And then you wonder if the exact thing that they taught you was nonsense as well.
I think, also what Lecrae was saying about the social things, and the political things that had been tied to the term Christian is why I have so many friends who are don’t even call themselves a Christian anymore because they don’t want to be directly tied to what that culturally means.
At the end of my song “There” which says, “Standing alone in the parking lot of The Truman Show/Privy to things I never knew before/Laying flowers at the casket of a twenty-two-year-old me/It sound unusual, but listen death is beautiful, see/Nothing grows until it finally dies/And you don’t ever find the truth until you find the lies (Well)/Now that I’ve–started pulling the strings, some things are unraveling/And I don’t like what I’m seeing but yet I proceed (Deconstruction)/This the moment I hold it all in question/It’s terrifying ’cause there ain’t nothing to rest in/The sense of a lost direction, it’s messy but still I press/And I’m desperate to find the answer, I can’t go on with the guessing/Did 81 percent of the people I call my brethren/Put an elephant in the room and say it was Heaven-sent?/I don’t know what Bible you reading, what God you believe in/But that don’t sound like reason, it sound like you sleeping/So I’m leaving, this my Last Supper who treatin’?/Take a stand for the knee and your Nikes still creasin’/I let it all fall apart then I took the pieces/Reconstructing everything I once believed in.
That’s the process for me—I let it all fall apart and I take the pieces so I can reconstruct everything I once believed in. I think it’s healthy, to build things up, let it fall apart, and then take the pieces that’s leftover and say, What am I keeping here? What is true? What is cultural? What was just influenced on my parents? And what do I actually believe?
I think God invites our questions, and I think they actually make our faith stronger. When you have thought ending soliloquies, like nice phrases that stop people from thinking critically such as “His ways are just greater than our ways” where it doesn’t answer my question, but is telling me to stop thinking about it. To stop guessing To stop challenging these ideas so you can come to a real place within yourself. I actually think that’s dangerous, because I think you create robot Christians as opposed to people who are passionate and know why they believe what they believe.
ChurchLeaders: Would you agree that the majority of Christians who are deconstructing aren’t necessarily deconstructing from the gospel as much as they are deconstructing from mis-discipleship?
Lecrae: Yeah, I would. I mean, some people are initially deconstructed from the gospel. That’s the part that I think is creating a lot of the tension. But, but they should be reconstructing from bad leadership in some ways or like wrong direction.
But like Andy said, a lot of people throw the baby out with the bathwater because they don’t know what the heck they should be believing. And I think that it shouldn’t be an opportunity to critique, but an opportunity to step in and help people and walk with people.
Andy: I think this might be more controversial, but some people have to figure out what they think the gospel is. Are we just starting at the same starting point “You’re not deconstructing the gospel?” Well, I don’t know what do you think the gospel is?
Lecrae: What you’re calling the gospel may not be what I’m calling the gospel.
Andy: Exactly. That’s a very important starting point.
ChurchLeaders: If you had the opportunity to encourage or express anything to today’s church leaders what would it be?
Andy: Thank you for the work that you do.
Because not a lot of people sign up to give their life to helping people experience God, and to serve their communities to their churches like, so thank you for all that work.
Another thing might be that people are really messy so patience over the long haul might be more encouraging to them. How church leaders invest in people might not mean anything to who they’ve invested in until 10 years later. I got kicked out of school as a kid, and my mom tried to send me to a youth group with this older kid because she thought maybe it would be good and I just terrorized that place. But 10 years later, the investments that were made in me then started to show up. So I’m sure as I was there, people must have thought, this kid’s a lunatic, he’s not going to do anything with his life. And now I’ve spent the majority of my life encouraging inspiring people towards hope and goodness and faith. And so I don’t know if the youth leaders felt that way when I was there.
Lecrae: I’ve seen a lot. I know that people look at me, because I’m a rapper that I’m in this youthful space, but I’m a 42-year-old man. I’ve seen a lot. Matter of fact, I don’t know what I haven’t seen. I’ve walked with people through a lot, and I’ve walked through a lot personally.
What I would say to a church leader—there’s people that didn’t come to mind when I think of this—You have to have a circle of people that you can be fully known with, because the temptation as a leader is to not tell anybody anything because you’re so afraid of people looking at you as less than or because they think you’ve got it all together. So if you’re destined to fail if you don’t have people who know everything about you, and not not just the like all little confession-session, but like seriously, your living fully integrated this others. These are a group of guys or girls that you can just cry and bawl in tears in front of where there’s no shame. So church leader who are those people, because it’s going to affect your ability to lead.
A transparent, vulnerable, humble person is going to make a good leader. We’re not looking for people who fit the mold of perfection and have it all together, we’re looking for people who can embrace that they’re frail and need people to confiding so that they can avoid a lot of the pitfalls that come with being a leader. That would be my word to them.
Andy: That’s hard to do in the current structure that we have. I think you need to lead with vulnerability and it’s that’s hard to do when a building, people salaries, everything is dependent on you being morally perfect. So that’s why what Lecrae saying is so important.
Lecrae: That building and those salaries are not on you, they’re on God. And that’s why you need to humble yourself and take yourself out of that space to realize what God established. He will still maintain. You’re not building His kingdom, He’s building it. You were never the architect of [His Kingdom].