Red-Hot Rapper Lecrae Connects in Concert With Strong Message, Music
Review by Doug Carroll
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
A near-capacity GCU Arena and its sea of bobbing heads and pumping arms told you what you needed to know Friday night about Lecrae: At marrying message to music, there may be no one more skilled these days than he is.
The Atlanta-based Christian rapper, who headlines the Unashamed Tour sponsored by GCU, demonstrated in a sizzling, hourlong set that he’s on top of his game in every respect, worthy of the crossover success and critical acclaim of his new “Gravity” album, released two months ago.
Although the Arena stop fell squarely in the middle of five shows in as many nights, with Lubbock, Texas, and Albuquerque behind him and Los Angeles and San Francisco ahead of him, there was no way to tell from Lecrae’s exuberant performance. It’s entirely possible that this concert will hold up as the Arena’s best for the 2012-13 academic year, just as Lady Antebellum did last fall.
Like plenty of hip-hop stars, the 33-year-old Lecrae is athletic and charismatic, with a commanding stage presence. He can work a crowd. Yet he never seemed to be pandering, and he didn’t come off as overly preachy.
“I’m not extreme, I’m redeemed,” he said early on, and his authenticity shined like a diamond. Occasionally, he dropped in words of wisdom: “If you live for people’s acceptance, you will die from their rejection” and “If you’re focused on God’s plan, then there’s somebody who doesn’t like you — but don’t be mad at them.”
Although the show made use of the latest in lighting, smoke machinery and video technology (the Arena’s massive south-end board never got such a workout), the strength of Lecrae’s act is his thoughtful material, delivered masterfully.
He’s an enormously gifted lyricist, putting his faith out front in older songs such as “Don’t Waste Your Life,” “Go Hard” and the intensely autobiographical “Chase That (Ambition)” as well as the newer songs that dominated his set’s second half. Again, it never seems forced; it’s simply who he is, and if it makes the secular world feel uncomfortable he will offer no apologies. Hasn’t the Gospel always had that effect on people?
Lecrae’s stable of rappers from the independent Reach Records label he founded — KB, Tedashii, Trip Lee, Pro and Andy Mineo — is along on the tour and was incorporated seamlessly. Each artist had a brief solo turn in the early part of the show and joined Lecrae at various points later on. This is top-notch hip-hop, yielding no ground artistically to the secular form.
After Lecrae’s short video about GCU was played at intermission (and was well-received by the home crowd), all of the performers came to the stage, including special guests Thi’sl and Propaganda, for a high-energy finale that included “Battle Song,” “Hands High,” Mineo’s “Michael Jackson” and “Unashamed.” The only disappointment with Lecrae’s set was that it didn’t include “Background,” a beautiful song with classic R&B stylings from his 2010 “Rehab” album.
The diverse audience — black, white and brown all were represented in large numbers — testified to the wide platform now available to Lecrae, who counts pro athletes Jeremy Lin, Bubba Watson and Tim Tebow among his followers. Although his stock is soaring in pop culture, he seems firmly grounded in the values he espouses.
After a knockout show like this one, Lecrae has our vote for the message of hope he is bringing to believers and nonbelievers alike.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected]. The next issue of the quarterly GCU Today Magazine, which will publish in early December, will include an interview with Lecrae, KB and Andy Mineo.