An evangelical Christian rapper has taken over the iTunes hip-hop/rap chart. Three of the top 10 spots, including slots No. 1 and No. 2, have belonged to Lecrae ever since his new album, Gravity, dropped on Sept. 4. With the deluxe version of the album atop the chart all week and the regular rendition sidling right behind it in the second position, Lecrae is expected to sell 60,000 copies in the opening week, easily a first for a Christian rapper. His lyrics certainly don’t match those on the rest of the hip-hop chart, giving his record a distinctly family-friendly feel. Here’s what you need know about the new hip-hop king:
• Lecrae is certainly no stranger to topping charts. In 2008 his album Rebel became the first Christian rap album to take the top spot on Billboard’s Top Gospel chart. It spent 78 weeks there.
• Reach Records, the label that released Gravity, is actually an independent label owned by Lecrae. He has a stable of Christian rappers signed to it.
• The lyrics are what set Lecrae’s albums apart from other rap discs. When he raps about going “higher,” he’s referring not to drugs but God, saying, “the closer I get to you, the higher I feel.” Athletes Tim Tebow, Bubba Watson and Jeremy Lin have all praised him for his straightforward, Gospel-inspired message. Lin said, “An artist you have to check out is Lecrae … he raps a lot about the Gospel, and I really enjoy his lyrics.”
• This week on Instagram, Lecrae pointed out the difference in his lyrics, writing, “Dear Hip-Hop, this didn’t happen because of swag, drug references, or stripper anthems. #Godisgood”
• At age 19, Lecrae attended a conference at the prodding of a friend and heard James White deliver a message that he says “turned his world upside down and showed him his need for a savior.”
• Lecrae was raised by his mother and has lived in San Diego, Denver and Dallas, where he pursued the street life he idolized as a child, according to his website bio. But after adopting a new worldview and committing to following Jesus, he started speaking and rapping in Dallas and volunteered at a juvenile detention center while creating his debut album, Real Talk.
• In 2005 he co-founded ReachLife Ministries, a resource center to “help bridge the gap between biblical truth and the urban context,” according to the ministry’s website.
• Lecrae’s album Rehab, released in 2010, reached No. 3 on the albums chart on iTunes and earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rock/Rap Gospel album.
• Born and initially raised on the south side of Houston, the 32-year-old now lives in Atlanta with his wife and three children.
• A typical line in a Lecrae verse, from “Fuego,” off the Gravity album: “Feed the hungry and touch the sick. We gon’ help the homeless and love the kids.”