Multi-talented hip hop artist Lecrae Moore is also a record producer, actor, entrepreneur and co-founder of the non-profit group Reach Life Ministries.
Lecrae has released seven studio albums as a solo artist together with a studio album as the leader of the rap group 116 Clique. Much of his earlier material was produced along with other early Reach Records releases. He has also appeared in the films Word from the Street, A Cross to Bear, Believe Me, and Billy Graham’s TV film The Cross. His 2012 album Gravity reached number three on the Billboard top 200 and number one in the Rap, Christian, Gospel and Independent charts. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album in 2013, making it the first time a hip hop artist had received this award.
Born and raised by his single mother in Houston, Texas, Lecrae’s Christian grandmother tired to get him interested in church, but he felt it was “just for old people.” Instead, he loved to watch rap music videos and after his uncle showed him a gun he began looking up to gangsters as role models. Even though he knew his father, he was never around to provide a good role model.
“I wrestled with a sense of self-worth, because my dad decided drugs would be better than hanging out with his own son.”
At 16, Lecrae started taking drugs. He became what he describes as a ‘thrill seeker.’ Arrested on a number of occasions, he became something of a misfit.
“My uncles were young and wrapped up in the streets, gangs and drugs and just promiscuous, I idolized it. I wanted to be the gang member. I wanted every tattoo … I saw my first gun and all these different things. I was like, ‘This must be what it means to be a man.’ I’m just sitting on their laps soaking all this stuff in. I was like a child of rap and hip-hop, seeing this world come up around me.”
Eventually, Lecrae realised that his life was going nowhere. The early influence of his grandmother gave him a desire to attend church and see if he could sort his life out.
“I knew my ways were unfulfilling. I chased power, pleasure, possessions, something satisfying. I knew I kept getting let down. I knew it was insanity, and I was never going to find fulfillment but I didn’t know what else to look for.”
A girl who had attended high school with Lecrae was at the church, and she invited him to a Bible study where he met his future wife. He was surprised to find that the members of the Bible study were “… just people like me. They read the same books and listened to the same music. Their character was just different. They were loving and that’s really what drew me in.”
It was just after this that he first decided to live for God. But it was a process and it took some time for him to make good decisions and life changes that would set him on the right path. He attended a conference after being invited by a friend, although Lecrae admits that his initial reason was to meet girls and experience the big city. Arriving at the conference he was stunned by the performance of Christian hip-hop group The Cross Movement.
“I saw guys who had been shot from being in gangs, girls who were extremely promiscuous in the past, [there were] rappers, dancers and singers… people who came from the same background I came from, and they still embodied who they were culturally, but they were all in love with Jesus and I had never seen that before.”
He joined some friends at a Christian conference, where he heard what Jesus did for him on the cross. He was riveted by the speaker;
“He talked about Jesus carrying His cross on Golgotha and the turmoil and the pain that Jesus went through. That Jesus would take all that on His own back floored me, and I said, ‘I don’t want to live like this anymore. Jesus, I’m sorry’”
He was challenged, but still living something of a double life. But soon after this Lecrae had a serious car accident which could have killed him. It shook him up and caused him to make a proper commitment to Christ. This time there was no going back.
“I came out of it without a scratch. My car had flipped over. It was dented in, damaged up, and here I am without a scratch on me. I said, ‘OK God, I need to change.’”
The young rapper changed quite dramatically from partygoer to evangelist. He even typed out his testimony and handed it out on his college campus, talking about his faith to anyone who would listen.
“I was proud to have my story on that piece of paper. I got laughed at, and I got called ‘Jesus Freak’, ‘Jesus Boy’ and all kind of stuff – but I was changed.”
Before long Lecrae learned that he could blend his passion for God and his ability as a rapper.
“I thought that God and rap would never work. I thought that God wasn’t okay with rap. People knew I used to rap, and I went to the Bible studies. Someone said, ‘Hey, you should rap about Jesus.’ On the spot I came up with a rap about Jesus, and they were like, ‘Man, that was good,’ and I was like, ‘Wow Lord, maybe You can really do something with this.’”
So life took a new direction and Lecrae began to help kids in juvenile detention.
“I ended up there every weekend, just sharing my heart, sharing Scripture and rapping as their praise and worship on Sundays. My heart is to reach the city, to see the city come to Jesus. If you don’t know Him, you’re missing out on purpose, meaning in life in general. I’m passionate about seeing people spend eternity with Him. He’s awesome.”
Lecrae finally found the love of a father that he missed as a child in his relationship with God. He says,
“He’s just loved on me when I felt like I didn’t deserve love, when I felt like I was unlovable. I feel fortunate to have a huge family that is beyond race, creed, culture, and have a Father who shepherds us all. When I think about that, my mind is blown. There’s nothing like it.”
Story by Ralph Burden
Feature photo of Lecrae and Akon by kind permission of Reach Records Management, Creative Commons License attribution 3.