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Editorials

May 11, 2012

Church Clothes, Critique, & CHH

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Written by: J.F. Arnold
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Lecrae

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Lecrae’s [free] mixtape, Church Clothes, over at Evangelical Outpost, I talked about the critiques being leveled at Lecrae, expressed some hesitations, and ultimately attempted to convince believers who were speaking against Lecrae to slow down, take a breath, and pray for him.

Those few hesitations I had? Shattered.

I admit that I was given a bit of pause after the title track for Church Clothes came out. The track was a critique of the Church, and while Lecrae was clearly writing from a certain perspective, it sounded harsher than I’d heard him before. The track would either be brutal and unashamedly against the Church, or it would be a push for believers to become better representatives of Jesus Christ; it all boiled down to the context of the mixtape. After listening, I’m confident that God was working on Lecrae’s life as he wrote this album.

Let’s talk about the criticisms, for a moment.

1. Lecrae is working with sinners, instead of Christian producers/djs/etc.

This strikes me as an odd accusation, but it is a rather common one. Here’s my position, which I think is relatively tenable: Christ spent a lot of time with unbelievers and sinners, and so did his Apostles. Paul preaches in the midst of sinners, and even ends up using their cultural language to do so (remember Mars Hill?). This, in and of itself, is not problematic for the believer. It only becomes a problem if there is no bold presentation of the Gospel, which leads to the second major objection.

2. Lecrae is watering down his message, and is not preaching the Gospel.

If you felt like Rehab or its follow-up release Rehab: The Overdose did not contain enough ‘Gospel’ (in spite of songs like “Just Like You,” “God is Enough,” “Background,” and “More”), you’ll likely be disappointed with much of this mixtape. Then again, check out the track “Misconception,” which contains a very clear presentation of the Gospel (the track features three of the guys from Humble Beast, and is the best track, in my opinion). Here’s the deal: Church Clothes is saturated in Christian thoughts, Christian ideals, and Christian morals. There are no pulled punches, so far as explicit mentions of Christ or God. In fact, the mentions of Christ seem far more natural than they have on previous releases within CHH; these feel like the mentions that a devoted Christian would have in their everyday lives: frequent, but not so much that we forget that God created us to live.

3. Lecrae is getting caught up in the fame, and won’t live out his message.

There isn’t much I can say here, really, since I haven’t spoken with Lecrae. I don’t know him, and don’t know where his heart is, ultimately. But there are two things I can say here: first, we will know him by his fruits, and the content of this mixtape, alongside his work with various ministries even very recently, suggest that he is still legitimately concerned about Christ’s glory; second, if Lecrae is faltering, let those close to him call him out. Let his church step into his life and tell him they believe he is in sin. Let his label-mates, Trip Lee or PRo, come to him in humility and love and correct him. I may be broadly a part of Lecrae’s fellowship, but it is not in the capacity that allows me the right to correct him, at least not directly. All I can do is pray, discern which music is worth holding on to, and continue to work on spreading God’s goodness wherever I can.

Let’s stop stoning Lecrae and focus on saving those who are listening to his music. Watch your hearts, don’t idolize any man or woman, and let’s pray for his future.

This mixtape is, after all, a big step for Christian hip-hop artists. Lecrae is in a unique position to penetrate the secular market in a way that hasn’t really happened in CHH history. I’m actually convinced that this is going to go down as a pivotal point for religious hip-hop. The mixtape has been received well so far, but we’re only twenty-four hours in. I’m more interested, ultimately, in how Lecrae’s next album, Gravity, will be received. If that shows a major uptick in purchases, or a broader audience, then the change will be solidified. Here’s hoping this isn’t a one-mixtape-wonder.

May God be glorified in all that we do, including our critique or praise of any particular artist.

 

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J.F. Arnold





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