While Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Eminem may reign in the iTunes top 10 album chart, there’s another artist who’s giving them a run for their money. Christian rapper Lecrae quietly snuck in at number two on the list.
Despite limiting marketing his music on mostly the Internet, and making only a few TV appearances, 34-year-old Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore has ranked on the iTunes list for the past three years.
Lecrae’s sixth studio album, Church Clothes 2, was released on November 7 and debuted at number two. Topping the iTunes chart is an accomplishment in its itself, but to debut at number two with 20,000 sales in just days, all while offering a free download is even more impressive.
The grammy-award winning Houston-native Lecrae, who co-founded Reach Records in 2004, sat down with DNA to talk about who makes up his fan base, and how he’s been able to reach broader audiences.
DNA: “Congratulations on your new album Church Clothes 2. It’s doing really well, even coming in second place in the iTunes album charts this weekend. How are you feeling about this right now?”
Lecrae: “I’m ecstatic. I really am. I’m kind of blown away. Obviously, you want to serve your fans. You want to give them some good music and to see the reception of it was amazing. To have around 200,000 downloads in a couple days and nearly 20,000 actual purchases in like four days is amazing to my brain, just to see that type of support.”
DNA: “It’s even more impressive since you provided your music to download for free. Even though you didn’t quite expect that response in sales, your decision to give the music away seems like an intentional business move.”
Lecrae: “I think part of it was an intentional move in terms of allowing the music to spread organically. And even though people know that if they really want music they can find it for free, I wanted to make it as easy and accessible as possible. But I also think there’s a sentiment from fans who say, ‘man, I really appreciate this.’ And the sentimental value of that drives them to purchase. You’re also creating new fans who’ll say, ‘I’ve never heard this before, but it’s free. Let me try it.’ Then they are impressed and buy it.”
DNA: “What kinds of fans do you encounter? Are they big on religion or really into hip hop? “
Lecrae: “I think I have a mix. Obviously I have a lot of fans who are faith-driven and it’s a very central part of their lives. They connect to my music because there is an unashamed approach to that in my music. I don’t have any problem talking about faith and I don’t avoid it. But then there’s also fans of just good music. I’m an artist at the core and I want to do well in my craft. So if people appreciate good music, I think you’ll pay attention to it. Every song is not a song about my faith. So it’s not as if you’re being bombarded and inundated. But for every song, I’m definitely trying to make it good. People connect with that.”
DNA: “Right now you’re making a big crossover to the mainstream, but still remaining your Christian message. So how would you label or define yourself as an artist?”
Lecrae: “Lecrae the person is a Christian. There’s no shame in that, whatsoever. I have no problem embracing that reality. I just want to make sure my music has as much opportunity as possible to be heard by anybody and everybody. Sometimes when someone says, ‘Oh, this is gospel. O,h this is Christian,’ or whatever, it makes people say, ‘Oh I’m probably not interested in that.’ It’s almost kind of like… Selena for instance, who is one of the greatest artists ever, the way people told me about her music initially, I wasn’t that interested in it. But when I listened, I loved it. I may not have went out and searched for Latin music I can download, but when you just present Selena’s music and say she’s an incredible artist, I listen.”
DNA: “Selena? Are you bringing that up because I used to listen to her?”
Lecrae: “No! I didn’t know!”
DNA: “Now that you’re stepping out more in the mainstream, aren’t you facing tension or conflict due to your beliefs?”
Lecrae: “For me, I’m pretty firm in my foundation. Sometimes people think, ‘Oh my gosh, is it going to be difficult in this room with alcohol and drugs and girls who are scantily clad?’ The struggle for me, I’m like, mmm. (Shakes head.) It’s not because I’m super human, but because I’ve been following the Lord years and I’ve been there and done that, tasted that, I’ve seen the destruction, and the turmoil. To me, it’s not enticing. To me, it’s more sad. When I see it, I feel for those women who are insecure that they think they have to show off every body part. I feel for the people who are so depressed or have no sense of self worth that they get high all the time to escape. And so when I’m around that, I’m not like, ‘where do I draw the line?’ I feel like I get an opportunity to create the new norm. If I’m going to do a song with somebody, obviously if they’re not going to respect my convictions, it just won’t work. I don’t want them to pretend that they believe what I believe or hold the same standard, I just want them to be honest about whatever we’re talking about. So I’m not going to ask somebody who doesn’t love Jesus to do a song about how much they love Jesus.”
DNA: “What’s in the future for you and the other artists signed onto your label Reach Records?”
Lecrae: “I’m extremely excited about the upcoming music, obviously. We have some great artists, Andy Mineo, Tedashi, Trip Lee, making his return back to music, KB, and Derek Minor, who’s doing well as well. We’re on our fifth year of the Unashamed Tour with two dates left, one in Phoenix and Dallas, which are going to probably be phenomenal shows. It’s looking like we’ll close out this year very strong. Then all the artists will go on separately on bigger tours this winter, including me. Some of the other artists will be on other tours. So it’s looking really good. I’m also in the studio at the same time working on my seventh album. Hopefully, that will come out next year.”