Spiritual rapper Lecrae speaks about his upcoming 'Anomaly' album, why he doesn't like 'Gravity' and turning down Kanye and Kendrick features.

Feature: Lecrae Is A Man On Fire

He's many things, sure. He's also in flames. This husband, father, artist, behind it all he's a person, just a man. And although that's all he is or will be, people gather—in lines that span blocks and blocks—to watch him.

I witnessed it once, from backstage, with the eyes in my own skull. The show. A towering figure commanding a crowd, this multitude mouthing his every word. He made them drunk with something, they believed him. His emotion. That was just a few years ago. Now things are crazier and escalating. But the man who is Lecrae Moore is still only a man.

It's true that Lecrae built something special practically from the dirt. Not alone, but you understand. With the help of a tight circle, he's managed to take hold of hip-hop's consciousness and inject it with something impassioned. His drive has gone uncontested to those who know. In his ascent, the Atlanta emcee has become the face and voice of a movement. And that movement has a name: 116.

“I like to rally people together,” Lecrae tells me over the phone. He's just wrapped up his Music Matters showcase at the BET Experience and is getting ready to head to Hong Kong for an event. “Times are changing,” he says. “I'm not afraid anymore.”

Like many of his peers, the man's got ambition. Given his tour schedule, steady musical output, and growing film credits, Lecrae is part of a generation of artists that has nearly forfeited rest altogether. However, that's where the similarities go and die. See, there's something different here, something his fans feel but might struggle to pinpoint. Lecrae's motivation doesn't come across as self-seeking, he's not enamored with or swayed by skirts and endless earthen treasures. And while he's no perfect being, his aim is to redirect the attention outward toward something grander and more altruistic.

“Honestly, I'm so tired of the redundancy," the 34-year-old rapper says. "The world needs artists that are willing to provoke. Let's talk about issues: education, racism, faith, fatherlessness. These are the things that inform what I do.”

The bare bones: Six albums in, Lecrae's reach has expanded in directions not even he could have predicted. His seventh full-length LP, Anomaly, is due out soon. It's the follow up to 2012's Grammy Award-winning album Gravity and last year's Church Clothes 2 mixtape, which propelled him to where he is today. Thing is, he's in a position to transform the culture as you see it, or at least do his part. Whether you believe it even needs transforming is moot.

In the music industry, there's always this notion of “making it.” I wonder what that looks like to him, if he feels he's arrived.

“I think this is a dangerous mindset," he says. "And each day I have to fight for contentment. There was a time when I was just happy to pay my bills doing this. I want to use my gifts and live there, in that space: content.”

What I actually want to know is if all this busyness and running around can be a burden. He fires back, without pause: “Yes, it can be.” Then there's a deep silence, the kind like when a man is thinking. I hear a voice, his road manager, I think, someone going on about breakfast. Lecrae draws a breath. “Look, it's an animal you have to tame. You do. My body hates it. This type of work takes a lot of your time. I mean, recently I was talking to a renowned filmmaker and he told me he's missed the last seven years of his son's life. I often have to ask myself what it is I'm chasing. Our ambitions can sometimes be unhealthy.”

“It can be addicting though, right?” I ask. “The chase. There's always a new thing to conquer, another reward.” “There is”, he adds. “But you can't build your house there. It never ends.”

No, Lecrae didn't go to that pool party he was invited to. Again, the man is spoken for and he takes that seriously. In a rap world that prides itself on cheap thrills, he wears his monogamy like a crown. He understands full well the traps and perils of a man on the road. And he does what he can to steer clear of them.

True to his upcoming album's name, Lecrae is an anomaly. He exists on some suspended planet, between the sacred and secular. And though he's sold tons of records and packed out arenas across the world, his approach is completely alien to most.

“I realize there's a tension,” he says. “But that's why we all need people that will hold us up, help us to stand our ground.” I ask if he worries about failing, letting people down. He tells me about a song on Anomaly called “Fear,” and that yes, he thinks about it every day. “Still, fear fuels my faith.”

This new album, he says he went into it alone. And he tells me about some of the collaborations he considered—Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West—but that he decided not to pursue them on account of his wanting to prove some things to himself. I don't believe him. I ask why he would divert from some of the names he'd just mentioned. "Let me finish," he insists.

Lecrae says he wanted to delve into certain themes on his own, and he talks about textures and soundscapes, about coming into his skin as an artist. He says he didn't like some of the content on Gravity, that he was still experimenting during that period, looking for his true voice. What he's doing now is bigger, Lecrae tells me, and more honest. He says he thinks people will be liberated by it. The world gets a first taste on the Gawvi-produced lead single "Nuthin,'" which drops tomorrow (July 1).

Have you ever seen a man on fire? Get this: What Lecrae has—confidence, wisdom, clarity of mind and mission—he's cultivated through time. If a man is shaped by his experiences, how he uses those experiences will determine his effectiveness in life and work. There are reasons the guy is winning. And since he's not one for aimless pursuits, the embers will burn for only as long as he'll allow it. He's in the thick of it, burning bright. And I just know he won't be consumed. —Juan Vidal (@itsjuanlove)

From the Web

More on Vibe

Nick Rice

25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

Continue Reading
VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

Continue Reading
Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

READ MORE: NEXT: H.E.R. Is The Future Of R&B (And Then Some) In Plain Sight

Continue Reading

Top Stories