Christian hip hop artist expands audience



Lecrae Moore always tells people he isn’t supposed to be here.

He isn’t supposed to be one of the top-selling faith-based hip hop artists in the country.

He isn’t supposed to be just as popular and well-respected among the mainstream media as he is among his Christian audience.

He isn’t supposed to rock the stage at James Brown Arena on Thursday as a Winter Jam headliner alongside Newsboys, Tenth Avenue North, Thousand Foot Krutch, Plumb, NewSong, Colton Dixon, Love & The Outcome, Everfound and Derek Minor.

But he is. And he will.

“I didn’t grow up with a biological father. I was influenced by negative influences. I didn’t really have a whole lot of directions, or understand where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to be doing,” Lecrae said in a phone interview.

Lecrae was raised by a single mother and spent a lot of time in the streets near Houston. He discovered a knack for rapping while volunteering in the juvenile detention center. It was a way to entertain the inmates during Bible studies and services in the absence of musicians.

“They really seemed to appreciate it,” he said.

When they asked for CDs, he began recording his songs.

“It ended up being an incredible opportunity,” he said.

At 19, he had a spiritual awakening and accepted Christ. His music is a reflection of his spiritual views on life.

“For me, it’s all about making music from an authentic place,” he said.

Rather than themes of mysogyny, drugs, gangs and violence so prevalent in mainstream hip hop, Lecrae’s themes offer encouragement and inspiration.

His music is reaching a niche, he said. Christians who grew up as part of the hip hop culture enjoy the music but want to distance themselves from the usual negative themes.

In 2012, Lecrae’s sixth album, Gravity, sold 70,490 copies in its first week, debuting at No. 1 on the Christian, gospel, rap and independent charts and No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart, earning him a Grammy for Best Gospel Album.

His goal has never been to be popular, but to share his testimony.

“I wanted to share my heart. I wasn’t raised to chase monetary gain,” he said.

Russ Lee, of NewSong, said Lecrae is a minister first and a musician second, and he is reaching a group of listeners who might not typically come to Winter Jam.

“He doesn’t really fit the format of Christian radio, but he is a guy that knows what he’s called to do,” he said. “(Lecrae’s set) has been one of the highlights of the show.”

NewSong began Winter Jam 19 years ago as an affordable way to bring Christian music to families across the country. The lineup offers a variety of musical styles that range from pop to rock to praise. Admission is $10 at the door only, and seating is first come, first serve.

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WHAT: Winter Jam 2014, Christian music’s largest concert, featuring Lecrae, Tenth Avenue North, Thousand Foot Krutch, Plumb, NewSong, Colton Dixon, Love & The Outcome, Everfound and Derek Minor. Speaker Nick Hall will offer an inspirational message.

WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 13; doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m.

WHERE: James Brown Arena, 601 Seventh St.

COST: $10 donation at the door