Written by: Ken Fallon
Christian rap artist Lecrae climbed to new heights in his nine-year career Friday night, when he released the video for his song, “Fakin’ ” on MTV and MTV2.
It promptly became one of the network’s top-viewed, top-commented and top-shared videos currently in the Music Video Picks section.
The video makes no bones about its goal: to make fun of and point out the hypocrisy in the supposed “gangsta ” lifestyle portrayed by contemporary rappers, and to offer a path toward Jesus. A portion of the lyrics reads:
Quit tryna’ act like the trap is cool, ‘cause we tired hearin’ that garbage
Hey, bags of white, pints of lean, I been on dope boys since a teen
But this ain’t what we meant to be, and y’all don’t make no sense to me
You pump fakin’, ain’t shootin’, ain’t killin, ain’t doin’
Half them thangs you say you doin’, but 116 we stay true an’
Ain’t dope dealin’, ain’t Po pimpin’, talkin’ ‘bout my own folk killin’
We on that Jesus soul healin’, so serious, gorillas
Wild ain’t we, can’t tame us, been changed, can’t change us
1:16 – You can’t shame us. Live that truth; you can’t blame us
The number 116 is a reference to 116 Clique (pronounced one-one-six click), a Christian hip hop group with whom Lecrae performs. It is also shorthand for Romans 1:16, a Bible verse that many consider Lecrae’s core message, and which reads, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
The reaction from commenters on MTV’s website was enthusiastic. One commenter named Elisabeth wrote, “finally something real worth hearing and watching. Best rapper in the game right here.” Another commenter named Gabe said, “Props to you MTV, for getting this real word out. These two fellas are legit, and crazy talented. No fakin when it’s for the Lord.” The comment about “two fellas” refers to guest rapper Thi’sl, who performs on “Fakin’ ” with Lecrae.
Some of the commenters on Lecrae’s Facebook page questioned why a Christian artist would submit his work on a secular channel like MTV, but a broad majority of commenters were supportive of the move as a way to “change hearts” among unbelievers.
Lecrae, also known as Lecrae Moore, grew up on the streets of Houston, San Diego, Denver and Dallas, sometimes living with his working mom, sometimes with his grandmother in San Diego; he never met his father (who he later learned was a drug addict). At night after his grandmother went to bed, he secretly turned on the TV to watch videos of rappers such as Tupac, who became his role models. Through those videos, he learned to rap, and he learned to covet the lifestyle he saw.
“My world view at that point in time was what I saw on television,” he told CNN in a 2010 interview. “I just [rapped] about what I esteemed to be, what I wanted to be like. Most of that was gangsterism, false sense of masculinity, money, women.”
By the end of high school, Lecrae was dealing and taking drugs, and drinking alcohol. His name ended up a list of suspected gang members, and he was arrested on drug and theft charges.
He gave up that lifestyle as a 19-year-old, when he attended a conference where he saw people with stories like his, but who were “in love with Jesus.” Combined with an auto accident in which he walked away without a scratch, he pledged to follow God.
Five years later, he founded Reach Records and released his first album, Real Talk. Since then, he has released 10 additional albums, either under his own name or with 116 Clique, each to critical acclaim and increasingly-high sales. His 2012 album, Gravity, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, selling 72,000 copies.
The same day that Lecrae released his videos on MTV, he was one of six performers at the annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, an NFL-sanctioned gospel music performance that happens during Super Bowl Weekend. In addition to Lecrae, this year’s performers included Fantasia, Marvin Winans, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and Bishop Paul S. Morton.
Lecrae’s popularity extends beyond rap music circles. As detailed in an October 2012 ESPN article, Lecrae is in popular with athletes around the country, and is in demand as a leader of pre-game prayer sessions. Among the players who have reached out to Lecrae are Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers and Justin Forsett of the Houston Texans. His reach also extends to teams such as the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA; New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL; and New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks in Major League Baseball.