On Friday, Lecrae released his a brand new song called “Blessings” featuring a collaboration with fellow rapper Ty Dolla $ign. The song will be on his highly-anticipated new album, which is expected to drop in the coming weeks.
It’s been an important year for the rapper. He’s publicly spoken out about a backlash he received from fans regarding activism centered on ending racial injustice and has battled depression.
We recently spoke with Lecrae about the collaboration, his difficult year in 2016, what to expect from the new album and how he’s finally free to speak his mind.
How did your collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign come together?
I met Ty years ago through Ninth Wonder before he was as big as he is now.
I was big fan of Ty’s music, and [after] hearing his story and his struggle and his brother, I reached out a while back about doing a couple songs, and I sent him a couple songs to consider. There was one song that he really wanted to be a part of and the faith-based themes are super strong.
The song is for the upcoming record?
The song is for the album. It should be out later this year.
Ty Dolla $igns’ “Miracles/Wherever” has a lot of spiritual undertones, but I think for a lot of people that are maybe familiar with Ty $’s catalog, the collaboration might be a little bit surprising. But it does seem like there are a lot of artists right now that seem to be very comfortable talking about faith? Do you think hip-hop is having sort of a spiritual revival at the moment?
I think it’s open to the conversation.
You’ve got to remember hip-hop comes from struggle and oppression and not spirituality. Soul music and R&B and all that comes from spirituality, so just to be able to have the conversation is dope, and I just want to make sure that I’m a part of it if I can be.
I’m grateful for that opportunity.
How is this new album different than what you’ve done up to now in your career?
I think I’ve taken all the shots, all the criticism, all the fanfare, all the appreciation, and I’ve kind of bundled it all up and said, ‘Ok, this is what comes with the territory.’
I think Anomaly was me telling people I want to be myself, but this album is just me being myself.
It’s like, OK, I already told you this is what I want to be and so, you’re getting it. I had a tough 2016. You’ll hear the hard realities of my 2016, but then I had a spiritual awakening, and you’ll hear that as well.
It’s all of the ebbs and flows of who I am as a person and me not trying to cater to a specific genre or cater to a market, but just making music that’s authentically me.
Can you talk a little bit about that spiritual awakening that you had this past year?
After a very hard year of losing people who were close to me—lost my DJ, DJ Official— a lot of what ensued in America as far as race is concerned, race relations, turmoil being an artist, backlash, and all the different things that were happening brought me to a really ugly place.
Then, my wife and I went on a trip to Egypt, and it was really good to be outside of my American context and to walk the trails that Moses walked.
It just helped me kind of realign and put things in perspective and say, “You know what man, life is not pretty ,and it’s not neat, but God is still God. And you can rely on and trust in Him.”
It woke me up and made me come back home with a whole unique perspective.
You recently wrote about how you feel like after being outspoken about advocacy of some of these big issues that are happening in the country, you felt like there were some people, even your own fans, that turned on you. Why do you think that was their response at the time?
I think it’s hard for some people to disconnect politics and everyday humanity.
So some people will think that my blackness and my life as a black man is somehow me being political or being a “left-winged advocate” or whatever, when it’s just me being me, saying no, my experience is very unique. It’s different than yours.
It’s not me being political. It’s just me being a black man in America.
I think if people looked around, they would have seen that a lot of ethnic minorities who were believers were struggling, and if you didn’t have friends in those worlds, you wouldn’t realize it was an epidemic.
I was just a loud voice in the midst of that. I think people didn’t understand it and didn’t want to wrestle with it and just kind of wrote me off.
It was what it was. But I still as a person, as a human being, had to process the year and had to deal with everything and so whether they supported me or not, I still had to live and figure stuff out.
Do you see things shifting especially for maybe people who didn’t see things from that perspective beforehand?
I say that because people have brought me out to do lectures and talks and interviews and insight and this was never a topic before in these circles. Just the fact that they want to gain insight and have these conversations is some ground being killed.
By no means is it over, but I’m just glad people are open to having these conversations now.
The song “Can’t Stop Me Now” deals with a lot of these themes and ideas and a lot of specific events are referenced. How much does police violence, BLM, mass incarceration, and these types of issues play into this new record that you’re working on now?
I said a lot of what I had to say on “Can’t Stop Me Now.” Some things may show up here and there, and there are some songs that address some specific things, but I don’t think there’s an imbalance.
I think that’s an aspect of who I am, but that’s not all of who I am and all of what I want to articulate or communicate.
I definitely didn’t want to make a record that that’s what the focus was, because that wasn’t. “Can’t Stop Me Now” articulated a lot of what I was trying to say, but there’s a couple other songs that allude to some of those things.
There’s a degree of transparency not just about some of these issues but personal stuff where you talk about depression and doubt. As an artist, how difficult is it because you’re giving a part of yourself there?
For me it was originally difficult, but I learned that other people benefit through my transparency.
I always say some people can be healed through seeing my scars. I have been given this unique platform I might as well go for it and slice myself open for other people’s benefit.
You’ve had a really big 2016 and achieved a lot of success. Do you find that now that you’ve gotten to this level it’s kind of freeing that you can say things or maybe do collaborations with different artists that you weren’t able to before? Do you think audiences will kind of sense that freedom on the next record?
I think so. And I just think the state society is in will appreciate that type of freedom and that type of liberty.
Everybody is chasing “freedom,” and I feel like I know what really liberates, and I know who really liberates. I think that’s what I can offer.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.