Lecrae received nominations for Artist of the Year at the 43rd, 44th, 45th, and 46th GMA Dove Awards, the last of which he won, and for Best Gospel Artist at the 2013 and 2015 BET Awards, the latter of which he won, a first for a rap artist. Lecrae's filmography includes a role in the television film A Cross to Bear (2012) and a brief role as Dr. Malmquist in the comedy film Believe Me (2014). In the social sphere, Lecrae has advocated for the preservation of responsibility and fatherhood as a value among men in the United States, and in 2013 partnered with Dwyane Wade and Joshua DuBois in the multimedia initiative This Is Fatherhood as part of the Obama administration's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. He has also presented on and written about racial tension and injustice in the United States.
Born and raised by his single mother in Southern Houston, Texas, Lecrae moved often early in life, living in San Diego, Denver, and Dallas. He has stated that he would go to church with his Christian grandmother, but considered it for "older people" and said it "wasn't for me." Lecrae never met his father, who ended up becoming a drug addict. In the song "Good, Bad, Ugly", Lecrae reveals that when he was almost eight, a female baby sitter sexually molested him, an incident which Lecrae believes distorted his view of sexuality, influencing his later promiscuous lifestyle. Experiencing abuse and neglect during his childhood, Lecrae used his ability to rap as a source of significance. According to Lecrae, his grandmother would not allow him to watch rap music videos on television, but he would sneak in late at night. It was in these videos that Lecrae found individuals to look up to. Lecrae states that "there were no Martin Luther Kings or Malcolm Xs, they had all passed away so I had Tupac." After being shown a gun by his uncle, Lecrae began looking up to gangsters and turned to a life of crime. Lecrae remembers taking a BB gun and standing in the street pointing it to a car, frightening the female driver, simply for fun. At 11 years old, he started writing music for a rhythm and blues group formed by some neighbors. His first track, written for a neighborhood crush, emulated the style of Tupac, Outkast, and A Tribe Called Quest. At the age of 16, he started taking drugs, fighting, was arrested in high school for stealing, and eventually ended up on a gang list. Lecrae tried "pretty much every drug there was to try" except for heroin and crack cocaine.
According to CNN, he became a drug dealer and used the Bible that his grandmother gave him as a good luck charm. After being arrested for drug possession, the officer saw the Bible and let Lecrae go on a promise that he would agree to live by it. He eventually turned from drugs to alcohol consumption and a party lifestyle and became a "misfit of a person." He has described himself during this period as a thrill-seeker, he would pull stunts such as jumping from a third-story building, and gained the nickname "Crazy 'Crae". Encouraged by his concerned mother to read his Bible, Lecrae said that "I remember ripping the pages out of the Bible and throwing it on the floor. I don't want this Bible. I couldn't wrap my hands around this being true or real." He began to drink and smoke more and look for more women "as the emptiness became more profound." At age 17, his personal, financial, and relationship troubles convinced him that he was at a "dead end." Wanting to do what he considered the mature thing, through the influence of his grandmother, he desired to start attending church. A girl Lecrae attended high school with was there, and she invited him to a Bible study, where he met Darragh, his future wife. Lecrae was surprised to find that the members of the Bible study "were just people like me. They read the same books and listened to the same music. Their character was just different. They were loving and that's really what drew me in." Lecrae says that it was at age 19 that he finally decided to live for God, though "it wasn't overnight" and he "spent a lot of time making bad decisions."
Lecrae attended a conference after being invited by a friend, though Lecrae admits that his interest was to meet girls and experience the big city. When he arrived at the conference, Lecrae was awed by the performance of the Christian hip-hop group The Cross Movement. Lecrae says that he saw "guys who had been shot from being in gangs, girls who were extremely promiscuous in the past, I see rappers, dancers and singers; I see people who came from the same background I came from, and they still embodied who they were culturally, but they were all in love with Jesus and I had never seen that before." After hearing Pastor James White of Christ Our King Community Church speak on how Christians are bought with a price and the suffering that Jesus underwent in the Crucifixion, Lecrae says that he remembers articulating "God get me out of this, don't kill me; do whatever you have to do to get me out of this, just don't kill me." Later, Lecrae was driving on a highway when he turned too quickly and his car went into a roll. He had no seatbelt and the roof and windshield of the car caved in, his glasses were molded into the frame of the car, but he survived completely uninjured. Lecrae cites this incident as the one which convinced him to commit his life to Christ. Lecrae went back to his college, the University of North Texas, with a printed version of his testimony to pass out on campus. He started volunteering and performing at a juvenile detention center, and the reception he received convinced him that offering "hope and encouragement" through music was what he wanted to do. However, Lecrae still struggled in his faith − as revealed in "Good, Bad, Ugly", in 2002 he impregnated a then-girlfriend. Rather than risk scandal, he and his girlfriend had the baby aborted, a decision he says he now deeply regrets. In the same song, he revealed that he had been sexually abused by a babysitter as a child.
Five years after his conversion, Lecrae teamed up with Ben Washer to found Reach Records, and at the age of 25 he released his first album, Real Talk. The following year it was re-released by Cross Movement Records and reached No. 29 on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart, staying on the chart for 12 weeks. The album later received a nomination at the 2007 Stellar Awards. In 2005, Lecrae co-founded the non-profit organization ReachLife Ministries (no longer operational since April 2015), which equipped local Christian leaders with tools, media, curriculum, and conferences that were based on the teachings of the Bible and relevant to hip-hop culture. Also in 2005, the debut album of 116 Clique, The Compilation Album, was released.
After the success of Real Talk, Lecrae then released his second studio album on August 15, 2006. After the Music Stops charted at No. 5 on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart, No. 7 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and No. 16 on the Billboard Heatseeker Album charts, and received a nomination for a Dove Award, as was the single "Jesus Muzik", featuring Trip Lee. In 2007, 116 Clique released its second album, 13 Letters, reaching No. 10 on the Gospel Albums chart and No. 29 on the Christian Albums chart. 116 Clique also released the remix EP Amped, which peaked at No. 24 on the Gospel Albums chart.
On October 8, 2008, Lecrae's third album, Rebel, entered the Billboard charts at No. 60 with 9,800 units sold and topped the Billboard Gospel Album charts for two weeks, the first hip-hop album to do so. It also charted at No. 2 on the Christian Albums chart and No. 15 on the Top Independent charts. In 2009, the album received a nomination at the 40th Dove Awards, as did the Flame song "Joyful Noise", which featured Lecrae and John Reilly. 2009 also saw Lecrae's first film role, when he appeared in the documentary Uprise Presents: Word from the Street by the UK-based TV channel OHTV.
On February 5, 2010, Lecrae released a charity single entitled "Far Away", a tribute to the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Lecrae promised that all proceeds from the single's sales would go directly to the Haiti relief effort.
On July 7, Lecrae announced on the Reach Records website that the title of his new album would be Rehab. On August 5, 2010, Rapzilla shared a new song from Lecrae called "Amp It Up". Lecrae subsequently clarified on his Twitter account that the song was not a single from Rehab, but rather a theme song for Kanakuk Kamps, a chain of Christian camps for which he writes songs annually. On August 31, 2010, Reach Records revealed the track list for Rehab, released it for preorder, and premiered a promotional video "Idols". A second promotional video, entitled "I Am Dust", debuted on September 9, 2010. Upon its release, Rehab hit No. 16 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it one of the highest selling Christian hip hop albums at that time.
On September 22, 2010, Rapzilla reported that the Rehab packaging came with an advertisement encouraging buyers to purchase another upcoming album, Rehab: The Overdose, which saw release on January 11, 2011. It included 11 new songs and featured several other Christian artists such as Thi'sl and Swoope. Rehab: The Overdose debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200. On August 29, 2011, Lecrae announced through Twitter that on September 27, 2011, he would release a special edition of Rehab, entitled Rehab: Deluxe Edition. On the same day, 116 Clique released their fourth album, entitled Man Up.
On September 7, 2011, Rapzilla announced that Lecrae would be featured on the BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher on October 11, 2011. Lecrae gained popularity after his verse on the cypher trended nationwide on Twitter and was featured on AllHipHop. Lecrae then appeared as a feature on Statik Selektah's song "Live and Let Live" from his Population Control album.
On February 16, 2012, Rapzilla announced that Lecrae was preparing to release his first mixtape, Church Clothes. On May 3, 2012, Lecrae premiered his music video for the title track of his Church Clothes mixtape online on XXL. The video was noted for including cameos by Kendrick Lamar and DJ Premier, and attracted almost 20,000 views in less than a day. Hosted by Don Cannon, the mixtape featured the song Darkest Hour, in which Lecrae collaborated with No Malice of Clipse. Church Clothes was downloaded more than 100,000 times in less than 48 hours on DatPiff.com, and in less than a month reached 250,000 downloads, a platinum rating on the website. On June 25, 2012, a remastered version of the mixtape, without DJ Don Cannon, was released as an EP for sale on iTunes. Due to issues with sampling, this version was much shorter with only seven songs. Upon its release, the EP debuted on the Billboard charts at No. 10 on both the Christian Albums and Gospel Albums charts for the week of July 14, 2012.
On April 27, Lecrae announced that his next album, Gravity, was to be released in late 2012, and recording sessions began in May. On June 21, 2012 Lecrae appeared live at the Apple Store in Chicago for Black Music Month. The release date for Gravity, September 4, 2012, as well as the album artwork was announced on July 19, 2012 via Rapzilla.
On August 30, 2012, the rapper Saigon announced that Lecrae would be one of the featured artists on his upcoming album The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread and Circuses, due November 6, 2012.
Gravity was released on September 4, 2012 to critical acclaim. Upon its release, Gravity debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, with 72,000 units sold. The album also debuted at No. 1 on the Christian, Gospel, Independent, and Rap Album charts, No. 3 on the Digital Albums chart, and 24 on the Canadian Albums Chart. After the iTunes deluxe version of the album hit No. 1 on that vendors charts, and the regular version at number No. 2, Time wrote an article about Lecrae and his success with the album.
On November 7, 2013, Lecrae released his second mixtape, entitled Church Clothes Vol. 2, hosted once again by Don Cannon. The mixtape debuted at No. 21 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Albums and Gospel Albums charts, and No. 3 on the Rap Albums chart. On Datpiff.com, the album was download over 146,000 times by November 26, 2013.
On June 3, 2014 Lecrae announced through social media that his seventh studio album would be titled Anomaly. The album released on September 9, 2014. It is supported by the single "Nuthin". It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with over 88,000 copies sold through the first week. It is the first time an album tops both the Billboard 200 and the Gospel Albums chart. Lecrae also became the fifth artist following Chris Tomlin (2013), TobyMac (2012), LeAnn Rimes (1997) and Bob Carlisle (1997) to score a number one album on both Christian Albums and the Billboard 200. Anomaly also marks the sixth time that Lecrae topped the Gospel Albums chart and the fifth time he topped the Christian Albums chart. In its second week of sales, the album sold 31,000 copies, bringing the total to 120,000 copies sold. In its third week of sales, the album sold another 17,000 copies, bringing the total to 137,000 copies. Anomaly went on to sell over 500,000 copies, and was certified Gold by the RIAA on August 26, 2016. As a reward to fans for their support in helping his album go No. 1 on Billboard, Lecrae released a new song, "Non-Fiction", as a free download on September 17. The song was subsequently released on October 21, 2014 in the iTunes store.
To promote Anomaly, on September 18, 2014, Lecrae appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, performing alongside The Roots, the program's house band. He made a subsequent appearance the following year, on January 9, 2015, this time as a featured performer. On January 15, 2016, Lecrae released his third mixtape Church Clothes 3. The mixtape debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Christian, Rap, and Independent charts, selling some 29,207 units.
In August 2015, Lecrae announced an upcoming memoir titled Unashamed, which on May 3, 2016 was published through B&H Publishing Group, a subsidiary of LifeWay Christian Resources. It opened at No. 19 on The New York Times Best Seller list. In May 2016, Lecrae signed to Columbia Records, which will release future recordings in conjunction with Reach. Lecrae explained that he signed this deal in order to increase the international audience for Reach, since his label peaked nationally with the release of Anomaly. In September 2016, Reach Records announced Lecrae's upcoming tour schedule, The Destination Tour (You're Accepted), which will run through October and November. On October 21, 2016, Lecrae released the single "Can't Stop Me Now (Destination)", the lead single from his upcoming studio album. On January 27, 2017 he released his single "Blessings" featuring Ty Dolla Sign. Lecrae followed this up by releasing a new song "I'll Find You" featuring Tori Kelly on June 8, 2017. Then, on June 23, 2017, he released another new song "Hammer Time" featuring 1K Phew. On August 7, 2017, Lecrae announced his eighth studio album, All Things Work Together, his major label debut.
Lecrae's musical genre is predominantly Southern hip hop, and has been described as falling under the styles of crunk, gangsta rap, and hardcore hip hop. On his third release, Rebel, Lecrae slowed down his style on many songs. Rehab was noted for its stylistic diversity, particularly on the song "Children of the Light", which featured Dillavou and Sonny Sandoval and incorporated rock, and reggae influences. With the release Gravity, Billboard described Lecrae as incorporating reggae and soul influences into his "signature brash sound."
Regarding which musical artists have influenced him, Lecrae, in an interview with Essence, cited Tupac, Nas, DJ Quik, Scarface, and The Cross Movement. In an interview with The Christian Post, Lecrae listed his top favorite five hip hop artists as Tupac, Nas, The Ambassador, Snoop Dogg, and, though for his business approach rather than his music, Jay Z. Lecrae also names Outkast and Lauryn Hill as major influences, particularly their albums Aquemini and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, respectively, and considers Hill's song "Adam Lives in Theory" as the top song that nourishes him spiritually. In the song "Non-Fiction", he lists the Tunnel Rats alongside The Cross Movement as an influence when he was newly converted to Christianity. Theologically, Lecrae follows the Reformed tradition of theology and is considered an influential figure in the New Calvinist movement. He cites Tommy Nelson, John MacArthur, and John Piper, among others, as early influences on his Christian faith, and Lecrae even titled one of his hit songs, "Don't Waste Your Life", after the book of the same name by Piper. Lecrae explains that through Nelson, MacArthur, and Piper, he subsequently discovered Spurgeon, Calvin, and Francis Schaeffer, the last of whom Lecrae calls his "personal hero". Other theologians cited by Lecrae include Tim Keller, Andy Crouch, Randy Alcorn, and Abraham Kuyper. He also looks to Martin Luther King, Jr. for inspiration on working out faith in social issues.
He frequently tells the press that "My music is not Christian, Lecrae is." He told Miami New Times's Crossfade that "I think Christian is a wonderful noun, but a terrible adjective. Are there Christian shoes, Christian clothes, Christian plumbers, Christian pipes? I think if you're going to, you should label it hip-hop... hip-hop is a particular poetic style. Labeling it with the faith assumes that the song is going to be some kind of sermon, but there's a lot of social and political things that I don't think make it gospel or Christian music." He also stated, "I like to wrap my mind around a total situation. I'm a social anthropologist. If I never been homeless, let me try to be homeless for a week and soak up that information. More like a method actor. So for me it's spending time with people and talking about things from their perspective."
Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin recommended Lecrae and Hillsong in an interview when asked about his pre-game music. Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and professional wrestler Ezekiel Jackson have also endorsed Lecrae. During March 2014, Lecrae signed a ten-day contract with the Atlanta Hawks, and on April 4, 2014, he performed live at Philips Arena after the Hawks game. "Dum Dum," a song by Tedashii featuring Lecrae, was used on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Lecrae also created the theme song for a new ESPN SportsCenter block called "Coast to Coast".
In 2011, 116 Clique and ReachLife Ministries, both headed by Lecrae, launched a media campaign entitled Man Up, intended to mentor male urban youths on fatherhood and biblical manhood. It features concert tours and a curriculum centered on a short film and a studio album, both titled Man Up, and since 2012 has also featured a string of conference events.
In May 2013, Lecrae partnered with NBA player Dwyane Wade, filmmaker Art Hooker, and Joshua DuBois, the former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under the Obama administration, to create the national media campaign This Is Fatherhood, an initiative "devoted to restoring America's commitment to healthy fatherhood." The campaign began on May 1 with a "This is Fatherhood Challenge", in which contestants could submit videos, songs, and essays about fatherhood through June 10. The winners received cash prizes and a trip to Washington, D.C., for a ceremony on Father's Day. In addition, Lecrae offered studio time and mentoring to the grand prize winner. Lecrae, Wade, DuBois, Jay Z, and U.S. President Barack Obama all made appearances in the campaign's promotional public service announcements.
Lecrae has also contributed op-ed articles to Billboard dealing with race relations in the United States, including the 2014 Ferguson unrest, 2015 Charleston church shooting, and 2016 shootings of Alton Stirling, Philando Castile, and six Dallas police officers. In these articles, Lecrae has called for understanding and empathy across racial divides and willingness to listen to the oppressed, and also pointed out the need for spiritual healing through Jesus Christ. In mid 2016, Lecrae did a talk about racial reconciliation at Yale University, titled "Knowledge through Narrative: Bridging the Racial Divide in America". He also spoke on hip hop culture at a Nashville TEDx conference, decrying the misogyny and violence rampant in much of hip hop's lyrics but advocating for hip hop to be used as an agent for social change. At the 2016 BET Hip Hop Awards, Lecrae performed an original composition addressing racial injustice in the United States, referencing the shooting of Philando Castile. On October 20, 2016, Lecrae wrote in The Huffington Post that he has been struggling with depression and doubt, which was partly caused by the backlash he received from many American evangelicals who are critical of his public stance on race-related issues.
Lecrae currently resides in Atlanta since relocating there from Memphis in 2009, and is married to Darragh Moore. The couple has three children together. Lecrae is a graduate of University of North Texas. In an interview with Hip Hop DX, Lecrae stated that Clipse member No Malice sought him out as a spiritual advisor.
Canada Christian College bestowed an honorary Doctorate of Music to Lecrae on March 14, 2016 while visiting Toronto, making him the youngest recipient of such a degree from the college.Real Talk (2004)After the Music Stops (2006)Rebel (2008)Rehab (2010)Rehab: The Overdose (2011)Gravity (2012)Anomaly (2014)All Things Work Together (2017)Self-release – Real Talk (2004) - Executive producer with John K. Wells, Ben Washer, and Chris Carreker01. "Souled Out"02. "We Don't"03. "Aliens"05. "Represent"07. "Take Me As I Am"09. "Nothin'"11. "Who U WIt"13. "Wait Intro"14. "Wait"Json – The Seasoning (2005) - co-produced with So Hot Productions and C.I.Self-release – After the Music Stops (2006)10. "The King"16. "Unashamed"Trip Lee – If They Only Knew (2006) - co-produced with DJ Official, Tony Stone, Mac the Doulous, So Hot ProductionsTedashii – Kingdom People (2006) - Executive producer with Ben Washer02. "Houston We Have a Problem"04. "Off Da Hook"09. "Lifestyle"15. "No More"19. "In Ya Hood (Cypha Remix)"Sho Baraka – Turn My Life Up(2007) - co-produced with Bobby Taylor, DJ Official, BenJah, and So Hot ProductionsSelf-release – Rebel (2008)09. "Change"Self-release – Gravity (2012) - Executive producerSelf-release – Anomaly (2014) - Executive producer
Lecrae has won many music awards over the space of his career, including two Grammy Awards and seven Dove Awards. In 2013, he became the first hip hop artist to win the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album, which was awarded to his sixth album, Gravity, and in 2015 became the first rapper to win the BET Award for Best Gospel Artist.