Lecrae, one of the most popular Christian hip-hop artists in the industry, releases his sixth studio album, Gravity, to much anticipation. And he doesn’t disappoint.
This project is a masterful collection of 15 tracks (more, if you grab the deluxe version at iTunes) of hard-hitting, life-giving music. Aside from the recent release of his Church Clothes mixtape in May of 2012 (it’s been dubbed “feather-ruffling”), Gravity marks Lecrae’s first full album since the chart-topper’s career-elevating Rehab and Rehab: The Overdose released in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Gravity fittingly opens with the dramatic strings-laden “The Drop,” before moving to the title track, featuring J.R. on its free-falling, ethereal chorus. It’s a perfect beginning to an opus that goes on to honestly yet graciously deal with the weighty stuff of life.
Of the album’s theme, Lecrae has said that the aptly titled Gravity is intended “to bring people back down to Earth.” Combatting most people’s preoccupation with escaping the realities of life, Lecrae highlights that our circumstances are no cause for despair or delusion; they can fuel us toward the hope of a life transformed by Jesus Christ.
Standouts on the project include “Walk With Me,” an honest nod to the drama of real issues, bolstered by the soulful throwback crooning of mainstream rapper/singer/songwriter Novel. The tune transitions seamlessly into the need-for-an-escape lyrics of “Free From It All,” featuring Mathai, who turned heads as an acclaimed vocalist on season two of NBC’s “The Voice.”
Not one to ever really beat around the lyrical bush, Lecrae teams up with Thi’sl on the bold and in-your-face “Fakin’,” calling out self-proclaimed “somebodies” as fakers in view of the supremacy of Christ. “Tell the World” contains perhaps the album’s most overt call to collectively step up our witness game, as Mali Music chants on the chorus “I’ma tell it everywhere I go... yeah, I’m a billboard.”
And don’t miss the hard-hitting “Mayday,” a mid-tempo cut featuring noted rapper/producer Big K.R.I.T. As if the lyrics and almost melancholy chord progressions weren’t drenched with enough passion, former American Idol finalist Ashthon Jones’ heart-wrenching vocal makes the song a highlight of the album.
One remarkable strength of Gravity is the inclusion of such a variety of guest artists. Featuring Reach Records label-mates Trip Lee, PRo and Sho Baraka, along with popular (but still underexposed) vocalists like Rudy Currence (“Lucky Ones”), Lecrae presents a little something for everyone. Still, as universally appealing as the music is, the message is unchanging – as it should be.
To be certain, Gravity is other-level, and not simply because of the quality of music. It’s difficult to even slap a “Christian music” label on it without second-guessing whether it belongs in the “hip-hop” bin. Lecrae’s Gravity is just as obviously the music of a Christian as it is an album for the hip-hop community. And of that tension, he should be proud.
“I’m authentically hip-hop, but I’m authentically Christian,” Lecrae has shared. “It’s not like I’m trying to force faith, or forcing hip-hop. It’s just who I am.”