Rapper and Christian evangelist Lecrae Moore recently spoke on some of the difficulty he has had with both Christians and non-Christians in balancing his faith and producing music that has been traditionally considered "worldly."
"There's always somebody saying one or the other about me," said Moore, typically referred to by his first name, commenting on being called "too Christian" or "too pagan." The married father added that he has "definitely had some sleepless nights and some long conversations" in trying to balance his faith and career as a hip-hop artist.
The subject was raised by Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources, in an interview with Lecrae broadcast online Monday on Ed Stetzer's "The Exchange," a program featuring in-depth conversations with Christian leaders.
"As far as the world is concerned, it's mostly pre-conceived ideas of what I'm about. So they haven't really investigated enough to know how Christian it is or what it is that's gonna happen," the Atlanta rapper added.
"On the Christian side, there's a sense of like, 'See, Lecrae is falling off, he's getting worldly. I heard him do this song, he's performing at this place ...,'" he explained, giving examples of the kind of criticism he might receive on social media.
Having spoken numerous times on the subject of overcoming the concept some have of a secular-sacred divide — the belief that Christians should avoid certain secular areas and activities — Lecrae shared with Geiger that his model for ministry is the Apostle Paul and his ministry activities as recorded in the Bible.
"I'm a big fan of just looking at Paul in Acts and him in the marketplace, but in the synagogue as well. Him mixing it up out there in the culture and knowing who their modern-day poets were and their speakers and philosophers and being able to integrate their ideals and values in his talks as he tries to preach Christ to them," said Lecrae.
The 33-year-old rapper believes he, and other Christians, can impact culture simply by being engaged and demonstrating what "redemption has done" in a Christian's life, instead of creating sub-cultures or living life in a bubble.
The conversation also touched on a comment Lecrae previously made in response to whether he views himself as a Christian rapper: "I am a Christian. I am a rapper. But Christian is my faith, not my genre."
Saying he knows such a statement "goes against the grain of cultural Christianity," Lecrae told Geiger: "We have to be careful with terms like 'Christian' and 'Gospel.'" He suggested that limiting those labels to simply a genre of music does a "disservice" to the Christian message of salvation in Jesus Christ.
"Christian is an identifying mark. It says I identify myself with Christ, I'm a follower of Christ," he emphasized. "I'd rather you not put the tag or the label 'Christian' on me (simply) because I say so." The rapper added that he welcomes the title "Christian" being applied to him if his character warrants it, but not simply because of the type of music he creates.
As for the kind of responses he has received from mainstream, or non-Christian rappers in the industry, Lecrae said, "I think there are some who respect it. A lot of people respect that I'm willing to be authentic and willing to be real" in keeping elements of his faith in the music.
"I really don't feel like I have anything to lose. I'm being authentic, and my strength is in the Gospel and my strength is in the Lord to allow me to be exactly who I am," he said.
"There's a distaste in the mouths of some, but it's not because I'm obnoxious or because I'm not gracious. It's just because in many people's minds they've just never seen Christ in hip-hop. So some rappers or some people in the hip-hop world are like, 'What are you doing here? I know you've got to be corny or inauthentically hip-hop because we've never seen this before.'"
Lecrae shared that he believes he has impacted some of the secular artists he has been able to work with, and has made "inroads" with those in the industry who have listened to his music.
"There are some albums that have come out this year that are vastly different, and I say it's a testament to myself and my counterparts just being involved in these guys' lives and trying to share our hope with them, our faith with them," he said.
The Atlanta rapper, who also does ministry work through ReachLife Ministries, an extension of Reach Records, became in February the first Christian recording artist to win a Grammy Award in the Best Gospel Album category, due to his 2012 record Gravity.
"To me it's a testament of years of laboring to break down barriers in music and culture," Lecrae told The Christian Post at the time in response to his Grammy win. "Hopefully people will listen and understand what I do creatively and how my faith is a part of who I am, not a genre."
Lecrae's interview on "The Exchange" can be viewed in full online at http://vimeo.com/67132216.