Has Christian hip-hop seen anything like Lecrae before? I don’t mean his talent or his level of success. I mean has CHH ever had an artist that was as polarizing as he is? It’s fascinating to see develop. Lecrae is criticized harshly (some say overly harsh) or praised (some say overly praised) for literally everything he does or says. It seems almost as if fans of the genre are split on how they feel. Debates pop up often on what he does or says, or what he doesn’t do or say. It’s even gotten to the point where anytime an artist speaks on success, CHH, mainstream music or anything around those topics, the perception is that they’re “dissing” Lecrae.
Lecrae has seemingly done a fair job at not feeding into it, and moving how he believes he should move. This however has not stopped him from being such a polarizing figure. Right in the middle of this, Lecrae releases the second installment of the much talked about mixtape series Church Clothes. This will follow up a mixtape that got rave reviews from fans all across the hip-hop spectrum. It also took its fair share of hits (those mainly coming for CHH fans).
Church Clothes was the record where fans got attached to “the new Lecrae,” and used as evidence to say he changed. Others saw it as growth and progression in CHH. The unfortunate part of it all (other than the Christian in fighting) was the music was mainly overshadowed. I was very fearful of the same thing happening with Church Clothes 2.
Handling the hype
I don’t think there is ever a good time for Lecrae to put out a record. Expectations are just too high for him. He’s been so successful over his career and he’s been a part of so many classic things that the expectation is that he’ll just top it. The standard is even higher now because everything he does is done under a microscope. It’s pretty unfair that we set this standard, a ultra high standard, for him. Either way, the standard is there.
There are few artists that handle expectations as good as Crae does. No matter how high the bar is, he always finds a way to reach it (pun intended). Church Clothes 2 was the exception. The hype and expectation was just too big. There was so much surrounding this record; it was almost impossible for Lecrae to live up to the hype. Lecrae did a lot of great things, but as a whole, the record fell short of my expectations.
There is no doubt that Lecrae is one of the best rappers in all of CHH, and he’s been at the top for a long time now. One thing that has always impressed me about him is that he always finds a way to get better. Each record that Lecrae has put out has had him improve in some facet. Church Clothes 2 is no different. Even after all he’s done; he still found a way to become a better artist with this record. His artistry was amazing on Church Clothes 2 and quite frankly, it was some of the best he’s ever had. Lecrae is also a better and more consistent lyricist as well. He has been steadily improving in this area with each record, so I saw this coming. It was still a privilege to see him grow into a very strong lyricist on this album though.
For me, Lecrae’s lyricism was the highest of all the high points. The other high points came through individual tracks and collaborations. I loved “Misconception Pt. 2” with the Collision Records’ W.L.A.K. crew. The track was definitely the highlight of the album, as it displayed a great amount of lyricism. I also loved the classic “Lecrae-hype” song “I’m Turnt.” I really enjoyed the David Banner produced and Paul Wall assisted “Let It Whip.” These tracks are just a few of some of the tracks Lecrae really shined on and just a couple of the many high points on Church Clothes 2.
For all the high points on Church Clothes 2, there were still some low points. But, there weren’t as many as he’s had on past records. The first thing that jumped out to me and really bothered me was DJ Don Cannon. I understand that he’s the #1 co-signer and that he gives some credibility to Lecrae in the mainstream arena. But to me, he was annoying. I didn’t know what he was talking about most of the time, nor was very much of what he said relevant to the song. His absence alone is worth the $9.99 on iTunes.
There were also some collaborations and songs that didn’t come together and left me wondering why they made the record. The inclusion of “Round of Applause” featuring B.o.B. was baffling to me for a couple of reasons. First, the song itself is pretty old. Secondly, Lecrae and B.O.B. didn’t mesh well together. Thirdly, B.O.B.’s verse was sub-par.
Also the track “The Fever” didn’t come together well for me either. “The Fever” didn’t fit the overall sound of the record and as weird as this may sound, the collaboration between Andy, Lecrae and Papa San seemed forced. Most records have a few glitches, so this isn’t surprising. The glitches on Church Clothes 2 weren’t huge nor did they take away from the overall experience. It was still a pretty good album.
What I Took Away
My take away from Church Clothes 2 was less about the record itself and more about what the record represented. This record proved to me the Lecrae is the perfect artist to carry the banner for CHH (whether he’s willing to claim it or not). He has the charisma to do it and he has the talent to go along with it. A lot has been said about Lecrae over the past few years, and he’s been accused of watering down his message and compromising. I don’t see it. Church Clothes 2 has a solid and strong Christian message. It’s different than the old Lecrae, but that guy is gone and the new Lecrae still has a strong Christian message. There’s no doubt that Church Clothes 2 is heavily influenced and motivated by Christ. All of this makes Crae the perfect guy to crossover.
Overall, this is a good record. I wouldn’t file it into the “great” category, but it’s a solid effort from Lecrae. He had great moments but as a whole, it was just good. Lecrae’s mission has always been bigger than the music and I think this record is no different. Its impact will stretch far and wide. No matter how polarizing he is or what you think of his current ministry, Lecrae has brought forth another impactful and solid record. That, I think we can all agree on, but it is Lecrae, so we probably won’t.
Click Here to download the DJ Don Canon version of Church Clothes 2 for free.
Click Here to buy the non-DJ Version of Church Clothes 2