Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
What is there left for Lecrae to do? You could fill up notebooks with all of his accomplishments throughout his career. Even trying to list only his career-defining accomplishments would become tedious. Lecrae is the biggest artist Christian hip-hop has ever seen. He has done things that most CHH fans would have never dreamed could be done. Performing with The Roots on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” and winning GRAMMY’s are just a couple of those things. He has reached a level of crossover success that was once thought of as impossible. Lecrae gets love, and more importantly, coverage from every hip-hop outlet. He has been on with “The Breakfast Club” on Power 105.1, which is one of the most popular and respected morning radio shows in the country. He has also been on “Sway in the Morning,” another popular morning show. He has also graced many stages that were once closed to CHH artists. So I return to my original question; what is there left for Lecrae to do? The short answer is; nothing.
The release of Lecrae’s most recent record Church Clothes 3 is evidence of this. He released his 10th solo project on Thursday, January 14th around midnight as a surprise. There was no notice, promo or even a feeling that new music was coming. He followed in the footsteps of chart topping artists like Beyoncé, Drake and Miley Cyrus, who did similar things with their records. This is something you do only if you have complete confidence in yourself, your work and your fans. His high confidence level was also displayed all throughout this record.
When I reference his high confidence level, I don’t mean to get that mistaken for arrogance, because that doesn’t seem to be present anywhere in Lecrae’s music. By high confidence, I mean that he is comfortable. He is taking chances, trying things and overall just making music his way, fearlessly. This could possibly be Lecrae’s most versatile record. That would be quite the accomplishment because Lecrae is one of the most versatile artists in all of hip-hop. There is not one track anywhere on CC3 that sounds anything like any other track. Each song brings its own vibe and feel. There is the very gritty, almost Future like “I Wouldn’t Know” featuring KB, that comes off the heels of the more up-tempo, artistic and layered “Misconceptions 3.” There is also the very west coast E-40 assisted “Can’t Do You,” and the soulful “Déjà Vu.” Church Clothes 3 is truly a beautifully eclectic collection of the different hip-hop sounds that are pieced together strategically, to create a fantastically diverse but still cohesive record.
Lecrae isn’t one of the most versatile artists in hip-hop because he has a lot of different sounding tracks; it’s because he is a chameleon. He matches his flow and delivery to every track that he’s on. It’s an underrated skill but it’s one that is vital on a record like CC3. For a smooth track like “Cruising,” Lecrae has to turn down his flow a little and smooth it out to get the full potential out of the song. The result is a super smooth track that you can easily just ride to. The aforementioned “Can’t Do You” is another showcase of amazing versatility. Lecrae rides a west coast beat perfectly and brings enough swag to match a legend in his own style. He then switches to the softer “Forever,” and then to the hard hitting, more southern style of “I Wouldn’t Know.” What Lecrae does on CC3 is nothing short of incredible.
One of the more underrated elements of Lecrae as an artist is his lyrical ability. With all of the other great things that Lecrae brings to the table, like his charisma, it’s easy to overlook how strong of a lyricist he has become. But quietly, Lecrae has shown the ability to trade bars with the very best CHH has to offer. This is no more present than on “Misconceptions 3” featuring John Givez, JGivens and Jackie Hill-Perry. Lecrae has turned his “Misconception” series into one of the more exciting things in CHH. Fans still listen to the prior “Misconceptions” and eagerly anticipate upcoming “Misconceptions.” The name of the song alone carries plenty of weight, but when you add those three names, the anticipation shoots out of the stratosphere. This song doesn’t disappoint. There is enough lyricism on this track to last you a lifetime, and Lecrae more than holds his own. He provides plenty of jaw dropping bars amidst his verse including:
“We know who got the keys to the Kingdom
When the King come, crown Him
And your king dumb if his kingdom ain’t bout Him
Yeah say it with your chest, when the bishop is the king and the knight
The queen get the rest.”
“Misconceptions 3” isn’t the only track where Lecrae shinned lyrically. It shinned very bright on the Propaganda assisted “Gangland.” Lecrae used his 32 bars to drop knowledge about a subject matter that most don’t really know about. He navigates the difficulty of talking about the gang culture in urban communities with the beauty and aggression needed to get us to listen. On “Freedom,” Lecrae keeps his backpack on and spits a barrage of wonderfully insightful bars. He addresses the topic of what freedom is for blacks in America, in a way that inspires everyone who still believes in freedom.
“I’m out here chasin’ this freedom
They out here choppin’ my feet off
And if they catch me I’m toby, but I ain’t bout to believe it
King Kunta, or King of coonin’, or Kenan & Kel
Rather rot in a jail cell than be up in hell, well.”
This is a side of Lecrae that has been showing itself in small doses over the past few years. With these bars on that track, it is now fully developed and it’s awe-inspiring. Church Clothes 3 is Lecrae’s best and most consistent lyrical performance.
And though we were all used to having “The No. 1 Co-signer” DJ Don Cannon on the previous mixtapes, I don’t think his absence on CC3 took away from the series.
All in all, this record is sure to live up to the hype that surrounds Lecrae. Even those who attack his message will have to pause because Lecrae leaves little theological nuggets all throughout this mixtape. It is nothing like the early Lecrae message, but that guy is long gone, and this new Lecrae has found the perfect balance. He stays relevant with those outside of the church and still inspires those inside the church. There is a message on this record that different people from different walks of life can all enjoy. Church Clothes 3 also has staying power. This is a record that you can sit with, live with, and grow with. It has tracks for every mood and mindset. There are elements of it to chew on and tracks to just ride to. From beginning to end, this record is incredible. Lecrae is the best he has ever been because he feels more comfortable than he has ever been. This is a record that should be celebrated in all of hip-hop.