The intro of the much anticipated 2016 released book Unashamed gives us a brief glance of Lecrae attending the Grammy’s and his appearance at Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Roc Nation Party. Since most of us will never touch foot on the carpet rolled out to be graced by Louboutins or eat hors-d’oeuvres on the same silver platter Jay-Z and Beyonce ate from this is some pretty exciting stuff! In the past, Lecrae had won “Best Gospel Album” and “Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance” but this time, he was up for a title that didn’t hint at anything religious- “Best Rap Performance.”
Yet he didn’t fit in.
Sure he was nominated without the Christian title, yet it became all too apparent that those in the “biz” couldn’t forget the Christian factor.
“In nearly every interview I do with the media, people struggle to talk about my actual music. Instead, they want to know if I smoke or drink or cuss.”
Lecrae also mentions “that part of being human means not fitting in and the only solution is learning to look to God for ultimate recognition.”
And so begins Lecrae’s story.
The Urban Outlier
Lecrae candidly speaks about “Daddy issues” and the hole subsequently left by an absent father as well as the highly sensitive topic of sexual abuse. From the pages, we get a taste of the ache inside of Lecrae to find belonging. He was able to find that belonging to the hip-hop culture where father issues were widely set in lyrical fashion and put to a good beat. Yet his newfound skill in music as well as gaining a substitute yet intangible father in the hip-hop community wasn’t enough. Lecrae further talks about his journey to faith, his life-changing stint in rehab, and his early years as a Christian with embarrassingly dogmatic words. I’m glad he was so forthright in his initial years as a Christian, trying to figure out the truth yet with a tongue that hurt. How many of us have been there yet want to hide those days away?
One of the most striking features of the book is Lecrae’s stance on still living an unashamed life. If you didn’t know already, Lecrae has taken many pot-shots from Christians labeling him as a “sell-out” for venturing beyond the Christian sub-culture. 116 was a brand Lecrae created from the Romans 1:16 verse, proudly exclaiming his life unashamed of the Gospel. But was he still living the same unashamed walk? That was the question from many fans who were creating a backlash from his noticeable change wanted to know. Lecrae goes through the journey in the pages describing the hurt from the bitter turn from many fans and also what seemed to be a tinge of regret for not cluing some of them into his motivations. Lecrae in detail explains his switch in genre and the mediating influences (one surprisingly being a Francis Schaeffer biography).
One critique I do have of the book is Lecrae’s stance on becoming a culture shaper without speaking about the Gospel. I very much understand the need to build bridges in our secular/post-Christian/post-modern culture through the means of pre-evangelism techniques that are conveyed in such a way that we use the cultural references itself to build bridges. Yet, the Apostle Paul used this culture-bridging technique in the secularized Athens in Acts 17 by reaching them with secular poets, but he still did so in a manner where he eventually shared the Gospel. Point in case: I think we as Christians who happen to be humans can tend to go to extremes on this topic of reaching the culture. We can either go to the extreme of reaching someone with the Gospel without attempting to reach them in their cultural reference, or we can omit the Gospel and only think it’s necessary for us and everyone else to use cultural bridges without ever sharing with them the message of Christ.
We’ve listened to Lecrae’s music for over five years now so we thoroughly enjoyed reading a book on someone we’ve been listening to in the car for years. But even if someone hasn’t been a fan or even heard the name Lecrae, his story holds merit as an intriguing autobiography of the uniqueness of the urban culture, the pain of fatherlessness and sexual abuse, as well as a portrait of a man who wishes to be a culture shaper.
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I received this book for free from B&H and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”