History does not happen in a straight line…” –Barack Obama
While there’s no sure route to carving out a significant presence in the music industry, there’s always something to be said for remaining true to one’s self. Since arriving on the scene with his 2004 debut Real Talk, Lecrae has been occupying two different yet not entirely opposing worlds: the sacred and the profane. Which is to say that his art, not unlike his life, has been as much about inspiring the streets, and about justice, freedom, and interrogating real-world issues, as it is about his personal journey of faith. His music has long served as a call to arms for those willing to sacrifice for a cause beyond themselves. Still, he won’t be boxed in to any genre or made to serve as a poster-child for any particular agenda.
Following a host of celebrated mixtapes and LP’s, his most recent being 2017’s exemplary All Things Work Together, Lecrae returns with new music. Let the Trap Say Amen, a collaboration with acclaimed producer Zaytoven (Gucci Mane, Migos, Future), was born out of mutual respect for each other’s work. Joined by a common faith and a love for the trap, and after years of maneuvering through some of the same circles, the two Atlanta legends decided to come together. The result is a project brimming with thunderous beats, rapid-fire bars, and, as listeners have come to expect from Lecrae, vivid storytelling.
The lead single “Get Back Right” is a stark portrait of success and failure, and what can ultimately happen to our hearts when we don’t view our complex humanity through a proper lens. “Wait a minute new beginnings / I was down, now I’m winning,” he raps to great effect. The melodic and sometimes ominous production is elevated by Lecrae’s infectious charisma as he reconciles past blunders and declares his need to change for the better.
In a career that has come to defy categorization, Lecrae comes across more vigilant and self-aware than ever on Let the Trap Say Amen. “2 Sides 2 the Game,” another standout track, sees Lecrae teaming up with one of Atlanta’s best-loved sons Waka Flocka. Over Zaytoven’s monstrous trap drums, the two rappers swap captivating street tales that examine their respective family histories in the trap. It takes on an eerie tone and reflects the pure, unsullied Atlanta soundscape that has come to dominate in hip-hop; it sounds like gold grills, cookouts, and late-night rides through the city. “It’s two sides to the game and they ain’t gon’ tell it” implores Waka Flocka.
Then there are cuts like the hopeful “By Chance,” with its soothing piano loop, and the confessional “Judge Me,” which has Lecrae silencing his detractors, especially those within the church, and reaffirming his dedication to staying his course at all cost. “They condemn but don’t offend me, I’m still in His will.” It’s true that major success can become a burden for artists the world over, and for someone like Lecrae who’s been navigating these distinct environments—each which carries its own set of unwritten rules—for over a decade, perhaps even more so. But if there’s anything he’s learned over the last few years of his flourishing career, it’s to trust his vision and steer clear of those who make no effort to understand him or what it might be like to live constantly in the public eye. “I’ve seen it all, people who want you to fall / Find everything you do wrong.”
With every release, Lecrae pushes the boundaries of what’s possible for an artist who is known equally for his faith as he is for his work. On Let the Trap Say Amen, he looks at a shifting America and world through fresh eyes and emerges with a manifesto of sorts. These are trap-psalms created to expose the more inglorious aspects of life with evocative detail. That he still manages to make it fun, thanks in large part to Zaytoven’s instrumentation and haunting atmospherics, is a feat unto itself.