by Chris Burton
As mentioned on STCDNW, Lecrae’s third album Rebel changed my life. Prior to its release, I didn’t really get down with Christian Hip-Hop. Seems only right to make this the first revisiting review I have posted here. Read below for a track by track review that captures what I was thinking when I first heard the album, how I feel about it now, and using the advantage of hindsight to see the album’s impact on the artist and his effect on the culture.
We start with a weird juxtaposition of Jesus rebelling against the establishment and Lecrae rebelling against the cool. Hip-hop works as a great delivery method of the gospel because both were created with the least of these in mind. Rappers and Christians both have an oppositional identity and a confidence that goes against the norms of the day.
Christian Hip-Hop at this point seems not quite out of the “Jesus Freak” phase that rejects the cool kids.
I think much of the backlash that Lecrae experiences now is a part of a culture that he helped create. This track tells me to forget the world, they won’t accept you anyway so why try. If I’m a long time fan of this brother’s music, do I feel betrayed when I see him on 106 and Park or Rock the Bells?
Don’t Waste Your Life
The opus!!! I consider this the greatest video in Christian Hip-Hop history.
I’m also a huge fan of this song. It’s probably my favorite song by Lecrae which I know is like saying your favorite Michael Jackson album is Thriller but there’s a reason why this song was so successful. This isn’t just a great CHH song but it deserves to be in the hip-hop canon. If aliens needed to know what rap was, or a distant dystopia wanted to know how their forefathers expressed themselves, I would be unashamed to include this in the time capsule.
Quick aside: Where is Dwayne?! Dwayne Tryumf had an excellent, quasi-Renegade like verse on this record, dropped a fantastic album, a promising video to lead to a live album in Summer 2012 and then…silence. The game needs you fam! Where you at?
The transition into this record is so satisfying. Upcoming emcees and producers have got to pay attention to details like this. Seamless transition, maintaining the pace of the record. It’s chess, not checkers.
Crae kicks the listener in the chest with those opening lyrics.
Lord kill me if I don’t preach the gospel/
I’m only in my twenties but I’ll die if I got to
I’d be hardpressed to find lyrics that are more committed than this. Dude is clearly ten toes deep in this walk.
Couple that intensity with the good brother Tedashii and you’ve got a healthy conduit for your aggression. Which I appreciate.
I don’t like my rap all insecure and wet potato bread like. Sometimes you just need to Leonidas your problems down a well.
When I taught faith studies I made this my theme music for a whole year. My 5th graders loved this joint! Kids will be quick to tell you if something is corny or not and the fact that they never got tired of this joint tells me a lot. Positive message and all that. Can’t beat it.
My homie Nick George volunteered to follow Miley Cyrus around for a month playing this song like Radio Raheem or that joker in High Fidelity
This is the saved version of DMX’s “Damien” records.
It asks the timeless question: Why don’t Jesus and Hennessy go good together?
Breathin’ to Death
Song is mad dramatic!
Gets a little sleepy but Crae sounds super desperate. This is some sanctified thirst.
I’m a sucker for rap songs that use the organ effectively.
This i song makes me think Lecrae used to listen to a lot of 2Pac. His intensity is coupled with a clear minded apologist flow. His passion is there but it’s controlled. It’s one of those wonderful moments where you hear someone sound intelligent and relatable. I love hearing brothers say some smart stuff that just confounds the bigotry of this world. Ahh refreshing!
This record should have an altar call on it.
It’s clear that they drank mad lemon juice before they recorded. Might be a good thing they put a track in between this and breathin’ to death. Mess around and get dehydrated listening to this.
I thank God for this song. Was afraid that the album was getting sleepy.
The song knocks as he tells you that you are wasting time. Another example of the urgency Lecrae frequently displays on this album. Got the feeling that Lecrae felt like Jesus is coming back next Tuesday.
It is clear that Trip Lee spent a significant time in Scarface’s basement listening to T.I mixtapes. It’s always exciting to hear an emcee make the leap and Trip is almost there with this record. (He takes another leap on 2010’s Between Two Worlds and is lightyears away on 2012’s The Good Life.)
This is right at the cusp of beats getting really good in Christian Hip-Hop.
One of the main detractions from CHH is that the beat selection would make Nas cringe. I feel like this album provided the sub-genre the necessary tipping point that has ushered in the current golden age of production it is now flourishing in. Yes, you still have producers who are chasing the cool with faux epic beats from Rick Ross’ cutting room floor but for the most part this is an age of artistry that is making CHH get well deserved acclaim.
JUST AS I WAS COMPLEMENTING THE BEAT SELECTION!
It’s like they made this song for the sole purpose of clearing the floor at an 8th grade dance.
Thankfully, Jai and Sho Baraka save this record from the abyss.
When Lions and Liars came out in 2010 I proclaimed that Sho Baraka was worthy of being in the conversation of best rapper alive. The homie Nick George, as we allude to on STCDNW, made the case for Lecrae as the best out of the 116 clique. I couldn’t receive it. Admittedly this is because I associated Crae with every cornball Christian who disparaged secular rap and hoisted him as the example of excellence. This, my friends, is not only throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it is hating. It’s only a testament to how excellent Rebel is. Even a reformed hater like me had to take notice and admit that this brother gets busy.
This is what the kids call a filler track.
Songs like this make me feel bad when I pray for money.*
BUT I appreciate it for its time capsule value. I feel like the brother who recorded this song would not listen to Church Clothes and feel comfortable.
It’s funny, a lot of people place a premium on authenticity but undervalue growth. Could it be that as Lecrae has grown in his walk he has found less need to condemn all things secular? I think it’s a mark of new believers to make all things worldly taboo but it strikes me as silly. I get it. When I was in 8th grade I got convicted by a sermon and threw my entire music collection (over 200 CDs at the time) away.** But if we aren’t to have ANYTHING to do with the world, where do we draw the line? Should I only watch Christian movies and read Christian books? How about Christian newspapers and magazines? News, weather and sports? At what point would I realize that although I am not of this world, I am still in this world and have to engage it on some level. It’s not compromising, it’s being realistic.
Furthermore, what are we doing if we don’t engage the world. How you gonna convict them if you don’t even acknowledge them? And who’s gonna listen to someone who only comes around to tell them how wrong they are?
I’m a Saint
One time for Gladiator Theme Music!!!
Why am I surprised to hear this much energy at the end of the album? Not tryna start nothing but methinks he’s taking shots at Creflo.***
Attacking megachurches and the prosperity gospel crowd is such low hanging fruit. Are there elements within the culture that I find problematic? Sure. But rather than disparaging folks and calling them wolves and all that, there’s gotta be a better way to correct our brothers and sisters in love. Go to them privately with the matter, if it doesn’t improve then go to them with other brothers and sisters, and if they still don’t get down with what you are saying, wash your hands of them and keep it moving. But you can’t do this without relationship. And you won’t get relationship by merely throwing rocks at the throne.
Solid finish to a terrific album. Smooth landing good brother, smooth landing.
*Like anyone wants to be broke?! Nah son.
** My man Bony Tony is still mad that I didn’t just give the CDs to him.
***Though, this being a review of a 5 year old album, would be the highest form of instigating if that was my goal.