Rapper defies suburban gravity

Grammy award winner’s radical lifestyle

Lecrae Moore
Lecrae Moore

Hip hop artist Lecrae stands apart from the violent drug culture of his youth.

A decade before his Grammy Award, American hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore was enthralled by guns, drugs and gangs due to the lack of positive male influences in his life.

"I spent my whole life just burdened for something, hungering for something, thirsting after something, chasing this thing that I couldn't put my finger on ultimately," Lecrae says.

By age 16, Lecrae was getting high daily and sleeping around, just like his father, who had abandoned him for a crack cocaine addiction before Lecrae was two years old.

Being a man was only "trial and error" in his neighborhood, so he looked to hip-hop on TV and radio for guidance, composed his own rap songs for "social currency" in high school, and searched for fulfillment in drugs and parties.

"I was into party promoting and selling a little drugs on the side," Lecrae remembers.

In 2002, while trespassing on a high school to invite kids to a party, Lecrae was caught with drugs by a policeman and thought he was headed for jail.

Seeing a Bible in his car given to Lecrae by his church-going grandmother, the policeman mercifully told him, "I want you to read that. I'm going to let you go, but you and that Bible need to have some business."

Feeling intrigued by this clear miracle, Lecrae investigated philosophy, ethics, logic and spiritual ideas but nothing gave him fulfillment.

"I kept coming up short. The last thing I wanted to try was Christianity. To me it was the easiest, most simplistic faith."

One night in 1998, depressed after relationship and financial issues, and about to fail school, Lecrae accepted a friend's invitation to a conference, hoping a big city experience would cure his pain.

Lecrae continues, "My mind was blown when I got there. I saw guys with bullet wounds and ex-gang members who loved Jesus. I saw people who looked, dressed, talked like me... but they were distinctly different in their affection for Jesus, their sense of purpose, and their desire to dedicate themselves to God.

Lecrae with Grammy
Lecrae with his 2012 Grammy award for best Gospel album, ‘Gravity’

"I will never forget the pastor talked about Jesus in an intense way I never thought about before. I had never just imagined Jesus as a real person, going through real things.

"He talked about Jesus being beaten and being whipped for a crime He didn't commit and the skin being ripped of His back. Then having to, in the midst of His pain, carry this cross on to this mountain of the skull and be pinned to this cross. It was so vivid and visual to me.

"Then he said, 'How dare you tough guys call my Jesus a punk? Look at what He went through!'

"Here's me, skinny 19 year old kid with all this internal struggle and insecurity and feeling of insignificance, hearing this sermon in which he says, do you not know that you have been bought with a price? Jesus paid a price for me. He lived a life that I could not live and died a death that I deserved to die.

"God loved me so much that He sent His only Son to come and die a horrific death on my behalf.

"It was as if the scales fell off. I realized how selfish and how foolish I had been, looking for fulfilment outside of the One who had created me in the first place."

That day Lecrae says he bowed in prayer and said, "I'm sorry, God, I'm sorry," but even then he admits to making more mistakes for a couple of years.

"I had lived 19 years of just craziness... it took some struggle, some sharpening. But I didn't quit and people didn't quit on me, and specifically God didn't quit on me."

After rolling his car one day, and incredibly surviving unharmed despite major damage to his vehicle, Lecrae surrendered everything to God, who he says "ultimately is my Father".

He started volunteering at a juvenile detention center, performing songs and saw the audience weep as they connected with his music.

"It hit me, this is what I wanted to do, to use music to offer hope and encouragement to people," he says.

Since his first album in 2004, Lecrae has become an international Christian hip-hop star and was awarded best gospel album for Gravity at the 2012 Grammy Awards.

From neglected boy to best-selling artist, Lecrae says "I've learned to stay close to my source of significance and to my source of worth – and that is God."

Watch Lecrae share his story at youtu.be/CycgRU1VEXI

Reasons to smile >>