This Is What Happens When Hip-Hop Lets The Saints In

lecrae1-300x450This was up today on Huffington Post, very good read.

A who’s who of conservative celebrities gathered in November in Asheville, N.C., to honor and praise Billy Graham, the famed Christian evangelist, on the occasion of his 95th birthday. Inside the hotel ballroom, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin rubbed elbows with Rupert Murdoch, Glenn Beck, Greta van Susteren and Rick Warren.

“Billy Graham, we need you around another 95 years,” Palin said. “We need Billy Graham’s message to be heard, I think, today more than ever.”

At one of the head tables, right next to Kathie Lee Gifford, sat a 34-year-old rapper who looked out of place among the mostly older, white VIPs. Lecrae Moore had not been raised a Christian, and had not grown up listening to Graham preach. His childhood role models had been rappers like Tupac, and he had spent his teenage years running the streets.

But Lecrae — who was featured in Graham’s recent “final sermon” video — has also become an ambassador for Christendom. His delivery is just a bit different.

Over the last several years, Lecrae has become a successful rap artist with a rare message that is explicitly Christian. His 2008 album “Rebel” became the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel chart, and his 2012 record “Gravity” won a Grammy for best Gospel album. He has also become a staple of the Christian music festival circuit, headlining concerts in front of thousands of fans.

But over the past two years, Lecrae has been trying to break out of what he calls the “Christian ghetto,” to some success. He was part of last year’s Rock the Bells tour with Wu-Tang Clan, Common, Black Hippy and J Cole; has become a regular guest on BET’s “106 & Park” and has recorded songs with artists such as Pete Rock, Big Krit and Chaka Khan. One BET executive compared his first listen to Lecrae to the first time he heard Kanye West.

Lecrae’s attempt to infiltrate popular culture while retaining a clearly Christian message is a difficult task, but he embodies a larger trend inside Western Christianity. Lecrae is one of many modern evangelicals who have rejected the path set by the combative “Moral Majority” culture warriors of the 1980s, and instead embraced an assimilation into the mainstream and its formative institutions, hoping to shape it from within.

Lecrae doesn’t want to forsake his beliefs. He wants to take his message with him. But some of Lecrae’s fans have already accused him of selling out, because he appears on stage with other rappers who are non-Christians, or records songs with them.

Read the rest here.

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