Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae has had his share of success – two Grammys, another seven nominations, and eight Dove Awards.
But with nearly two decades in the music industry, Lecrae is ready to emphasize another set of skills: mentor, producer and career-booster.
Lecrae has done that with Reach Records, a Christian music label that now has nine artists, including Andy Mineo, Gawvi and Trip Lee.
Lecrae, though, recently took his mentoring to another level with a collaboration album – No Church in a While – that he recorded with another Reach artist, 1K Phew. Every track on the album includes both men.
"In this season of my life, what's been more important for me is to create opportunities for younger artists," Lecrae, who is 42, told Christian Headlines. "I've been doing this so long – I just wanted to give a lot of the younger artists an opportunity to grow. I've been spending a lot of time with Phew. I've seen his growth and maturity.
"I wanted to give him a chance to be able to do what God gifted him to do. And that's why I thought it was important. And then, on top of that, we just have good chemistry. We work well together – so I knew it was gonna be something that I would enjoy."
The album's title track was inspired by the pandemic. ("No church in a while, God, please help out your child," the lyrics say.)
"It was a rough year for people," Lecrae said. "People felt let down because no one was coming to visit them or they got sick – all types of things. And so we just wanted to really make a project for a lot of those people who are hurting out there and who needed some music to remind them that they still have a family."
1K Phew is well-known to the hip-hop community. Two of his tracks – "We Did It" (with WHATUPRG) and "Bigger Than Me" (with nobigdyl) – are on the soundtrack of the mega-popular NBA video game 2K20.
He credits his Christian faith for saving his life.
"I grew up in church all my life. My mom – she made us go to church," 1K Phew told Christian Headlines. "We had no other choice. So, long story short, I kind of had to find God for myself in order to get that real relationship. And when I went out into the world and got big-headed and felt like I didn't need God, I felt like I could handle things by myself. That's when I really got closer to God. And that's when I really found out if I don't stick with God, I'm either going to end up dead or in jail. So I had to go to Him."
The pandemic, 1K Phew said, allowed him to "get closer to God."
"And that's when He really told me to walk with confidence and really embrace my purpose," he said.
For Lecrae, the pandemic was a time to reflect on his place in his career. Lecrae says he wants to do for Christian artists what Russell Simmons or Sean Diddy Combs have done for mainstream artists.
"I've been an artist so long [that the pandemic] gave me an opportunity to fine-tune my executive skills," he said. "And so just to be more responsible, be a better steward to create more opportunities and to develop leaders. It was tough, but it helped me learn how to do other things."
Photo courtesy: ©Jacob "Biz" Morris/Reach Records, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.