This past decade, Lecrae Moore has grown into Christian Hip Hip's greatest ambassador, leading the charge of the genre into the mainstream consciousness. With Christ-centered raps and production that could stand toe-to-toe with any popular rapper, Lecrae has shot up the charts with each release, his album Gravity pushing out over 78,000 units in its debut week in 2012. And the phenomenon is not just limited to Lecrae either; more and more Christ-centered rappers are selling albums at a higher rate than ever before. Perhaps nothing can better explain how much hip hop (and indeed, Lecrae himself) has pushed the boundaries of the Christian culture by the fact that each of his first three singles from Anomaly ("Nuthin," "Say I Won't," and "All I Need Is You") charted in the top five (two at number two) of the Billboard Christian Songs chart, which has been dominated by pop and AC for as long as the chart has existed.
It is into this context, one of meteorically-rising popularity, that Lecrae puts out his 6th studio album, Anomaly. Expectations are obviously high, and Lecrae has consistently been meeting them, and to make a potentially long story short, Anomaly is no different. Few would have any argument that the production, raps, collaborations, and Christ-centered message of Anomaly is anything less than what we have come to expect from the talented rapper. That said, much like where Gravity fell rather short, it occasionally seemed too much like the messages and production gave a "been-there-done-that" feeling. Not that the messages and/or production aren't good, but they seemed kind of stale ("Outsiders," "Say I Won't," "Wish," and "Give In," were all culprits of this to some degree). On a side note, Lecrae isn't the only one that this is seeming to happen to, as I am seeing it more and more in popular CHH, and I fear that the future of the genre may match the stale radio-single AC pop/worship state of Christian music today. This would especially be a pity, as I have come to believe that popular Christian Hip Hop has become the subsection of Christian music that is best telling both Christians and non-Christians alike what they need to hear.
An example of why I have come to this belief is "Welcome To America," a song every bit as sobering as the controversial "Church Clothes" from his hugely popular mixtape of the same name. In this song, laid on top of world music/choral beats, Lecrae takes on the personas of a wayward youth, a veteran, and an impoverished foreigner, each of them dealing with the message of their perceived worthlessness perpetuated upon them by the American culture. In particular, the account of the impoverished foreigner, a sweatshop worker who is enchanted with America, is the most heart-wrenching. "Dirty Water" is another song with a hard-hitting message, with the second verse being most notably vehement (where it is worth mentioning that Lecrae uses some strong language in context). The lead single "Nuthin" also deserves attention, a banging track where Lecrae condemns talking about the same-old-thing as equivalent to talking about nothing at all (a great but ironic message, considering my criticism from the previous paragraph). Other secondary highlights abound (though in the case of "Runners," perhaps only because of it's enjoyably cheesy humor), but perhaps the strongest feature of the album is the finish with the depressingly melodic "Good, Bad, Ugly," Kari Jobe's angelic contribution on "Broken," and the irresistibly catchy for KING & COUNTRY feature on "Messengers."
I supposed I should make sure not to overstate myself with my criticisms regarding staleness, as subsequent listens and closer evaluations unveiled greater depth even to those tracks I found wanting. In that regard, this is an album that deserves as many listens as necessary to get to appreciate it. One also cannot fault Lecrae for consistently trying to make the best album he can possibly make, as even when he falls short, he is still admirable. Anomaly is undoubtedly a step up from Gravity, and others may indeed justify this as Lecrae's best work, though I personally wouldn't go so far. But Anomaly is without doubt well worth the time and effort of any Hip Hop fan, Christian and non-alike.- Review date: 9/7/14, written by Mark Rice of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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