Houston Rising: Lecrae is Elevating Hope in The Midst of Chaos

words my me; images courtesy of Adair Smith

When tragedy strikes, it’s tempting to fixate on the pain and lose sight of a greater purpose. But Houston refuses to turn a blind eye to its people, and the positivity is all but eclipsing the darkness that struck. For the next few weeks, we’ll be spotlighting artists who are born and bred Houstonians, the charities they support, and their version of the Texan silver lining. First up, the legendary rapper Lecrae, whose heart for his fellow Houstonians has led him to support Preemptive Loveand Bread of Life. Houston is rising, and we’re here for it.

Lecrae has been making music since 2004 (Real Talk, anyone?) but his discovery-of-self moment happened just last year, with All Things Work Together. According to the rapper, the album is like “the rock you’d grab after climbing Mt.Everest”; triumphant, narrative-driven, and deeply personal, All Things Work Together is no metaphorical ploy—in fact, Lecrae says he’s climbed not one, but seven mountaintops. Phew.

If that sounds intimidating, it should—and the rapper dives deep on what breaks his heart, steals his focus, and breaks his spirit—but that’s not where the story ends. On the contrary, the mountaintop is where we celebrate, when the storm is over and the battle is won. With tragedies in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, and now Las Vegaseclipsing all other news, All Things Work Together couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Now, all that’s left to do is adopt his mantra: there is hope to be found in the chaos.

So—it’s finally out there in the world. Soon you’ll be hearing everyone’s reactions, is it nerve-racking or just exciting?

The feedback has been so positive, since it came out at midnight, I guess it came out in Australia, so at dinner people were already talking about it, and everyone’s been positive about it. I’m so grateful. When you make music that you want to feed people with in order to get them through stuff, and when it has that effect, it’s amazing.

Do you get a lot of cool stories from people?

Absolutely. You got earthquakes, you got hurricanes, and you know, we’re all going through the same human experience, which is full of highs and lows. Sometimes you need music to get you through those lows, and I try to do that. I like to celebrate the highs too.

Cool. Can you talk about if there are any overarching themes that tie all the songs together? How do you feel like they all go together?

The whole idea of the album is that there is hope within the chaos. It reminds people that yes, there is chaos, but there is hope within the chaos. It’s my journey through it, and the album is kind of like after you climb Mt. Everest, you know it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be hell, but then you get to the top and it’s a celebration. What do you take home from that, do you take a rock? So, this album is like the rock you’d grab after climbing Mt. Everest. It was hard as hell, but you did it, and you’re better for it. That’s what the album represents.

Do you feel like you recently climbed a mountain?

I climbed seven mountains.

[Laughs] Tell me more about that.

I lost a good friend to cancer in the process of making this album, I have some friends who did some crazy stuff…basically they stole from me, and on top of that, all the social issues have really bothered me and broken my heart. Also, being a public figure you always get scrutinized, so, I talk about some of that as well. Those are a lot of the mountains I had to climb.

It’s kind of crazy with all the recent tragedies, that your album is centered on overcoming. That’s impeccable timing.

Yeah, I don’t know how that happened. Maybe the Creator was like, this is the album for all the stuff that’s going on right now. I’m seeing a lot of positive feedback in light of that too, people are definitely connecting this album with those natural disasters.

Well I’m from Texas—

Oh yeah? I knew I liked you for a reason.

[Laughs] Yeah, and I’m from Dallas, but I haven’t been back for a while. Do you still have a lot of roots in Houston?

Yeah, Houston and Dallas, as a matter of fact. I got a lot of family and friends, I literally just talked to my cousin before I came here, and she just found a new place to stay because her house was destroyed. She lost her hair salon too, and we’re trying to get her back up on her feet. A lot of my family got displaced, but again, if I can’t help every one of them, I can give them this music at least, to help them and inspire them to get through it.

What headspace were you in when you’re writing? Were you discouraged and trying to get give yourself a pep-talk, or were you already on the up-and-up?

I was in a dark place when I started this album. I just wanted to express it. There’s one song on there called “Cry for You” when I was in LA, and it was really like a journal entry. My buddy Taylor Hill had recorded the chorus, and I sort of went in and read my journal entry over that. Natalie Lauren, who oversaw a lot of the production, she said, “Leave that take. Don’t delete it.” That was just raw emotion, and first take with a lot of emotion. But I came out on the other side, another perspective, and so you hear the songs of hope as you listen to it.

And listening to it now, are you taken back to those moments, or are you more objective about it?

No, I’m brought back every time I read a comment. You know, “Thank you for writing a song, because I can relate,” or “This really gives me hope.” A lot of people said they weren’t planning on crying this early in the morning, but hopefully it’s tears of joy. It’s been great.

One thing I kept hearing in your songs was your dad and fatherhood in general. Is that specific to this album or do you always revisit that theme?

It’s a wound that I can see effects my life in many ways, so of course, you just realize how children being abandoned by a parent or both parents, that leaves scars. And it heals, but that scar tissue is always there, you can see how it hinders you or has affected you in the long term because of that scar tissue.

When you put out all these songs, do you feel a sense of relief or is it cathartic for you to get it all out there?

So much of this album is me going “Ahhhhh.” So yeah.

Do you feel creatively depleted once it’s all out there? Or is it like, you have constant material?

I did feel creatively depleted when, after the album was created, my team was like, let’s still keep recording while we still can, and I just didn’t have any songs left. We kept recording stuff, I probably added like 10 more songs that didn’t end up making the album, but I tried. But now the creative juices are back flowing again. I need to give myself some time to really process and think, and give myself space to write.

So, you have been creating music for over 10 years, how do you think you’ve grown or evolved as an artist since 2006?

I kind of found myself recently. I was always trying to understand who I was, but now I’ve really come to grips with who I am, and I’m really able to say the things I feel are really authentic to me, and I’m not hiding any part of me.

I’m curious about what you think about being someone with a platform, especially when something is going on politically or socially. Do you feel a need to speak out in music?

I don’t know if I feel responsible in my music, but I feel it’s every citizen’s responsibility to make sure that they’re making steps to make our society what it should be. Whether that’s protesting, or programs, or policy, or publicity, or whatever it is, use what you have to make the world a better place. For me, publicity and programs are two things that I can do. So publicity is my music or social media, and that’s aside from the programs that I’m a part of or start. So, I feel compelled to.

So my last question is an easy one. Now that the album’s out, what are you most looking forward to?

Tour rehearsal. I want to perfect the show, and as much as the album is impactful, I want the live experience to reflect that or even take it to a whole new level. I want the fans to experience the music in real time, in a three-dimensional settin.