Okay, guilty as charged. I had never heard of the superbly talented spit-fire Christian rapper Lecrae, but after listening to his album, I wonder how I missed this boat (being a Christian and all!). Well, wait, I know how. Some “Christian rappers” fall into the category of powerful content but not so powerful delivery, so I usually write them off. But Lecrae has shattered my (ahem, judgmental) stereotypes with his latest album, Anomaly, in which he proves he can compete with any top mainstream rapper. This guy is fresh. Raw. Genuine. Phenomenal. He’s currently battling for No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts – and it’s obvious why.

In case you never heard of him, Lecrae Moore, 34, is an artist, record producer, entrepreneur and founder of the non-profit ReachLife Ministries. His third solo album, Rebel, was the first Christian hip-hop album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel charts. His sixth album, Gravity, has been called the most important album in Christian hip-hop history. It even won the 2013 Grammy for Best Gospel Album (again, the first time a hip-hop artist has ever received this award).

Lecrae raps with deep conviction about Christ, and uses his authentic hip-hop colloquialism to make it sound “cool” and contemporary. Mix that with top-notch lyrics, diverse content, and mad range – and you got a real artist here. (This is a lyricist’s lyricist, by the way). But what makes Lecrae extra special is he doesn’t even bother trying to be perfect (or preachy) for anyone. He’s not afraid to breach topics like war, double racial standards in America, sweat shops, immigrant labor, exploitation, prostitution, idolatry, his own sins and regrets, and sexual and spiritual slavery. Each song on Anomaly grabs you, then positions Lecrae as a type of Tupac / Malcolm X-esque messenger of hope to the people.

“Welcome to America” is a stand-out track. Big thumping beats over indigenous chanting meet a searing social commentary about the hypocrisy of America. (Love the flight pilot intro too). “And I’m still in America / Though America ain’t feeling me / I went to war for this country / Turn around came home and you rid of me.” Big song.

Grimy rhymes, comical adlibs, expert production, refreshing perspective, and sincerity adorn most of the other songs. I appreciate Lecrae’s vulnerability about his insecurities on “Fear.” Love his honesty in “Dirty Water,” which reminds me of a young Kanye West rapping about the legacy of slavery on African-American people whose obsession with bling-bling is really rooted in deep self-hate. Even more honesty on Lecrae’s club song, “Runners,” where he reveals a shady player past that came to a halt when he met the woman of his dreams. He warns other players against the pitfalls of cheating. “Good, Bad, Ugly” is like a heart wrenching diary, in which Lecrae raps about his shame at getting his ex-girl pregnant, and the following abortion he supported.

Maybe it’s because of his rough upbringing—which includes fatherlessness, theft, fighting, and drug dealing—that Lecrae comes across unlike most Christian artists, completely raw and relatable. Perhaps that’s why he sounds truly grateful for his salvation. Lecrae embodies all of who he is culturally, as well as unashamedly embodying all of who he is in Christ. “Outsiders,” which opens the album, expresses this sentiment exactly. Dramatic violin strings over a crunk gorilla beat highlight Lecrae’s decision to be a misfit and become completely free. Same thing on the title track “Anomaly” where he says, “The odd, the outcast, the peculiar, the strangers,” these are exactly who God created them to be.

Lecrae’s utter conviction tugs at your heart, makes you want to dance, makes you want to cry, and makes you want to live at this higher level of truth. Anomaly is hip-hop chicken soup for the soul. And that is an anomaly in itself.

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