Whether Christian or not, nearly all can agree that Lecrae Moore has talent, and a lot of it. The fact that he uses his gift to rep the Kingdom? That’s just a bonus. Church Clothes was Lecrae’s second album released in 2012, a mixtape hosted by DJ Don Cannon. Oftentimes, rappers release an onslaught of songs in a single year to generate as much revenue possible, and the music suffers. In Lecrae’s case, quantity does not diminish quality. His penchant for the genre of rap hasn’t wavered since his first album in 2004, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Church Clothes is unflinching in exposing the hypocrisy and self-righteousness in modern Christianity and just as open when it comes to soul-searching and confessing personal struggles, along with pleading with the listener to do the same.
“Church Clothes” is told through the eyes of a skeptic of Christianity, a masterfully crafted track with a luscious beat and solid lyrics – the best of the album. Lecrae cynically raps, “I walk in the church with a snapback/And they tellin’ me that that’s a no-no/That’s backwards and I lack words for these actors called pastors.” And later, “As long as the church keep wildin’ out, I can justify all my foolish deeds…That might mean I’m worth more than money, cars, sex and pipe dreams/If God gonna take me as I am/I guess I already got on my church clothes.”
Cotour’s attempt at a contemplative chorus in “Cold World” sadly, falls short. Her vocals and Lecrae’s rapping do not mesh well, in my opinion. “Welcome to H-town” opens with a Snoop Dogg-esque sleazy beat and Tedashii crooning accordingly. Lecrae jumps in to plead with his hometown, criticizing the rampant corruption present there and reflecting on his own struggle with sin. Speaking of Snoop Dogg, he receives a shoutout in “Rise,” a nostalgic track throwing it back to when Lecrae and his friends were “…chilling in our tube socks/Dre taught us how to roll a 64/And Snoop Dogg taught us how to roll a sticky dro.”
“Darkest Hour” challenges listeners with lyrics like, “If gangsters don’t dance, why you tapping with the devil?” “Inspiration,” despite decent lyrics, isn’t a memorable track musically. Again, the one weakness in this record is the fact that it is a mixtape, and accordingly, there are several featured artists, some less equipped to work with Lecrae than others.
“Misconception,” with a lineup of Humble Beast Records artists, dispels – well, popular misconceptions. Clever wordplay is abundant, i.e., “Those who have been abused view leadership as illegitimate/so they don’t think it’s necessary to play by the rules or submit/They see authority as nothing more than a power-trip/they don’t want to be plugged into it; they’d rather see that power stripped.”
Church Clothes is an impressive display of Lecrae in his element, in spite of, certainly not because of, the wide range of artists he worked with for this mixtape. Lecrae is one of those rare artists who takes the “Christian music” cookie-cutter label and utterly decimates it. As a result, the listener is treated with a musical roller coaster ride, as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking.