Rapper LeCrae survives Denver gangs, helps artists cope with Whitney’s death

Grow­ing up in a “Blood neigh­bor­hood” in Den­ver, LeCrae want­ed to emu­late the gang mem­bers that roamed his streets and lived life on the edge of pris­on. Raised by a sin­gle moth­er, LeCrae looked to the­se gang mem­bers as role mod­els.

Now, at age 30, the Chris­tian hip-hop artist, who will be play­ing in Col­orado Springs on Sun­day at the World Are­na ($10, doors 6 p.m.), is influ­enc­ing main­stream urban musi­cians along with a gen­er­a­tion of young men with a mes­sage of hope.

Just this week, LeCrae left The Rock & Wor­ship Road­show tour to return to his home in Atlanta to help a friend deal with the death of Whit­ney Hous­ton at the Gram­my Awards on Sat­ur­day.

I have a writer friend who writes for Ali­cia Keys and oth­er big stars, who is hav­ing a hard time deal­ing with this (Houston’s death),” LeCrae said. “It’s been very painful for him. He was at a Gram­my par­ty in the same hotel, and the par­ty just kept going even though peo­ple knew the police were upstairs. They were like, ‘Oh, she may be alive, she may be dead.’ But the par­ty didn’t stop. ‘It’s the Gram­mys. The Gram­mys must go on. This is our time.’ He’s the main rea­son I came off the road to help him get through this.

He’s wrestling with the fact peo­ple didn’t think she had sig­nif­i­cance or val­ue. But she is sig­nif­i­cant and valu­able. Every­one is made in God’s image with God-given tal­ent and it’s up to us to live up to that poten­tial. And he’s wrestling with that. … I try to paint a pic­ture that God knows what he is doing.”

I thought Chris­tians were this weird sub­cul­ture. But the­se guys dressed like me and spoke like me. — LeCrae

The mul­ti­ple Dove Award win­ner and Gram­my nom­i­nat­ed artist moved to Atlanta in the mid-2000s because of the large urban music indus­try and to “influ­ence the influ­en­tial.” And just by being called upon by big-name artists in the wake of Houston’s death is a tes­ta­ment to his accep­tance in the main­stream com­mu­ni­ty.

We are all deal­ing with the same things, I just have a dif­fer­ent out­look,” LeCrae said. “Def­i­nite­ly, I have been includ­ed and accept­ed in my time here. You know, there’s only one degree that sep­a­rates me from guys like T.I. But I try not to get caught up in all the celebri­ty.

I have a hope­ful out­look on life and I try to artic­u­late that to them. I have what is a unique tran­si­tion cul­tur­al audi­ence — gospel, CCM, hip-hop, urban music. I have been given the abil­i­ty to inter­act with a lot of artists, and they have reached out to me. A lot of celebri­ties find sig­nif­i­cance in what they do, but it will let them down. ‘I’m not play­ing for the Fal­cons any­more, who am I?’ ‘My records aren’t sell­ing, who am I?’ I try to give them some foot­ing of who they are in Christ.”

But it wasn’t always that way with LeCrae, who attend­ed Mar­t­in Luther King Jr. Mid­dle School and George Wash­ing­ton High School in Den­ver until mov­ing to Tex­as when he was 15.

I was always one foot in and not too far away from prob­lems,” he said. “Then my mom moved to Tex­as to get out of that envi­ron­ment. It was prob­a­bly a good thing, no it was a good thing. It was chal­leng­ing, I embraced the gang affil­i­a­tions but there was no tol­er­ance for it in Tex­as.

In Den­ver, there were the Bloods and Crips, and my fam­i­ly lived in a Blood neigh­bor­hood. I was encour­aged not to get involved, but I idol­ized them and want­ed to become one of them. In high school we had cliques, not real­ly gangs, but I was with a group of guys that were stir­ring up trou­ble.”

It wasn’t until he was attend­ing the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Tex­as on a full schol­ar­ship for per­form­ing arts that LeCrae began to turn his life over to the Lord.

I went to school to par­ty, to have a good time and to do some soul search­ing,” LeCrae said. “And some­one sug­gest­ed I go to this Bible study. I was like, ‘Let me try this out.’ And I was shocked to see peo­ple who talked like me and looked like me. I thought Chris­tians were this weird sub­cul­ture. But the­se guys dressed like me and spoke like me. And I kept going. It hum­bled me. It allowed me to say that I am loved and to see that I was on the wrong track.”

His songs and videos reflect that new track in life along with the path he took. The “Just Like You” video fea­tures a young man strug­gling with liv­ing in the hood, run­ning drugs, run­ning away from drugs and try­ing to stay on the right side of the law.

I tell peo­ple that they are sell­ing them­selves short,” LeCrae said. “He cre­at­ed us and has incred­i­ble things wait­ing for you. It’s like tak­ing a mil­lion dol­lars and putting it up on walls like wall­pa­per. You just wast­ed it. It’s like that — you wast­ed what you were given. Life is to live and if you don’t live up to that poten­tial you wast­ed it.

Most peo­ple receive (the mes­sage) well. How could they not? They’ve been told all their lives how ter­ri­ble they are, that they are just like their dads. Nobody is telling them that they have worth.”

Well, now some­one is, some­one who has lived the street life, some­one who has strug­gled to find sig­nif­i­cance in a neigh­bor­hood run over by gang mem­bers.

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One Response to Rapper LeCrae survives Denver gangs, helps artists cope with Whitney’s death

  1. FJ-25 says:

    amaz­ing enter­view. i got to see Lecrae about a mon­th back and i have to say that God has real­ly blessed him.

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