Lecrae: ‘I Want to Restore the View the Black Community Has of Itself’

7 min read

Lecrae Devaughn Moore is a Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist, best-selling author, entrepreneur,  philanthropist, and co-owner and president of Reach Records. His 2014 album, Anomaly, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the first album to top both the Billboard 200 and the Gospel Charts simultaneously. He has sold more than 3 million copies and been nominated for five Grammy Awards, including a win for Best Gospel Album. He also received 15 Dove Awards, one Billboard Music Award, and a Soul Train Music Award, and a BET Hip-Hop Nomination.

In an exclusive interview with The Industry Cosign, the artist and businessman opened up about his new projects and entrepreneurship.

What is the most important thing Lecrae is working on now or in the near future?

With conversation rising about the number of teens committing suicide and the heightened conversations around mental health awareness and suicide prevention this is the perfect time for my 9th album, Restoration, to be released. I’m working on the final mixes and it will drop in the Spring. I’m also writing my second book, I Am Restored, due out later this year. A follow-up to my first book, Unashamed, the new one, I Am Restored chronicles how I’ve navigated the highs and lows of success and celebrity and shares how coming into faith has helped to restore, transform, and define who I am as a man, father, community activist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.

Can you tell us a little more about your new album, Restoration? What direction is this album taking as far as music and subject matter?

For Restoration, I’ve gotten to work with a lot of major artists! I’m excited to put out some healing music. I want people to know that you’re never too messed up for a Restoration. Second divorce, prison sentence, it doesn’t matter. There’s always hope, healing, and restoration available if you seek it.  

‘Restoration’ seems to be a big theme for you, what have you done and/or doing in terms of ‘Restoration?

I want to restore the view the black community has of itself. We can change the narrative, empower the disenfranchised and close wealth gaps. We can restore the dignity that was stripped from us. We can lean on God to restore our sense of purpose and worth. I am partnered on several major projects to restore Atlanta’s English Avenue, an area known for its rampant drug trafficking and violent crime statistics. Only a block away from the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, two-thirds of its residents live below the federal poverty line and 44% of the homes are vacant. I’m also an active member of the Board of Advisory for Peace Academy, the first school in the English Avenue area to be opened in more than 20 years. The last one, English Avenue Elementary, closed in 1996.

As an author, you’ve written New York Times best-seller “Unashamed” in 2016 and you’re gearing up for your next book, “I Am Restored” for later this year. How does the creative mindset work for writing for you? Is it similar or different from your creative process while recording music or even the way you conduct business for some of your companies?

I take time to block out the world and focus. Sometimes it’s ‘wheels up’ where I travel somewhere to get my head together.  Recently I went to Egypt and Israel which helped to reset me. Creativity is a discipline and you have to discipline yourself to sit and focus on your creativity. Everyone’s process is different, but that’s what I do. Quality comes out of quantity, so I put in the right amount of time to get quality results.

As a rapper, does the distinction of performing gospel separate you from other rappers or does it put you in line with other rappers who only perform secular music? Is it important to you that there IS a distinction?

The distinction is very important to those who want to neatly place artist in boxes, but for me, it’s about being authentic to who I am. Jay-Z is who he is for Hip Hop as Kirk Franklin is the same for Gospel, but I live in between those two worlds. I’m not lemonade or iced tea; I’m the mixture, the best Arnold Palmer around. It’s almost like a biracial person being asked which side they lean toward more as if you can’t be both. I’m passionate about my faith and the art of rap.

Since our last conversation in 2013, Gospel has exploded more into the mainstream so much that no one flinches in the same way they did, 7 years ago, even to the point where it’s not even uncommon for Hip-Hop artists to now branch into strictly Gospel music. Kurtis Blow, Rev Run and No Malice from Clipse, along with a host of others, have made the transition, do you see more converts in the near future? Does it affect the way you do business and/or music knowing that trend has translated into someone like Kanye West making a big splash?

It’s not as foreign because we are multi-dimensional as people. But I think having more artists converting makes what I’ve been doing all along more palatable. People are more accepting and therefore can benefit from the healing that the music provides. It’s kind of like the healthy eating trend. Folks used to be turned off by weird ingredients like turmeric and apple cider vinegar. Now people are making different dietary choices. We are more educated about the benefits of healthy living and eating more organically. My music is like therapy; it’s restorative. Once you’ve been exposed, then you have a choice to benefit from the restoration my music offers.

You evidently have many hustles as a successful businessman, would you like to talk about some of the ‘outside work,’ you do when you’re not recording and performing music?

Besides running my own label, Reach Records, I’m a part of a startup fund in Atlanta called Collab Capital. Which focuses on innovative black-owned businesses. I get to spend time doing a deep dive into the black startup culture there. I’m a co-owner of a music tech company called MXD (getmxd.com) which is innovating how independent music is made. I’m spending a lot of time in film as well. I have a production company called 3 Strand Films which is producing a lot of great content this year. I’m also a part-owner in a major film studio, so film is very important to me. I’m working on my real estate acumen and partnering in Atlanta with some great developers and agents such as Erika Brown & Associates.

You’ve been a successful artist for many years, but, more importantly, you’ve been a successful business as well. Which do you feel carries more weight with you and why?

Obviously, the business acumen makes all the difference, but you also need common sense and to be street smart as well. If you don’t understand the fundamentals of business, you won’t thrive as long as an artist. Once you have a basic understanding, it’s important also to surround yourself around and partner with experts who can advise you about the different types of business opportunities, so you can leverage your brand and expand. 

Why is it important to you to handle your own business and in terms of you collaborating with other entities that spark your interest?

I had to learn so much on my own. I didn’t go to business school or have a mentor teach me any of these things so collaborating has been my college. Kobe Bryant was an amazing athlete, but he was also an example to us all that we can do amazing things if we take the time to learn. He spoke multiple languages, won an Oscar, authored children’s books, and had philanthropic and business projects that haven’t even been announced yet.

A man of many talents, a business acumen most should envy and a brighter future awaits, what advice would you give someone who wants to take on the mantle of entrepreneurship?

LEARN LEARN LEARN. Listen to podcasts, take classes, read books. The only way to become an authority is to first submit to an authority. Learn from experts so you don’t make unnecessary mistakes. Some lessons you don’t have to live to learn. Also, numbers NEVER lie. Take the time to calculate the cost of things and the cost analysis. Don’t just scatter seeds everywhere hoping they grow. Take time to research ideas and see why it may or may not work. Last pray. I pray about everything. People Plan but God executes.

What’s next in the future for Lecrae the businessman? Is there anything you’d like to reveal to the audience so we can prepare for it?

There is so much on the horizon. I’m literally just getting started. Stay tuned!

Follow @Lecrae socially everywhere.

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