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Rapping for Jesus

Oct. 7, 2005

by BEN HUMENIUK,contributor

Last Saturday the crowd was bustling.

The speakers were booming, sending gentle yet intense concussions of southern rap through the audience.

Students, youth and adults alike were moving in rhythm, as children in the back chased each other and laughed.

And up front, in midst of all the motion, Dallas-based rapper LeCrae took a make-shift stage outside of Antioch Community Church, and rapped the Gospel.

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Robyn Kenagy | Lariat staff
LeCrae, a Christian rapper from Dallas, performed last Saturday for the Waco community at Antioch Community Church. He will perform tonight after Bed Races.
"It was the coolest thing," Andrew Hatchett, a Jackson, Miss., sophomore, said.

It was really cool to see inner city community and Baylor students really get into what he had to say, he said.

Kim Cutler, who oversees Urban Ministries at Antioch, had encountered LeCrae when she took her inner-city students to a Kids Across America camp.

Knowing her students embraced his music, Cutler said initially envisioned bringing LeCrae to Waco to perform only for the inner-city kids.

The actual turnout at last Saturday's concert surpassed those expectations.

"I was overwhelmingly blessed with the turnout at multiple levels," Cutler said. "Black people, white people, Hispanics, (they) all showed up. I consider that a multi-level success."

LeCrae, who returns to Waco this Friday to perform at Alpha Tau Omega's Bed Races, said he understands that such success don't depend on his ability alone.

"I want to put God on display," LeCrae said. "Any time you put God on display, the Bible's clear: the humble are exalted. And not for gain, not for fame -- God will use you."

Hatchett agrees.

"There was no mistaking his purpose," Hatchett said. "His songs are so laced with Scripture (that) no one left the concert not knowing what he stood for."

Despite such intentions, LeCrae still doesn't necessarily see rap specifically as a ministry.

"I am a professional musician -- that's what I do vocationally," LeCrae said. "I'm not a professional minister; ministry is my lifestyle."

"The Bible calls us to be ambassadors," he said. "It just so happens that I rap and that I'm putting out a worldview that's Christianity."

Yet sometimes, getting that worldview heard is difficult, he said.

"I think that in Christianity we're a little bit slower to grab onto what's going on in the world -- the (Christian music) industry is anyway -- so we've really been trying to enlighten the industry and even enlighten the churches to take heed," LeCrae said.

Though that process may be tough, LeCrae still believes his message would resonate with a Christian audience.

"We want believers to say, 'Hey, I may not like this music, but I like what he's saying,'" LeCrae said. "We look a little bit different, we talk a little bit different, but trust and believe that we're abiding by Scripture and that we want to communicate the truth so, you know, play us."

According to Cutler, that communication of truth impacted Antioch. When LeCrae stayed on to rap his testimony at the Sunday services, her expectations were again blown away.

"He got a standing ovation in both of our services," Cutler said. "The first to stand were our middle-agers and our gray-haired folks."

In between his Waco concerts, LeCrae is staying busy. He continues to work in his studio and produced 11 of the 14 tracks on his debut album, Real Talk.

Thursday afternoon he was involved in a hip hop forum at the University of North Texas, with another concert that evening.

But in the end, his desire is to keep perspective: to promote truth and see lives changed.

"We're just average dudes who are wanting to promote God above all else," LeCrae said.

"I'm fortunate to be able to (rap): I'm just put in the right places by the Lord," LeCrae said.