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Gravity: Lecrae's Most Important Album Yet
on September 4, 2012
Coming off of the incredible "Rehab" and "Rehab: The Overdose," a much-publicized BET cypher appearance, and a universally well-received mixtape earlier this year, Lecrae has a lot of pressure to make "Gravity" the first mainstream Christian rap album. Does he succeed? My full thoughts on each song are below, although I'll give a brief explanation here (for those with limited time):
* Gravity is a significant album for Lecrae and for the industry. Interestingly, Lecrae has shifted focus on this album slightly; I wouldn't say he's "less Christian," but there's less rapping about theology (sorry, Rebel fans!) and more rapping about sin and other universally relatable concepts. I'd be surprised if there was a single track that didn't mention Jesus, directly or indirectly, but those expecting challenging lyrical theology may be disappointed (for those people, I recommend Shai Linne's "The Attributes of God").
* Because of the above mentioned focus on the sin of life, this album is probably the darkest Lecrae album ever, although the darkness is not immediately apparent from the production and sound. (Also, let's be real: "darkest Lecrae album" is not a very difficult bar to top; "dark" has never been a descriptive adjective for him)
* The production is possibly better than any Christian rap album ever, with the possible exception of Swoope's "Wake Up". High praise, indeed.
* I recommend buying the whole album to support Lecrae, but if you can't, at least pick up "Fallin' Down" - the album's standout track, in my opinion - and, depending on your tastes, "The Lucky Ones," "Walk With Me," "Free From It All," and/or "I Know."
THE DROP - What a way to start the album! Lecrae is probably the best in the business in crafting album intros, with both "Check In" (Rehab) and "Rebel Intro" (Rebel) becoming instant classics upon my first listen. "The Drop" continues in that great tradition, with Lecrae giving the ultimate hype track for the album to come. He raps over a lush backdrop of violins and drum rolls, and the track's great production gives it a massive feel. By the end of the song, even a guitar solo has been worked into the musical proceedings. 4.5/5.
GRAVITY - Explaining the concept of the album a little more in-depth, the title track features Lecrae doing his lyrical thing and J.R. providing a solid hook. I'm not sure everything here meshes perfectly, but the individual components are all great on their own merits. 4/5.
WALK WITH ME - How does the Christian deal with pain and problems in the world? Lecrae tackles the question here, thoughtfully painting a picture of the problems of this life and praying for Christ's help. The upbeat, fun production on the song can distract you from the heartbreaking hook by Novel - "I say, `Lord, please won't you hear my cry?'/ I know that these walls can't hear me" - which reminded this listener of the trials of Job. 4.5/5.
FREE FROM IT ALL -Lecrae raps about the challenges of being in the spotlight and fans' expectations. It seems like it would be an unrelatable topic for the average listener, but it helps bring you into Lecrae's world and understand what incredible pressure he's under. Mathai's hook provides great perspective for the entire song: "Cameras flash, the curtains call, the credits roll down the screen / Critics laugh, they hate us all as they applaud / But should I fall / I'm still free from it all." 4.5/5.
FALLIN' DOWN - Absolutely epic from the first note to the close. Lecrae, Trip Lee, and Swoope are three of my favorite rappers in the genre and they definitely don't disappoint when working together. I haven't seen many Christian rap songs that really find a "groove," but this song finds it. The hook is great, the lyrical content and the verses are phenomenal, and the production is possibly the best on the entire album. 5/5.
FAKIN - I'd heard mixed things on this track prior to its being released, with some loving the song and others dismissing it as filler. Basically, your opinion on this song will come down to whether or not you like the average Reach template for a song; if you enjoy that style, this'll be entirely up your alley, and if you don't, you probably won't care for it. Personally, I'm a fan. The hook on this track is really cool. 4/5.
VIOLENCE - This may be one of the weirdest tracks Lecrae has ever released. It takes the reggae-ish sound of "Black Rose" from Church Clothes, slows it down a bit (gone is the machine-gun spit from that song), and what you're left with is a pretty cool song. I'm not a fan of the uncredited interludes from another rapper that briefly appear after each chorus, but that's all I have to complain about. 4/5.
MAYDAY - A very interesting song, featuring a verse by a secular rapper, Big K.R.I.T., and a verse by Lecrae. Although I can appreciate why a lot of people enjoy them, the verses don't do much for me personally. That being said, Ashthon Jones has a powerhouse voice and provides an amazing hook to the song. 3.5/5.
CONFESSIONS - A song that analyzes whether or not millionaires really have it all, with Lecrae explaining the emptiness of such lives. The hook's uncredited guest singer does a great job, and Lecrae's verses are well-done. This song is very good and enjoyable within the context of the album, although it's somewhat overshadowed by the other tracks present here. 3.5/5.
BUTTONS - A song for the ladies; as a teenage guy, I am probably not the target audience for the song, so bear in mind that your mileage may vary. Lecrae does some sing-rapping, but it doesn't really seem to add anything to the song. A filler track. 3/5.
POWER TRIP - Lecrae, Derek Minor (f.k.a. PRo), Sho Baraka, and Andy Mineo all take to this track, rapping about pride and humanity's compulsive need for power. Lecrae raps the hook: "Do you really want it all, the whole world in your pocket? / It'll make you a leader or a tyrant, you do the deciding." The production on this track is really exceptional, creating an interesting sonic landscape. 4.5/5.
LORD HAVE MERCY - The second single released from the album. Lecrae and Tedashii rap about their dark past and how Jesus saved them from their former lives. It's a good song, although it's a very popular topic for Christian rappers to go to and it doesn't really stand out. 3/5.
I KNOW - The first single released; a lot of people have very strong opinions on this song, and there's not a lot of middle ground here. You're either going to love this song or it's going to annoy you, much like "High" from Rehab or Trip Lee's "Robot" from earlier this year (I liked the former and disliked the latter; take that as you will). Personally, I think this song is really fun, and Lecrae's lyrical game is just as solid as the rest of the album. The high-pitched `I know's in the background have the potential to get annoying, but after listening to the song probably around 20 times, I haven't reached that point yet. 4.5/5.
TELL THE WORLD - The third single released. Mali Music provides a solid hook, but the real highlight here is Lecrae's verses. Secular listeners may not find much to take from this song, but Christians may very well geek out upon hearing this song, especially those who are particularly evangelically-minded. 4/5.
LUCKY ONES - Rudy Currence's hook is very pretty and the song has a light, ethereal sound, an uncommon sound for Christian rap. This could be the album's crossover track, akin to "Background" off Rehab. Lecrae saved the best for last on his verses, and closes the album on a very high note. 4.5/5.
Overall, while I don't think "Gravity" is Lecrae's best - I think "Rehab" continues to carry that distinction, although I know some may argue for "Rebel" - it's certainly a solid effort from one of Christian Hip-Hop's best and his most important yet. The album remains very focused on sin, consequently making it a very heavy album, despite its often fun production and its final two songs, which lighten the mood with rejoicing in Christ. It's an important album for the Christian rap industry, and I hope they succeed. Do your part and buy the album; you won't regret it and you'll be furthering the influence and ministry of one of Christian music's top artists.
EDITED 01/17/13: After four months of listening to the album, I've found that my perspectives changed on a few of the songs. As a customer, I sometimes wonder about the lasting value of albums. Here's my take on lasting value: "Gravity" doesn't have as much lasting value as Lecrae's other albums, but that fits with my initial assessment of it being a weaker (though very significant) album as a whole. It lasted longer than "Rebel" on my iPod, for what it's worth, but not nearly as long as "Rehab," which I still frequently listen to. As far as individual scoring bumps/falls go? "Falling Down" is still the best. "The Lucky Ones" and "The Drop" are still top-caliber. "Tell the World" and "Lord Have Mercy" have gotten a little bit better as I've gotten used to them; "Fakin'", shockingly, has aged very well, now becoming one of my album highlights. Meanwhile, "I Know," "Violence," and "Gravity" definitely didn't hold up quite as well as I thought they would; I agreed with a friend who told me that "Violence" just became grating after awhile. "Walk with Me" and "Free From It All" stand out less now, but they're still solid. Overall, the message is still the same -- "Gravity" is a solid if lesser effort from Lecrae. It is the quintessential four-star album. Let's hope that next time he gets all five.
And, seriously, if you haven't downloaded "Fallin' Down"... do that. No excuses.