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Lecrae performs Nov. 15, 2014, at House of Blues in Orlando, Fla. Photo by Brad Moore

A home for hip-hop in a Christian world

With his last two albums, hip-hop star Lecrae went where no other artist in the Christian hip-hop genre has gone.

His 2012 album, “Gravity,” made him the first hip-hop artist to win a Grammy in the best gospel album category. That album also established him as a presence in mainstream hip-hop, debuting at No. 3 on Billboard magazine’s album chart and setting the record for most copies of a Christian hip-hop album sold in a single week — about 72,000.

With his 2014 "Anomaly," Lecrae again broke a barrier when the album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's album chart with first-week sales of around 88,000 copies. It made Lecrae only the fifth Christian artist to top the album chart — and the first from the hip-hop genre.

The artist has tried to take the notoriety and acclaim in stride, he says during a telephone interview.

“I think in one sense I’m just honored that people would celebrate the gifts that I have,” he says. “But in another sense, I do it because I love to. I want to help people, and I want to create great things. I’m a product of a great creator and I want to create great things. So I just do it because I want to and I love to and not so much for the accolades.”

Lecrae, along with alternative rock band Switchfoot, will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, in the Lithia Amphitheatre at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Tickets are $30 to $105 and can be purchased online at ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1147533. VIP tickets are available and include early entry, an autographed poster and a meet-and-greet with the performers. Tickets also will be available at the door. The show is open to all ages. 

Lecrae is well aware he is now a standard bearer for Christian hip-hop.

“Definitely in terms of blazing trails, you feel that because there’s a sense of loneliness, there’s a sense of just always having to knock down a wall or knock down a door, not really having any forerunners in a lot of ways to give you some examples,” he says. “So that’s definitely something I feel and recognize, and hopefully for every direction I go in, somebody can follow behind me and it will be a smoother path for them.”

Lecrae has followed an uncharted path since he began his career in hip-hop. Born 36 years ago to a single mother, Lecrae Devaughn Moore broke into music in 2004. That was when he partnered with Ben Washer to co-found record label Reach Records and released his debut album, “Real Talk.”

“Starting a label was kind of the only way to get things going,” Lecrae says. “We didn’t really have a full grasp of how all of these industries worked. But hindsight being 20/20, it makes sense. There’s a traditional gospel route and there’s a contemporary Christian route, and hip-hop just was not visible in those two worlds. Hip-hop was just visible in the mainstream. So that was really the only option we had, to kind of create something ourselves and hope that it worked.”

From there, his career continued a steady climb, as he released subsequent albums “After the Music Stops” (2006), “Rebel” (2008) and “Rehab” (2010).

Several months before he released “Gravity,” Lecrae made a significant impact in the mainstream with the mixtape “Church Clothes.” A video for the title track (featuring cameos from Kendrick Lamar and DJ Premier) debuted on the XXL magazine website. The mixtape, hosted by hip-hop producer Don Cannon, went on to notch about 100,000 downloads in 48 hours.

A second mixtape in the series, “Church Clothes Vol. 2,” arrived in November 2013, and now Lecrae has set “Church Clothes Vol. 3” to release in 2016. The new mixtape builds on the topical slant of the first two releases in the series.

“The whole concept is to engage people from all walks of life, all faiths and viewpoints and people with the lack thereof,” Lecrae says. “ ‘Church Clothes 3’ was something I didn’t really plan on doing. But while traveling, going to Africa, going to Asia, going to the Middle East and seeing the issues here in the States and all of the interpretations of ethnicity and culture and faith, I wanted to make a project that would allow me to talk about some of that stuff in a roundabout way.”

Lecrae hopes to bring pure entertainment with some lyrical substance to his shows this summer.

“It’s fun filled,” he says. “It’s just some sincere moments, some thought-provoking moments. There are a lot of energized moments, as well. And, of course, the visual production. We always travel with production, but at the same time we wanted to create some intimate moments. But, yeah, whether you’re a casual fan, a casual listener or a super fan, I think there’s something for you.”

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