Favorites: Church Clothes, Cold World, Inspiration, The Price of Life, No Regrets, Sacrifice, Rejects
Favorite Features: Thi’sl, Tasha Catour, Andy Mineo, L2, Odd Thomas
1. Co-Sign (Prod by Heat Academy)
Lecrae kicks off the mixtape addressing the “Christian rapper” label in Co-Sign. Being widely considered the most well-known Christian hip hop artist, Lecrae is consistently confined to a specific “box” or category by listeners. He shares how he is authentic in what he speaks. Lecrae wants people to understand that he doesn’t have an angle. He’s humble and mature in pointing all glory back to God because of His mercy and grace. Even in my first listen of this track, I felt something much bigger than just a mixtape in and of itself. I got goosebumps because this truly feels like the beginning of the breaking down of new barriers in the music community. Church Clothes could very well usher in a new movement in the mainstream. Lecrae also mentions subject material like the acceptance of Islamic-influenced ideologies and the double-standard of rejecting Christian-based messages. Lecrae is approached by money-hungry executives with ill intentions. Initially, it’s all about what Lecrae could do for them, but they do recognize something different about Lecrae’s message, that being raw truth. I really enjoy the Don Cannon element. He brings conversation to the mixtape and good energy. He definitely gives the feel that the coming 17 tracks are to be epic. What I liked on the production side was Cannon’s signature motto, the horns, piano, and synth runs. The piano, horns, and synth runs really worked well together. It was a pretty hard-hitting beat that was perfect for the opener.
2. APB ft Thi’sl (Prod by Charlie Heat Sarah J)
Thi’sl!!! I was hype when I saw that Thi’sl was going to get some mainstream exposure on APB. Hip hop really needs Thi’sl. He brings truth from an experienced perspective. Lecrae knew that the world needed to hear what a man of Christ has to say that actually grew up in the thick of the hood. I’m glad he mentioned Jeezy because that’s an obvious comparison. Many mainstream fans consider Jeezy raw and hard. Thi’sl raps about his upbringing, touching on his exposure to drugs, uninvolved parents, gangs, violence, jail, and drive-by shootings. Lecrae speaks on his past of weed and hard liquor. He shares that he was always drunk or high and can’t even remember some things. Both artists want to make it known that they don’t have a squeaky clean past, but God redeems us and changes us. Both artists are changed men and you can’t find the old versions of themselves even if you put out an “all-points bulletin”. Lecrae and Thi’sl show that hop hop made by Christians doesn’t have to be corny. This is real music. I liked the communications effects, the fact that we heard Thi’sl right out of the gate, and a simple beat that complicated the artists well. Cannon throws in a “volume one” reference in there. Uh oh…we know what that means.
4. Cold World ft Tasha Catour (Prod by Street Symphony)
Cold World is where production and message met at a perfect median for me. In my opinion, Cold World is the best overall song on Church Clothes. “Everybody wants something for their nothing.” Tasha Catour sounds phenomenal on this track. Her confidence and demeanor matched with a very high quality vocal did the trick for me. Lecrae goes in about killing for money, the horrors of abused children, kids growing up in the streets with parents addicted to drugs, young girls being with older men, low quality schools, and the trash they serve at fast-food restaurants. In Lecrae’s second verse he tells the story of a stripper that’s entered into a sexual relationship with a married man. She has settled for being his “lady of the night” even though she desires a family and husband of her own. But Lecrae gives hope by sharing that God is fully capable of changing any person or situation. The production is stellar on this track. There’s great reverb on Tasha’s vocals and it fits perfect. I liked the complex and different layers of drums accompanied by nice, light synths. The feel of this song is very complimentary of the lyrics. It created a visual setting for me of a cold, grey day, symbolizing the state of the world today. Cold World offered an amazing contrast from the previous three songs.
5. Welcome to H-Town ft Tedashii & Dre Murray (Prod By Wit)
Welcome to H-Town is originally a track from the Hell’s Paradise mixtapes by Wit & Dre Murray. Wit killed another one man. This beat is crazy. Von Won fits the sound of this song with his vocals in the chorus. All the guys reminisce on their growing up in Houston. This song was good. It was personal with each artist sharing a part of their life with us. Not every song has to be super deep. Tracks like this, referencing specific places, engage the culture. I liked the features, T-Dot and Dre Murray. If you haven’t yet checked them out, go check out Wit & Dre Murray’s Hell’s Paradise mixtapes. They’re also free to download.
6. Inspiration (Prod by Wit)
Wit pulls another sample out of his box on Inspiration. I really like how the sample changes up by adding a little muffle to it. If it isn’t obvious yet, Wit is exceptional working with samples. We all have those days that we need God to push us through. We all have days where we are just down and not feeling it, days when the weights of this world feel heavier than ever. Sometimes we lack focus. Therefore, Your Spirit must be our guide. Lecrae talks about having no one else to turn to but God. It frustrates and pains him that some of his closest family and friends don’t know Jesus. I really love how Lecrae got real personal, sharing his struggles. He gave up getting high, not to be holier than others, but because God is better. God doesn’t always give us the things we see as good or things we think we need. Just having a personal relationship with Christ is better than all these things. He makes us new and forgives us. Regardless of the pains in this world, we have the next life to look forward to. This song is going to help bring a lot of people to Jesus. I pray it’s so.
*If you’d like to give your life to Christ, or maybe you just need someone to talk to, we’d like to connect with you. Please, feel free to hit us up at email@example.com*
7. Rise (Prod by 9th Wonder)
Rise has a sound for a listener with a specific taste. Some might love this kind of production and style. I’m just not a fan of it. It’s nothing personal. This is just one man’s opinion! I guess I was kind of expecting more from 9th Wonder. He did some nice sampling, but I just wasn’t feeling the vibe. The culture has a large influence over our youth. Overall, there’s not much substance to music anymore. It’s real hard to connect to a generation brought up idolizing “gangstas”. They’ve been conditioned to feel that engaging in emotions, feelings, and spirituality is a weakness. It’s going to take media, and good media, to reach today’s youth. “It’s easier to believe there’s a Heaven for a thug than to mess with you.” Isn’t this true? Living the life that God created us for is hard. It’s why we see so much false teachings trying to create an easier way to Heaven. So many people believe the “good people go to Heaven” theory. This just isn’t the case. But people choose to believe this simplistic idea because it doesn’t require them changing the way they live. Lecrae calls for listeners to recognize the authenticity and experience of himself and those he associates with. They’ve been in the streets and actually lived life with you. When they make music, they articulate what God is doing in their life. Lecrae wants us to know that we are not what society tells us we are. We are who God tells us we are.
8. Darkest Hour ft No Malice (Prod by ThaInnaCircle)
Let me preface the following by saying this: I went back and listened to some of No Malice’s previous works and realized that this is just kind of his style. He has a pretty chill delivery. With that being said, I wasn’t a huge fan of No Malice’s verse for a few reasons. He almost seemed too perfect and robotic in his delivery. He never really fluctuated much with his energy. I actually think it would have been better placement to put No Malice second on Darkest Hour. The hook seemed similar to PRo’s sample in “New Shalom.” The production didn’t wow me. It wasn’t Lecrae’s strongest showing either, making Darkest Hour my least favorite track on this project.
9. Black Rose (Prod by Tyshane)
I want to focus on the production element of Black Rose. This was an incredible beat. It did so many different things. I love when producers aren’t afraid to the let the beat ride a bit. If you created greatness, let it show man. I’m really not sure how to feel about this Jamaican flow Lecrae uses! At first, I was like, “Oh no…” But the more I listened to it, it’s really not that it didn’t work. It’s more so the fact that I’m so not used to hearing Lecrae do something like this. If this project was the first time I had ever heard Lecrae, I don’t think I would have stopped and focused on that element of this song so much. I’m really not going to hold that against Crae because it really didn’t sound bad. Dope production, unique style, good track.
10. The Price of Life ft Andy Mineo & Co Campbell (Prod by Symbolic One S1)
I’m finding myself saying this a lot, but The Price of Life is one of my favorites on Church Clothes. I stated earlier that I believed Cold World had the best production on the mixtape. I stand by that, but based on beat alone, The Price of Life holds down the top spot for me. S1′s production is too hot on this track! The guitar soloing behind Andy? Wow! The horns are incredible too. The production impressed me so much that I couldn’t even focus on any of the lyrics on my first listen through. I’d rock this instrumental! Lecrae tells the story of a girl worried about her outward appearance. She’s insecure and sees all men as perverts. Because of this, she finds herself attracted to women. However, Lecrae explains that a real man of God would show her hope and push her to seek our her own real purpose. Co Campbell is the man. I fell in love with his music on Andy Mineo’s Formerly Known mixtape. S1 lets this beat breathe a little bit too. Andy is so dope. He states that the issue is a lack of awareness and knowledge of who people really are and what their value is. We search for meaning, purpose, and validation in anything we can. True life starts when we find out why we were put here. Lecrae chose some great features on this track. That, along with great lyrics and production, made this feel good track one I’ll be putting on repeat.
11. Special ft Lester L2 Shaw (Prod by ThaInnaCircle)
TheInnaCircle provided some good production on Special. It sounded like a mix between Kanye and Chris Brown. I really liked when Lecrae came in with just the drums and synths. L2 did his thing, adding some nice vocals to this song. His voice fit this track very well. Special is a love song to Lecrae’s wife. I’m really happy a track like this was put on a mixtape aimed at the mainstream. The mainstream listeners never get a picture of what a young man of God in marriage looks like. Lecrae shares how marriage is hard work. He states that it’s to be sacred and private in many instances. He always explains how he leads with love, provides not by just buying stuff, and how he doesn’t need a prenup because marriage is forever. Lecrae explains how the greatest gifts he gives his wife are time, attention, and faithfulness. Arguments are temporary and he can’t wait to grow old together. Drake says he wants his girl to look 30 when she’s 81. Lecrae says he can’t wait to date his wife when she’s 60. See the difference there?
12. No Regrets ft Suzy Rock (Prod by Big Juice & Street Symphony)
No Regrets is superb. I really liked the Suzy Rock feature. She is a multi-talented artist. I really feel Lecrae on this one. When we live fully abandoned to Christ and Christ alone, we have no regrets. There has never been a second I spent with God that I regretted because I didn’t spend it elsewhere. The question isn’t eternal life, but where? For the Christian, it’s all worth it when we see our prize, Christ. No Regrets is my favorite song on the mixtape in regards to lyricism and message. There is a great feel to the song, features, and beat. On my headphones, this track had a significantly lower quality than the others did. It sounds pretty good on my monitors. I can’t seem to bring myself to completely overlook the fact that it didn’t sound right on both my headphones and monitors. That’s probably the only reason it isn’t in my top 2 songs of the mixtape. Even still, it’s one of my favorites.
13. Gimme A Second (Prod by Boi-1da)
At first, I wasn’t feeling Lecrae trying to sing a hook on Gimme A Second. But by the 2nd time around, it grew on me. It’s real and I don’t feel like he was necessarily trying to sound great as much as he was just singing out of joy and showing a different side of himself by loosening up a bit. Listeners who are used to hearing secular artists will recognize this tactic. I actually like this track more the more times I hear it. Lecrae addresses one of my biggest pet peeves of mine, the “same” argument. It’s two-faced to get on a Christian about always saying the same thing when the mainstream artists are so predictable. How many tracks can you find on the hip hop charts that don’t reference drugs, sex, money, or power? Let’s be honest, the problem isn’t staleness. It’s an offensive and convicting truth. Lecrae kept it real on Gimme A Second, speaking on real-life situations. He continues on in his second verse to address how he can relate to people who chase girls and use drugs because he used to do it too. God worked at the foundation of his heart to change him and create a hatred for the same sin he used to love. The beat didn’t make me do cartwheels, but that’s just fine because it was exactly what this message needed it to be: simple and not distracting.
14. Long Time Coming ft Swoope (Prod by 9th Wonder)
What I’m noticing on Church Clothes is that if there isn’t a dope feature nailing a chorus, there’s usually a producer cutting a sample. 9th Wonder also uses this concept on Long Time Coming. Lecrae is so consistently delivering a good message that I almost began to take it for granted. This is another really solid showing by Lecrae lyrically. He lets people know that he views family over everything by giving his audience a peak behind the curtains into his everyday life. Lecrae talks about his kids and the events they take part in, how he puts limits on his social media exposure, and making sure he never puts work before his family. This song is a call for men to leave foolish things and vain personal pursuits behind. I’ll call this Lecrae’s “family man flow”. Swoope comes from a slightly different angle on this track. Swoope talks about he’s been discouraged in the past when he saw artists that weren’t overly talented and not so genuine making it. But Swoope recognizes that God’s way and plan is supreme. Swoope has chosen to put Kingdom things first and if that’s what is stopping him from “making it”, then he’s completely content with not doing so. Swoope lets people know that yes, they are Christians, but they are dope rappers too.
15. Misconception ft Propaganda, Braille, Odd Thomas)
You always know what to expect from a Humble Beast track: depth. There certainly isn’t a lack of it on Misconception. There are a lot of misconceptions dealing with all things Christianity. Humble Beast and Lecrae tackle a bunch of them on this track. Fame, judgment, submission, authority, false teachings, wisdom, good deeds, the Resurrection, blind faith, a Biblical worldview, Western Christianity, and Jesus’ supremacy are all some areas that the artists touch on. I felt that Propaganda was a little harder to understand and keep up with than the other artists, but I refuse to tell anyone to tame down their intellectual creativity. I’d much rather us, as listeners, rise to their level of thinking instead of them dumbing it down. Having said that, the lyrical content plus the delivery style made it easier to follow along with Braille and Odd Thomas. I feel Odd Thomas had the most practically simple message while still being incredibly strong and profound. All of the artists went off on this track and it was incredibly sound lyrically. The beat was kind of an obvious choice. It reminded me of something I heard years back on Linkin Park’s Reanimation album (I am in no way comparing the two!). I love this track for it’s change up in style and delivery.
16. Spazz (Prod by Charlie Heat Sarah J)
“Spazz! Spazz! Spazz!” Spazz was another decent banger-styled beat. In my opinion, it was neither overwhelming or worthy of ridicule. One is incapable of understanding how God makes a Christian feel until they actually feel it for themselves. Because of misconceptions on what Christianity is supposed to look like, people don’t understand how someone can genuinely present God through hip hop. It’s as simple as this: when you combine a talent with the power of God, you get an uncontrollable desire and energy to go off (spazz). This isn’t a gimmick or a show for Lecrae. He’s serious and what he does is real. It’s not just a career or a hobby, it’s real life. I can relate to these misunderstandings though. Before I knew God personally, I felt uncomfortable when I heard the Gospel relayed through hop hop. The best way I can explain it is like this: it was like how I felt when I watched those absolutely horrible American Idol auditions. I would cringe and feel embarrassed (this could have something to do with the not so great quality of Christian hip hop at the time). But as I grew in the Lord, it made perfect sense to me. I like Spazz because I related to it from both sides. The key is bringing people into a closer, personal relationship with Christ. If hip hop can help that process, then use it.
17. Sacrifice (Prod by Red On The Beat Sarah J)
This walk is not all fun and games. Lecrae has seen some real stuff because of his pursuit in the faith. Lecrae makes an excellent point on Sacrifice. What’s our incentive? No amount of money or fame is worth seeing death, violence, extreme poverty, etc. But these are the things we choose to be around. Why? We choose this life because a greater Love is worth it. Any blessings you see are the results of faithfulness in the life of the Christian. We should always pursue Christ and His mission. What follows that great mission is simply lagniappe. The reward is Christ alone and changed lives. Lecrae calls us to a life of integrity and sacrifice. He calls us to be men and women willing to lay down our lives for our friends (John 15:13). The Christian life is one of sacrifice. The beautiful thing about it is that God never asks us to do anything He hasn’t modeled for us Himself. Sacrifice is a really good track and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It offered a nice beat with another very cool sample.
18. Rejects ft Christon Gray (Prod by Tha Kracken!)
Rejects is an amazing song with average production. The vocals weren’t up to par with some of the other tracks. Don Cannon lets us know that volume two is on its way. I’m really looking forward to it. Lecrae opens up explaining how people are trying to figure him out, but he explains that it’s not as simple as religion plus rap for him. Rejection is nothing new and it shouldn’t surprise us! We can expect it as a constant because Jesus said it would be (John 15:18-19). Lecrae spits about more real hope for real people. Lecrae wants people to understand that we truly don’t care about anything else. Jesus is all that matters in the big picture. This is why we seem reckless and fully abandoned in our pursuits. We would die for this. Lecrae shares with his listeners that they are not their past or who their ancestors were. God makes all things new. Lecrae also reminds people not to put stock in things or possessions because you can’t take it with you when you die. I love the Christon Gray feature. He’s an up-and-coming artist that attributed nicely to this anthem feel with his hook. Rejects was a very good way to end this mixtape. It pretty much summed up a large chunk of what Church Clothes was about. It was a nice track to put last, leaving listeners with this specific message in mind.
As I stated in my intro, I’m really excited to see where Church Clothes takes the state of the Christian message in the mainstream circle. I feel that if Lecrae has been introduced to as many people as I think he was, he is going to help make great strides for the Gospel. This is possible because he is so good at what he does.