Bar Exam: Lecrae & Zaytoven – Let The Trap Say Amen (Album)

A One Listen Album Review

Lecrae’s impact on Christian rap culture has been heavily documented. He’s been consistently talked about and marketed in the mainstream as well as Christian circles for quite some time, and it’s safe to say that his talent is God given. The way that music can impact the heart is tremendously different from one person to the next, and that’s the beautiful thing about art. Today I am pleased to sit down and share my thoughts on “Let The Trap Say Amen.” What about this collaborative piece worked? What didn’t? How well did the beats knock? How laser focused is Lecrae’s intent and message? We’ll dive into that and more right now with a bar exam.

Get Back Right – Big trap beat, repetitive hook to start out the song. Lecrae’s singing voice here is a bit too pure for me. It doesn’t seem like it matches the rugged sound of the streets he seems to be going for. Take note of the cover art, and this spooky beat. I expected to find something a little more rough around the edges than this. Topically though on the surface he seems to be rapping about the typical trap subjects – drop tops, Dolce & Gabbana, and name dropping celebs. What he’s doing here is intentional though, because he flips these ideas on their heads.

“Bottles on bottles on bottles/and models on models on models/and dollars on dollars/Yeah, that don’t help me when my soul wanna holla/When I’m feelin’ the pain and I’m dealin’ with drama”

Lecrae realizes that in all of the success it’s easy to lose focus on God. He had to get his head back right and remember that “all good things work together.” I follow the concept, and the beat is okay. The execution of this hook bugs me. Right now I have this song barely at the bar. Let’s see how it fits into the scope of the whole project.

Preach“Preacher preach/I got the Jesus piece/I got God in me/Don’t need ice on the chain/I got the Lord with me/no need to flex on the game.” The idea of this song is that Lecrae has had a change in his life. Jesus has saved him so all he can do is testify. There’s a lot of extra stuff to these bars – the token repetitive lines. “Pardon me pardon me pardon me,” etc. The good thing is that this one is more appealing to my ear than the first. He’s moving around in this bed really well, showing he’s not a stranger to this type of beat or texture.

2 Sides Of The Game“you could get rich off of dope is you let ’em tell it/you get rich off of kush if you let em tell it/but there’s two sides of the game and they’ll never tell it.” It begins in with a dark overtone. Wacka Flocka Flame tells of how the trap game looks enticing with big wax and diamonds. This track is actually off the hook. I’m vibing to it the whole way. There’s a lot to unpack here, but Lecrae does his thing. He’s sharing about people he knows who are locked up now because they gave their life to the trap. That life isn’t worth it. I’m not familiar with Kso Jaynes, but his verse isn’t bad either. It’s heavy because of the dark sounds this type of music involves, and when paired with the raw truth of throwing away your life for the kilos and bands it unearths some raw honesty that people need to hear.

Plugged In – Pianos and synths make up the melodic parts of the music beds on this. Here there’s a subtle flute in the background, and certain layers are added and even paused in order to enhance the vocal track. The topic here is that Lecrae is plugged into God and he never fails. His flow is reminiscent of Juvenile circa the year 2000.

“They put all that cheese in the trap/cause they don’t want you to get out/And you can hit your jeweler, buy you six chains or/You can start a barbershop, expand to six chains/Do it big, do it for your kids yeah, get a crib/They don’t want you free, they want you in the pen til’ your end”

The challenge is to move past the street life and to make something better out of it. Trust in God and He can come through for you in ways no one else can. For this song I feel like the concept is re-hashed a bit, and doesn’t add much new perspective. I’m not too thrilled with this one.

Holy Water – Begins with a rattling bass and a cello sample at the top. “Holy water I’m drippin’ holy water” Lecrae comes in with an auto-tuned melody. It’s a bit deeper pitch and slower paced than we’ve heard from him before. The subject of the first verse is the idea that people can’t judge Lecrae’s calling, and how he’s moving forward with what God has asked of him. He shouts out 116 and explains the only way they have any impact at all is through the fact that “God is good, all the time.” He moves on with a melody in verse two, talking about resisting the devil’s temptations and being there for his team. God is still working and he’s gonna stay leaning in by faith. “I just trust the guide/Close my eyes/I could do this blind/I don’t walk by sight/Things just work out for me/I don’t do it well I do it right.” This song is quite alright. I’d put it slightly above the bar.

Blue Strips – “I’d do anything for the money let the money drive me crazy” Lecrae brings a nice flow over the beat about money. Blue Strips are referring to the security strip on newly printed dollar bills. Once again there are a lot of repetitive lines, it’s the token flavor of the trap. Lecrae understands the confines he’s placed himself in for this concept album, and he’s navigating it well. On this song Lecrae is painting a picture of someone living in the hood who is a felon, can’t find a job straight out of prison so operates in the only way he can. The second verse tells the story of the homies girl at home who sets up so many expectations on him. There’s no resolution here, there’s a less than hopeful picture painted here and I was waiting the whole time for the house of cards to fall.

Only God Can Judge Me – Another melody here, Lecrae is sharing how people pick apart everything you do, everything you’ve done wrong and how he doesn’t understand.

“I don’t understand all this reprimanding/Come and be my stand it/see if you could stand it” …”I go to the prison and witness/This is my district/I witness/I live this/You don’t even visit/why you in my business?”

The bars speak for themselves. I dig the musicality on this one, and the melody is really appealing. The momentum is picking up a bit here for me as we begin the second half of the project.

Yet – The best hook of the album is right here at the beginning of this song. The musical texture here is a little different and gives some breath into this track. God’s got a plan, and while there’s still a lot of the same ol’ same ol’ happening in ‘Crae’s life, he’s looking to God and he knows God’s not done with him. It’s an uplifting track where he’s considering everything from the legacy he leaves for his children to the people he’s yet to introduce to Christ. The church organs and the violins in the beat are a nice touch.

I Can’t Lose – With God on our side we can’t lose. More melodies from Lecrae that hand off well into 24hrs and his hook. This song seems like more of the same though. “We don’t care about the haters… we gon’ keep doing out thang… and the blessings are gonna keep coming.” Next.

Switch – Lecrae is talking about how he used to be an addict and how eventually he had to switch it up. “I had to switch it up from telling the world to showing the world I actually believed it.” There’s something to admire about Lecrae’s openness and his realness about the struggles he’s had. There’s a pretty good path that he’s paving to hope here. He’s not sugar coating the fact that here the “switch” for him was giving his life to God, and that’s when everything changed. So far he’s only sharing the “what to do” rather than the “how to do it.” I can totally see an album like this being a conversation starter for that lost soul who is looking for hope. If it’s not even that, at it’s basic level it should cause some questions to be asked.

Can’t Block It – Piano solo at the top. There’s a off beat reggae vibe on this one. The hook deals with the idea that you can’t block Lecrae’s bliss. He’s got his sights on above. The music beds on this are terrific. Sonically appealing across the board. You can’t pay attention to the snakes who don’t want to see you succeed. More repetitive bars and lines, but like I said it’s an easy and appealing tune.

Fly Away – Each track here hangs on the success of the hook. If a hook does what it’s supposed to do, and it hooks your attention you should be able to follow the rest of the song. The concept Lecrae tackles here is that everything falls apart, and we can find true hope once we’re apart from this world. Nobigdyl comes by for a tight rhyme.

“Stress and sex they medicate our best intentions/young and reckless we just flexing cuz we pessimistic/My confession I just hope my ex is watchin’/Got a girl and she’s a blessin’ but I play the best imposter”

Life can be stressful and we can feel like we don’t belong and there’s no hope. There’s a chance to put the past behind you if you just let it go.

We wrap up the album with the song “By Chance.” Lecrae talks about how impossible stories can become possible, they can be redeemed. With God on your side you can do anything because nothing is by chance. Verse Simmonds drops a solid hook. There’s a lot of room on these verses, and this flow from Lecrae is great.

Wow man, I really don’t know what to say. Lecrae is a tremendously polarizing figure in CHH and he just did a complete trap album. There’s a lot that comes with that idea. There’s definitely a certain feel and vibe to go for as well as a certain sect of the hip-hop culture to reach. I’d say he did a great job at sticking to his same messages and pointing people to hope. For me, musically the first half of this album took awhile to get off of the ground. Those songs seemed to be packed with similar topics and even musical choices that caused me to slump a bit. The album ended on a good note with these last three being the strongest section of the project. I applaud Lecrae for what he did. It was a challenging creative decision, but outside of that I don’t find a lot here to return to. If there’s cohesion it’s because most of it sounds the same. I’m disappointed, but after my first listen it’s below the bar.

Overall Rating: Below The Bar