Label: Reach Records
Producers: Black Knight, Epikh Pro, GAWVI, Mykalife, Ryan Righteous, S1, Shindo, VohnBeatz
On January 15th, Lecrae came out with a surprise 3rd album in his Church Clothes mixtape series. Following 2012’s Church Clothes and 2013’s Church Clothes 2, all album inspired on The Swiss Avenue Collection With his uplifting lyrics and boldness in taking on tough topics, it comes as no surprise that Lecrae has become one of the biggest stars in the Christian hip hop scene. Lecrae’s Church Clothes 3 is a daring album, He and the featured guest artists talk about some tough issues, but does that lead to an album that is unnecessarily dark? Read on to see what I thought.
Church Clothes 3 is a Christian hip hop/rap album, but the one thing you should know is that Lecrae deals with some mature and controversial issues; he mentions pedophilia, drug use, violence in the streets, and gangs. Not promoting these things by any means, and without going into undue detail, he genuinely wants them exposed and brought to an end.
Album Theme/Cover Art
The album art has a classy feel to it, with the black and white picture of a vintage car and a teenager that looks like he’s dressed to go to church. The album title is centered on the grill of the car, making it easy to see. It fits for a Church Clothes theme, but my only critique is that I don’t feel how it fits the overall tone of the album.
As I listen to this album, I can’t help but think that with a strong focus on social justice in America, Church Clothes 3 is probably Lecrae’s darkest record yet. In the wake of the past year in America, with racial tension, police brutality, growing social unrest, as well as frequent criticism… Lecrae expresses a lot of anger, frustration and struggle. I think we would do well to remember this as we listen to the album. It’s not necessarily an album to listen to in order to get excited, but Lecrae addresses some tough topics that, in my opinion, needed to be addressed.
The album opens with “Freedom.” It’s a song all about the fact that freedom isn’t free, there are people suffering every day in the pursuit of freedom. The song hits on child prostitution, people living in poverty, and slavery. It’s a deep song and a bold opener to this album, but Lecrae and N’dambi pull it off well.
“Gangland,” the second track is another bold song, to say the least. It talks about, you guessed it, gangs, which is a difficult subject. It’s a topic that Lecrae is familiar with. His childhood was riddled with abuse and neglect, leading him to look up to gangsters and take on a life of crime. Lecrae has been there– he knows that lifestyle, lived it, and was delivered from it. “Gangland” is quite central to the whole mixtape. Lecrae talks about the history of gangs in America, and why the urban community is so full of devastation. Propaganda shares, “It was a crooked system just like this that left the King of Kings bloodless.” Jesus was killed by corrupt officials in his day, and we who follow him should not be surprised by the same corruption in our day.
The next track, “Deja Vu”, speaks about how God is with us every step along the way in life, through the good and bad. The hook explains it perfectly, “And some days are a nightmare / And some dreams come true / But the Lord’s still right there / It’s just déjà vu / It’s just déjà vu, déjà vu / It’s just déjà vu, y’all”. Lecrae feels like he’s seen this all before, and he needs God there with him to keep on going through it. The flow, delivery, piano usage, and lyricism of this one are on point.
“Cruising” and “It Is What It Is” are much more focused on how Lecrae is just accepting that he’s going to have haters and struggles in life, but he keeps striving and doing his thing. It’s safe to say he’s had a good year career wise, probably his best so far, and Lecrae is rightfully feeling confident. “It Is What It Is” has a repetitive hook that gets slightly annoying after a few listens, and they’re both slower than the intensity he showed earlier. They’re not the smoothest or best tracks on the project, but they’re still pretty solid.
“Can’t Do You” (feat. E-40) features classic Black Knight production, creating a distinct style from the rest of the project. Considering the depth of the first three tracks, this one lacks that serious feeling. Lecrae’s verse is probably the peak of this track, and the entire quality of the track just isn’t up the par that the rest of the project has set. E-40 isn’t as skilled and has an entirely different style than Lecrae, so that definitely takes something away from this one. It’s still a pretty good track in it’s own right, though it doesn’t live up to the standards of the rest of the project.
To say that there’s a lot going on in this album is a bit of an understatement, and honestly, it has it’s rough spots… but the content and overall message of the album makes up for them. Throughout his career, Lecrae has stepped it up with each new release, giving his fans something better to listen to than the last, and Church Clothes 3 holds true to that pattern: it’s not perfect, but it is quality. If you haven’t already, go check it out. I think I can say with confidence that new and old fans of Lecrae alike will not be disappointed.
The Bottom Line
With this being a surpise mixtape, there wasn't much hype for Church Clothes 3, but that doesn't mean it doesn't deliver. Lecrae, along with a host of guest artists bring us what I believe is Lecrae's darkest album yet.