On his Columbia Records debut, the rapper answers his evangelical critics while staying close to his true roots.

Late last month, Columbia Records released All Things Work Together, the latest offering from Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae. Popular among young evangelicals for putting theologically sound rhymes over catchy and well-composed beats, Lecrae has been working to move toward a more mainstream audience over the past few years. That work paid off when, in 2016, he signed a distribution deal with a major record label, Columbia Records.

This is Lecrae’s first album on Columbia, and he makes the most of the new resources a major record label provides: All Things Work Together features slick production and catchy beats crafted by some of the top producers in hip-hop like Metro-Boomin’, Go Grizzly, and Boi-1da.

Beyond providing access to some of the top producers in the game, however, Lecrae’s Columbia deal also provided another gift: freedom. It has given him the resources to walk away from the evangelical fanbase that made him a star, only to turn on him in the wake of his outspoken advocacy against police brutality and for racial justice after Ferguson. Lecrae has been around long enough to know that those who “rock the boat need a life raft.”

It’s probably no coincidence that Lecrae waited until he was on “prime time” to speak without restraint about racial injustice and the ways the church has been complicit or actively contributed to inequality. There are hints, however, that this so-called “new” Lecrae is in some ways who he always was.

In All Things Work Together, Lecrae talks about how his mother revealed to him the bias of his schoolbooks, which led to a different understanding of American history that included the Middle Passage—the route slaves took from Africa …

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