My name is Lecrae. I am an artist, author, actor, and activist. Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to sell out tours, top charts, and be awarded for my art, but, for me, it’s always been more about my impact versus my achievements. I want to thoughtfully engage culture and be an advocate for change. When I hear the term “trap music,” I don’t think of glorifying the negativity. I think of a soundscape that speaks a certain language. I think of music that tells real stories. Let The Trap Say Amen arrives June 22.
The local news reporters knocked on my door one morning. I hadn't even brushed my teeth. They wanted to ask questions about my neighbor.
“Did you know them well?” they asked.
“Did you” instead of “Do you?”
The past-tense language was all I needed to know. My neighbor was dead. She was murdered the night before, only a few days after we had a discussion about my rap dreams and her television dreams. Another person in my community gone. Welcome to the Trap.
Unfortunately, there are certain things you get used to. Some call it old factory fatigue; when you work in a factory for so long you can’t smell the fumes being produced. I remember 13 people from my neighborhood being killed in a three-year span. I remember kids who played ball at the recreation center catching cases. I remember my little homie getting robbed at gunpoint for an iPod. I remember the kids who were babied by their grandmas so much you thought they would turn out square. Instead, they ended up with a mouth full of gold and joined a gang.
Yes, there was violence. Yes, there was crime. Yes, there was poverty. Yes, there was poor education.
But, there’s a whole other side of the Trap people never talk about.
Years ago I found myself at a Christian conference in a downtown Atlanta hotel.
I wasn't a Christian, yet. I was there because I wanted new experiences and some school friends of mine invited me. There were also gorgeous girls from all over the place, which was a great incentive. A few local black pastors were there along with Christian leaders from a variety of HBCUs, from Morehouse to Howard University. As I looked around I saw people who looked like me and dressed like me. Not the holier-than-thou stereotype. I saw cornrowed hair, gold chains, and the latest in urban fashion. They even had a talent show full of slam poetry and hip-hop. After this overdose of a contextualized black experience with Jesus, I was undone. This wasn't my grandma’s Christianity. I still remember the pastor telling us, “Jesus wasn't no punk! You know how crucifixion feels?!”
After my literal come-to-Jesus moment, one of the leaders took a group of us straight to the Westside of Atlanta. This is before all the gentrified coffee shops and dog walkers. We were right in the middle of the trap. “Let's share the good news with our people y’all,” we were told. I was so eager to tell the world about my newfound freedom in God, everybody got an earful—drunks, the elderly, dope boys.
That’s when I saw something I’ll never forget. As I walked back to the van I saw everyone huddled up. Our leader was talking to the neighborhood dope boy. He was older than us, maybe in his mid-20s, rough around the edges but flashy. He had the look of somebody who had definitely earned his stripes in the hood. Our leader told him something to the effect of, “God made us with dignity and value, and could use him for redemptive purposes.” Right there in front of us, this street pharmacist broke down. Tears flowed. After our collective “Amen,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of hundred dollar bills and said, “Use this to do something right by God.”
God is the God of the Trap too, I guess.
I’ve seen this story happen over and over again. Redemption for those society rejects. While everyone is quick to dismiss God going to work in the lowliest of places, consider Jesus himself was from a little backwater town in a Roman province. I’ve seen those dope boys turn into basketball coaches at the local high school. I’ve seen single mothers work three jobs to send their kids to college. I’ve seen the programs that provide summer jobs for teens. I was a part of a program like that myself. There’s a whole other side to the trap that doesn't get exposed. Most of our grandmothers still live in the trap, cooking for everyone, and making sure someone's uncle who is going through a rough patch has a bedroom in back. Families struggling to make ends meet, but everyone knows everyone. There’s dignity in there. Sure, I’ve let a couple of junkies cut my grass for the low, but I treated them like people, not zombies.
You can’t pigeonhole our communities. Everyone in the Trap ain’t trappin'. We’re enjoying block parties and 99-cent wings from the corner store. We’re playing dominoes and spades in the front yard with the car playing music loud. I shot my first music video in my neighborhood and the whole community showed up. It was a moment of worth and value for everyone.
When you hear the term "trap music" you most likely think of an ode to drugs, dealing, money, and mayhem. But truthfully, the production sets the scene first. Dope boys want to rap over a particular soundscape. Zaytoven, Metro Boomin, and Murda Beatz, amongst others, provide that. There was a trap beat before anyone glorified trap life over it and there are more stories from the Trap that have yet to be told. Kendrick’s done it, Kodak Black spilled his heart out, my brother Thi’sl from St. Louis has as well.
T.I., arguably the creator of the term “Trap Muzik,” has shown us how intelligent and articulate someone who came from trapping can be. Most of the business acumen that JAY-Z exercises today came from hustling in Brooklyn's Marcy Projects. Their music is a picture of their realities and others.
Yeah, there may be a dope boy or two on the corner, but there’s also a church on every other one. Some of those churches are pillars in the community, not full of Pulpit Pimps.
Don't judge a book by its cover.
The trap does more than say “Aye.” It says “Amen.”