Religion

Hip hop gets more exposure at Ichthus

Christian hip-hop artist LeCrae performed at last year's Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore. This year, joining him will be hip-hop artists Trip Lee, Tedashii and Pro, who are signed to his label, Reach Records.
Christian hip-hop artist LeCrae performed at last year's Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore. This year, joining him will be hip-hop artists Trip Lee, Tedashii and Pro, who are signed to his label, Reach Records. staff

The crowd around the main stage on Friday afternoon at last year's Ichthus Music Festival was bounced out of a sun-induced slumber by a rather unorthodox sound for most Christian rock fans: pure hip-hop.

Ichthus has had hip-hop stars on stage before — most successfully TobyMac, whose act is mixture of rap, funk, soul and rock. And GRITS and KJ-52 have had their moments.

But LeCrae's Ichthus 2010 set was something of a revelation: an artist relatively unknown to most mainstream Christian rock fans making a main stage impact.

"It's always a shock to me to go somewhere you've never been and see that people have been following you and your music," LeCrae says from his home in Atlanta. "It's an encouragement."

LeCrae has been a recording artist for the better part of a decade, dropping five albums since 2004 and becoming a top artist in the world of gospel hip hop. But that is a very small world.

It is not lost on LeCrae, who credits bands such as The Cross Movement with blazing a trail for him, that in most of the Christian music world, it's still the 1980s when it comes to hip hop.

"In Christian music, the authenticity of your Christianity is often questioned as, 'How can you be hip hop and Christian? I always thought rap was about drug deals and killing people and misogynist lyrics,' because that's what it was associated with," LeCrae says.

"I've been here doing this, and I have contemporaries. But it's still a new phenomenon for people to see, because we haven't had a lot of exposure."

This year's Ichthus Festival is giving LeCrae a shot at more exposure. First, he will usher in the Thursday evening lineup on the main stage, performing before evening speaker Efrem Smith and headliners Anberlin and RED. Also, he was asked by Ichthus to help put together a hip-hop lineup on the Deep End Stage.

"We were so blown away by LeCrae, we wanted him to help expose more of our audience to Christian hip-hop," Ichthus CEO Mark Vermilion says.

LeCrae says, "I'm definitely part of a convergent culture, and I think hip hop has allowed for that, where you have people from different walks of life and places and ethnicities, but hip hop has converged us."

Some of the artists signed to LaCrae's label, Reach Records, who are coming to Ichthus include Trip Lee, Tedashii and Pro.

"Thank God for Kentucky," LeCrae says. "I've really been blown away by the trust they have shown in us having someone standing in your corner willing to allow you the platform."

Of course, that all started when he blew Ichthus away a year ago.

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