There is no conversation about gospel rappers without mentioning Lecrae. He is by far the one who has received the most praise (no pun intended) and props from rappers and producers alike, to the point where Don Cannon hosted one of his mixtapes, the appropriately titled Church Clothes, Vol 2. He’s got B.o.B. on the album and an interlude featuring Bun B. Boi-1da has made beats for him. And in the gospel rap world, dude has had a string of #1 albums. Lecrae can actually spit. Point blank. Period.

Yet despite the co-signs, his backstory (his life was a mess of epic proportions so he was a rapper waiting to happen, either for Jesus or mainstream America, though he clearly turned his life around), and despite his skill, I still find it hard to take him seriously as a rapper. And its the problem I have with most gospel rappers. The posturing, though likely authentic to them as individuals, feels like posturing. It’s the same problem that plagued the string of rappers-turnt-singers (of which my beloved Jagged Edge falls). It’s hard to believe this intended-to-be-edgy persona you present with such aggression when you’re singing about promises and bringing chicks puppies in videos. Even if you do it in a gaudy light blue faux-fur coat and are singing in ice, which is gangsta.

Same thing with gospel rappers. In Lecrae’s song “I’m Turnt” he’s at a house party, presumably getting “turnt up”, but rapping about not smoking or drinking or having a woman twerk on him because it’s a work night, etc. All very plausible. I have homeboys who don’t smoke or drink or hang out on work nights. But something about it felt very Nick Cannon before he realized he might as well be ratchet because nobody was listening anyway. Lecrae attempts in many of his singles to keep the actual God-speak to a minimum, a smart move by the way, but you know what he’s getting at. It’s still preachy.

And that’s the problem with most gospel rap, it’s talking at us. It’s preachy even if it’s not supposed to be. The person at church who does the talking that’s important is the preacher. He’s giving you lessons for daily living. But he’s not talking to you, he (or she) is talking at you. It’s the gig.