Failing Faith by Wade Bearden, Free for CAPC Members
In Failing Faith, Wade Bearden invites us into his life so that we might find a faith that can hold up under the weight of real-world realities.
It has been a few weeks since Let the Trap Say Amen—a joint album by Grammy–award winning artist Lecrae and Grammy-award winning producer Zaytoven (Usher, Migos, Gucci Mane)—released. Since then, the album peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums chart (dated July 7) and has been featured on the big screens in New York City’s Times Square. Likewise, you might have caught a glimpse of, or overheard, one the album’s singles, “Get Back Right,” while standing in line at the concessions of your local movie theater. All of this may seem like senseless factoids about a Grammy–award winning artist and producer, but for long-time fans of Lecrae, this exposure symbolizes the cosmopolitan nature of the Christian faith.
LTSA features Lecrae at his freest. Overall, the album captures the essence of Lecrae’s label Reach Records, with an emphasis on the “Reach.” This trap-infused and trap-inspired hip hop album tells a different side of the story to and from the trap, while reaching an audience that may be unfamiliar with the Atlanta-native artist. LTSA also bridges the genre gap for everyone who decided to stick with Lecrae after his controversial 2017 album, All Things Work Together. Where All Things Work Together weaves in and out of Lecrae’s story about his struggle to find peace being himself—save the evangelical backlash for speaking on issues of justice—LTSA unbuckles the seat belt and mashes the gas straight into a culture that’s known for glorifying the struggle of the trap.But it’s not just talk and rapping; Lecrae uses his talents to aim at the hearts of men, even when people don’t understand his message.
You may be wondering what is meant by “the trap”—it’s a two-fold term. According to Urban Dictionary, the trap is a house or neighborhood where “people there are stuck in a cycle of selling drugs and hustling to survive, and are therefore ‘trapped’ and unable to leave and make a better life for themselves.” The original connotation refers to a house in a low-income neighborhood where drugs are either manufactured, sold, consumed, or all of the above. It is a place where money and weapons are also likely to be. If the house gets raided by law enforcement, everyone present is essentially “trapped” and could face extensive jail-time. Trap, as it relates to the music, is a particular style, or sub-genre of hip hop. The sounds of trap music are usually heavily laced with 808s, auto-tuned rap vocals, pipe flutes, and thick snare kicks.
But this is not an educational album about the trap—it is authentically trap. Lecrae merely reveals a different side of the genre and the lifestyle. Teamed up with award-winning producer Zaytoven, the duo produces a collection of hits that is authentic and inspiring.
In case anyone wondered if Lecrae would sacrifice substance for style, he poignantly puts listeners on notice in the opening track when he starts to get “too deep.” The assumption is that he “better fall back.” But armed with a mission that hasn’t changed since 2007, he warns everyone listening that they’re going to “get this work, you shoulda wore a hard hat” (“Get Back Right”).
Like all his previous albums, LTSA aims to “heal the blind with a speech” (“Preach”). But it’s not just talk and rapping; Lecrae still uses his talents to aim at the hearts of men, even when people don’t understand his message. In the bass heavy and vibey “Holy Water,” he addresses the people that “say he forgot that truth, Now all he talk is money,” to which Lecrae responds: “I say truth is that my people in the hood and hungry,” a fact to which an uninformed audience wouldn’t “really know (is his) calling.”
Probably the most surprising track—“2 Sides of the Game”—is so for a couple reasons: it features Waka Flocka Flame, an in-your-face, brash and most notably violent lyricist, and it is a song that warns of the consequences of the trap—facts not usually heard in the trap sub-genre. Lecrae and Zaytoven’s ability to get an artist like Flocka Flame to rap about the dangers of trap life is a talent in itself. Flocka raps, “A thousand eight grams get you 32 bands, Or 32 years with some cell mate fans.” Overall, the track works as a cautionary tale as Lecrae raps about his uncle’s downfall and as Kso Jones raps on the hook, “You get rich off of dope if you let em tell it… They gon make seem like that lil money worth your freedom.”
Never one to highlight problems without possible solutions, ‘Crae unashamedly redirects his audience to a richer and better source of security on the next song, “Plugged In.” In a not-so-subtle message, he points to a person who’s always available to supply all his needs: “I got a real plug, Never let me down.” “I told em, ‘Buy a business get a house, Take the money rinse it out.’ ” For Lecrae, the goal is always to lead souls to greater freedom, and the way he sees it, “They don’t want you free, that’s slavery, don’t play with me” (“Plugged In”).
Listeners may get weary of Lecrae’s consistent addressing of his haters on LTSA. Granting the amount of pressure associated with living under the microscope of scrutiny—specifically from Christians—the dynamics of addressing his dissenters is as much a declaration to them as it is to himself; he doesn’t really care if you “judge me, don’t love me, I don’t judge myself I leave that to the Lord above me” (“Only God Can Judge Me”). The sophistry surrounding Lecrae’s art and activism led to his decision to publicly distance himself from white evangelicalism and Christian Hip Hop (CHH); both are entities that sometimes seem to share a countenance for “picking apart every song” to which Lecrae asks, “What more do you want?” “I don’t understand it, all this reprimanding, You come be my stand-in, see if you can stand it” (“Only God Can Judge Me”).
Regardless of his misgivings and critics, Lecrae continues adapting to his context without wavering from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let the Trap Say Amen is only further proof of his skill to create relevant music, while—more importantly—keeping the gospel a central message to anyone who has ears to hear. Lecrae remains passionate for spreading the Good News through the medium of hip hop. The only thing that’s really changed is his audience and his context.
Christians will continue disagreeing about the direction and participants of the gospel mission just as they always have (Acts 15:36–41). While some will silently disengage the mission of LTSA, others will make it their mission to magnify the flaws of an album intended to reach the specific context of the trap. But “if they gon’ watch gon’ let em… Keep faith always know God got me,” because when you’re sure of what God’s called you to do, “You can’t let em’ block yo blessing” (“Can’t Block It”); an imposition to which the Church and the trap can say, “Amen.”
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