When I listen to Lecrae’s Anomaly, I like to picture the old religious hymn-writers turning over in their graves and wondering what sort of devil infected their music. I also like to picture God bumping out in heaven to rap music.
Speaking from a Christian perspective, I can tell you there has not really been an album release quite like Anomaly in recent memory. I cannot remember the last time the faith community was generally buzzing about an album like this, and the fact that all this hype is over a rapper? Awesome.
What sets Anomaly apart from other faith-based music is its distinctive way of being both aggressive and unaggressive. Lecrae’s Christian themes certainly come through if you listen closely, but the tight beats and crashing grooves and Outkast shoutouts coat everything in a brilliant accessibility — this was the number one album in America for a reason, friends.
Here’s the thing with Christian music: For all of the encouragement and positivity and praise and hallelujahs, sometimes it can feel like reaching the bottom of the candy bag on Halloween. All the good stuff is gone, and you’re stuck with an overly sweet, overly sticky mess of stale candy. It is the part of the bag where everyone feels sick. When we ("we" meaning Christians) reach the bottom of the Halloween bag, we crave things like Anomaly. This is music that opts to speak honestly about the struggles and challenges of faith, instead of coating everything in syrup.
Perhaps most successfully, Lecrae takes the album’s theme of uniqueness and explores the duality of pride in one’s beliefs and isolation in one’s beliefs. The album’s opening track, “Outsiders,” takes a leaf out of Kanye’s “Dark Fantasy” and launches soaring gospel-esque voices over self-affirming rhymes like “Now I realize that I’m free/And I realize that I’m me/And I found out that I’m not alone because there’s plenty people like me.” Contrast this with the insecurities explored in “Fear,” where Lecrae explains how “I’m lyin’ I’m scared of these thoughts in my head/I’m scared of possibly pushin’ people right over the ledge” before throwing his shackles off and shouting, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus/To all of my haters.”
The album takes universal issues of loneliness, pain and triumph and injects it all with a Christian serum. The result is something widely relateable, decidedly non-churchy and pure to hip hop and rap tradition. Anomaly puts as much thought into the music as it does into its message, and for someone who has been starved for quality music from within the faith community, it feels like a cold glass of water after that bag of candy.
Successful hip hop albums combine personal, smartly written lyrics with crowd-pleasing grooves and bass-thumping beats, and from that standpoint, Anomaly is victorious. Furthermore, from a faithful perspective, Lecrae finally did for me what many Christian artists had failed to do before: merge intentional messages with a well-produced and inventive sound. This album would kill as much in a club as it would in your headphones as it would in a bible study. It sets the bar for Christian hip hop, and it deserves a place among the best hip hop albums of the year, period.
As a follower of Jesus who really dislikes music by followers of Jesus, Anomaly stands apart. Indeed, this is something unique, distinguished and original from a Christian artist. You can listen to it and enjoy it, I promise.
After all, God’s still up there bumpin’. Why aren't you?