Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Artimio Black
Grammy Award-Winning Artist Lecrae On Faith-Based Travel And Getting Inspired By The World
Lecrae is a Grammy Award-winning platinum-selling artist, New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, speaker, thought leader and philanthropist. He’s also the co-owner and president of Reach Records, the recording home of Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Hulvey, 1K Phew, Tedashii, TripLee and several other artists.
His 2014 album “Anomaly,” debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 with nearly 100,000 copies sold through the first week. The first album to top both the Billboard 200 and the Gospel Charts simultaneously. To date, Lecrae sold more than three million copies and won a Grammy for Best Gospel Album.
When he’s not in the studio or making rounds on red carpets, Lecrae loves to get into the world to explore. Lecrae takes intentional journeys around the world before each album launch. Different biblical sites inspire each journey.
Travel Noire spoke with Lecrae ahead of his culturally immersive summer travel schedule. In the interview, he talked about his favorite destinations, compromising couple travels and his expanding view on Christianity as a global religion.
Travel Noire: What inspired the beginning of your decision to go on these travel adventures?
Lecrae: First I’d have to say, I have to give credit to my aunt Teresa. Being a product of a single-parent household and living in a disenfranchised community, I did not realize that travel was something that was available to us. My aunt Teresa did something similar to the Peace Corps and got addicted to traveling the world. [She] would send me postcards as a kid.
It was the first time I realized that I could see the world outside of my own backyard. It inspired me to wanna go places. Around the time I had put out this album called Rehab, I was starting to get a lot of notoriety, and I wanted to always feel connected to folks that I was creating music for.
I remember as a kid being inspired by Erykah Badu’s music. That was not music she was doing to make herself seem larger than life, but it was actually for the flourishing of humanity. I was distracted by all of the lights, camera, action and the self-acclaimed ego. I said, ‘Man, let me take myself out of this world before this album comes out and I get overwhelmed with the enamor and all the excitement and let me go somewhere.’
I went to Sudan, and it was life-altering. I got to stay in a village with some friends that I had known, and my perspective just was different. When I came home to the Grammy [nominations] and the album charts, it paled in comparison to what I had experienced in terms of travel. It grounded me.
TN: How do you decide which destinations you’re going to visit?
Lecrae: As a Christian, and I mean the global faith and not the Westernized American version that has this incestuous relationship with politics, I feel as if this is a faith that started in the Near East. It reached Ethiopia before it reached Europe. I wanted to connect with the origins and the roots of this faith.
The teachings, views and beliefs are around love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and helping other people. I wanted to put myself in a position where I was seeing the world through those lenses. I needed to see people outside of this Westernized perspective that represented the faith that I subscribe to [and] go to places that were not as fortunate as us [to] see how I can help them in some way. That’s the connectivity there.
TN: Can you speak to some of the memorable destinations or top experiences from your travels?
Lecrae: My favorite is Egypt. Going [from] Egypt to Cairo, where some of the ancient Egyptian history existed, was important to me. Looking at the Nile River, which was very central to themes in the Bible, was key [when] looking at going into Cairo.
Seeing melanated pictures of the disciples was important for me. That place alone is so historic. It puts you in a position where you realize that America’s very young. To stand somewhere that’s over 3,000 years old puts in perspective how amazing these people were and what they were able to accomplish. It just strengthened my perspective in a million ways.
TN: On a recent trip to Israel, you were baptized in the Jordan River. Can you talk a little bit about that and share what that experience was like for you?
Lecrae: I think going to Israel helped me a ton. We get a lot of cultural context confused when we pick up the Bible. I myself saw things that made more sense culturally. To stand in the temple of King David [and other] places was extremely valuable to me. Then, follow in the footsteps of people, like Apostle Paul or Jesus himself was important to me.
In the Jordan River, I thought that was a phenomenal experience to be able to follow in those footsteps to place my feet where his feet were, [and] to be baptized in that same water. [It] was something that I can’t even put into words, but it was very enlightening and enriching for my soul to be able to take part in that.
TN: Can you share some couple travel inspiration and how you navigate the world with your wife?
Lecrae: Oh, that’s great. We love to travel. That’s our thing. We’ve gone everywhere from Tokyo, Japan, to Turks and Caicos. We went to Egypt [and] Europe.
We have this thing because she likes to chill, and I like to move. What we’ve learned is to find a little bit of a rhythm. Let’s say we’re there for five days. We’re gonna have the first day of chilling. The second and third days are going to be an adventure. Then, the fourth and fifth are chill again.
That way we’re not worn out by the time we get back. I get two days of adventure in the middle and everybody’s happy. She wants to sit by the beach and take it all in. I want to go to the Mayan ruins and go see what’s going on in there. It’s just a healthy balance of relaxation.
She’ll figure out where the good restaurants are and good chill spots. I’m going to figure out where the adventure and the culture and the history are. That’s kind of the way we’ve done it.
TN: What’s happening in the world of Lecrae right now as you prepare for this next project?
Lecrae: I have a process of wanting to be amongst the people. I’m knocking out a couple of last-minute events and then being amongst the people.
I have family on the West Coast, so I’m going to spend some time with them. I want to live normal and be immersed among regular folks. I’m writing from the perspective of the average listener. That’s what’s going to be really important for me during this process.
TN: You’ll be starring in a new film “Journey to Bethlehem.” What can you share about the film and your experience while shooting it?
Lecrae: This was a very important film about Mary’s journey because a lot of times you don’t focus on the journey of the women. I played the angel Gabriel, and I was very appreciative of the director Adam Anders, who did all the music for “Glee” and “High School Musical.”
He was very intentional about using melanated people. I love that aspect of the film. Then, being able to travel to do it. That was amazing as well because of the landscape and how much it looked like ancient Israel.
The movie’s phenomenal. I can’t wait for people to see it. It comes out at the end of November in theaters everywhere.
TN: Is there any final inspiration you have for Black travelers, as far as expanding their faith experience through travel?
Lecrae: For African-American Christians, I think a lot of what we experience faith wise in America is oftentimes a response to colonization.
I think it’s extremely important to get outside of the Western world, so that you can see that it’s a global faith. It was important for me to go to Nigeria and see it expressed there. It was important for me to go to Egypt and see it expressed there because you realize that there are so many aspects of it that have been “colonized.”
I think it’s important for us to own it ourselves and to be able to see that it’s global. It’s melanated. It’s not the slave master’s religion, as oftentimes we are told.
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.