Gearing up to drop a new single, Lecrae would normally be traveling to New York and LA, performing on talk shows and late-night TV. Instead, he’s filming TikTok clips in his basement.
In between posting reports about coronavirus on social channels, swapping jokes about quarantine in group text threads, and helping out his three kids as a sudden “homeschool dad,” the award-winning artist weighed whether to go on releasing new music as scheduled. With so much of normal life put on hold, is now the time to push out a new song?
“I initially was taken aback thinking about how this affected me. That’s everyone’s first thing: Oh my gosh, what does this mean for my life ?” Lecrae said in an interview with CT. “Then I don’t know what happened, but I just sat back and thought, ‘Wait a minute.’”
Lecrae reached out to a friend who runs the Atlanta charity Love Beyond Walls. On Thursday, they teamed up to install portable sinks throughout the city to help slow the spread of the virus among people experiencing homelessness. “When people living on the street don’t have the means … we should step in to wash their hands. #Setmefree #corona (my man did get a meal btw),” he wrote on Instagram. “This is not the end. #Restoration is coming.”
Restoration is the name of Lecrae’s album due out in May, written after a period of personal and spiritual strain led him to appreciate God’s promises anew. The debut single, “Set Me Free,” releases today. The more Lecrae thought about his music, the more he realized it was exactly the encouragement he wanted to share right now.
“The thing that has been consistent, even before coronavirus came, is we spent a lot of time in prayer about this project,” said Lecrae, co-founder and president of Reach Records. “We all felt like this was very beneficial and needed for the world, and I think now it is obvious why in some ways that God would have put this project on our hearts and have me want to put it out.”
“Set Me Free,” featuring YK Osiris, opens with the familiar line from the gospel duo Mary Mary’s “Shackles (Praise You)” and repeats the theme of breaking from shackles: Shackles on my feet, you broke the hold and now I’m free / Even in the darkest times, you kept your light on me.
Many fellow Christian artists, hard-hit by canceled tours and shows, have also made the decision to keep putting out their work as a way to bring hope and joy to fans.
“Social distancing doesn’t mean spiritual distancing. There is no Resurrection Sunday without a Good Friday. This is Good Friday for a lot of us,” he said. “We are figuring that out now, and hopefully some creative things happen in light of it.”
When you announced your decision to release the single, you referenced the line from Joel about how God redeems the years the locusts have eaten (2:25). What were some of the scriptural themes that came through as you were preparing this new song and new album?
I was going through a difficult time a couple of years back where I just felt as if, “Man, there is nothing I can do to change my circumstances. God, you’re going to have to do this. There are some broken things in my world and in my life—I’m having marital issues, I’m having financial issues, I’m having faith issues—and you’re going to have to restore this because I don’t have the wherewithal to do it.” And he did just that. He led me to those verses, to Joel, where I’m remembering that there is nothing that God cannot fix, that he is consistent with mending a broken world. That’s just what he does. Looking at Jonah, Jonah’s life is big to me, how he was at his wit’s end but yet God had a greater narrative in mind and took him through all of that pain and turmoil to bring him out on the other side, refined and better.
I’m witnessing God change circumstances that I couldn’t change, and I want other people to experience that. I want people to have the freedom to say things are not like I planned them to be, and it hurts, but I trust that God is good and that he has a greater plan for this. I think about Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans that I have for you,” and that God has good plans for us, but there is no 29:11 without 29:4–10, where they’re exiled, they’re prisoners. God is saying you can have this promise, but the promise is for you because of these problems.
I think people can relate to that. Everyone has had times where they thought, “What am I going to do now? Is God going to come through?” For you, how does that mindset affect your creative process?
I was writing songs saying, “God, help me get out of this dark place,” and then he was faithful to do it. I realized he is so devoted to me that that brought me joy. Even though my circumstances hadn’t quite changed, there was a joy in knowing that God was walking with me through it, and that sparked a lot of creativity and a lot of desire for people to know, man, he is with me right now, he is with you. Songs just started coming and coming and coming.
A lot of times people [think differently about] someone like myself who has had some musical success—Grammys, No. 1 albums, and dinners with Kanye or dinners with Jay-Z or Selena Gomez or whatnot. I wanted to strip away all those things and say behind all that was a person dealing with insecurities, and God had to show me what really mattered.
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Source: Christianity Today