As an MC that openly describes himself as a Christian, Lecrae has begun to face an upward battle in growing his career. Religion is a topic that most rhymeslingers stay from and in this age of rappers talking sex, money and drugs, so an MC that links himself with religious beliefs (beyond a Jesus or cross namedrop) can have a hard time finding a wide audience. Don't get it twisted, though, 'Crae's base is devout within its demographic. With that as the backdrop, the Reach Records leader drops his Don Cannon-hosted mixtape Church Clothes to show that religion or not, it’s all about hip-hop.

Church Clothes is a strong release in that it helps deliver a message without beating the listener over the head with religious propaganda. Tracks such as “Church Clothes and “Cold World” get the message across and provide a good introduction to those that don’t know Lecrae. Production wise, Church Clothes absolutely bangs, as 9th Wonder lends his production hand on “Rise” and “Long Time Coming.” Interestingly, 9th takes second billing to some of the more unknown producers as tracks such as BIg Juice & Street Symphony (“No Regrets”) and Tha Kracken! (“Rejects”) steal the show.

Production aside, it doesn’t hurt that Lecrae is a talented wordsmith, either, as he shines lyrically throughout the release. It’s impressive how he’s able to deliver a message without being preachy. Lecrae is an artist on the rise and Church Clothes is a prime example of the reach of hip-hop music and culture. —Nene Wallace Reed