Lecrae is probably growing tired of always being referred to as a Christian rapper. After all, other MCs build whole albums (hell, whole careers) around singular themes like weed, women, or crime, and they aren’t pigeonholed with half as much fervor as Lecrae is. But all of the side eyes in the world won’t make 'Crae shrink away from his subject matter of choice. The independent artist and Reach Records label owner has proudly built his career around his faith, achieving notable success along the way, including a Top 3 Billboard chart and a Grammy win for Best Gospel Album in 2013. On the heels of such critical acclaim, Lecrae’s seventh album seems to have the buzz of a sophomore release. Anomaly is a 15-song LP that takes you inside his experience as an outsider.

Anomaly’s first track is one of the better album intros of 2014. “Outsiders” is a haunting and aspirational ode to misfits, driven by long, simplistic basslines and vigorous strings. In his first 16, Lecrae obliterates the listener’s preconceived notions of a religious musician being corny or basic. His flow is as engaging as they come, with creative rhyme patterns and airtight wordplay illustrating what it’s like to be ostracized. The whole track is chock-full of quotables for Facebook statuses. It sets the tone appropriately for Lecrae’s style throughout the album; engrossing flow that leans heavily on delivery, carried by weighty commentary and a healthy dose of punchlines.

That heavy social/religious commentary is made more digestible with the help of mostly trendy production as well as an impossible to ignore delivery, reminiscent of that popularized in recent years by the likes of J Cole and the TDE crew. “Welcome to America” is an apt example, as tribal chanting and shadowy instrumentals bolster Lecrae’s three detailed stories of racial, social, and financial struggle. “Good, Bad, Ugly” is deceptively catchy thanks largely to the filtered female vocals on the hook, but the content (abortion and sexual abuse at the hands of a female babysitter) is just as taboo as any religious dogma.

The rapper also wisely scatters some lighter, more universally relatable tracks, and they blend in well for the most part. “All I Need Is You” is a hand-clapping love song with a perfectly pitched up vocal sample over a chorus built for the airwaves. The charisma Lecrae oozes every once in a while (Statik Selektah brought it out of him on Population Control’s “Live and Let Live”), is on full display both in his magnetic verses and the accompanying music video.

Unsurprisingly, there are also a handful of moments that fall flat. On “Say I Won’t,” the album’s only featured rapper, Andy Mineo, bites the already questionable Action Bronson line “just a White man excelling in a Black sport.” In regards to distancing himself from the negative stereotypes associated with niche albums, Lecrae succeeds for the most part with a few exceptions. “Nuthin” is a trap-based track comprised of an uninspiring “I Got 5 On It” sample, played out basketball references, and plenty of “you’re better than this” rhetoric. It culminates in what sounds like your dad’s favorite rap song, doing nothing to combat the aforementioned stereotypes. The closing two tracks, “Broken” and “Messengers” are tinged with a supremely dated rock sound, the latter being particularly repetitive.

As a lyricist, Lecrae has a tendency to be pretty literal. Metaphors or double-entendres are relatively hard to come by, and when found, are often worn or one-dimensional (slave chains vs gold chains, for example). That said, his ability to tell a story is on point, his delivery never falters once, and his detailed wordplay, however literal, does acrobatics in terms of rhyme scheme. Anomaly may not entirely break out of its niche, but it’s objectively admirable, and his already established fan base will love it. As for the remaining detractors, Lecrae uses his track “Fear” to wryly spit, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus to all of my haters.”—Rachel Chesbrough