When the Billboard charts came out last week, there was a rap album that debuted impressively high (No. 3 on the Rap Albums chart, No. 17 on the 200) despite not having much mainstream hip-hop exposure. That project was The Good Life, the fourth album from Trip Lee. The rapper is signed to the growing independent label Reach Records, an Atlanta based team of six Christian artists that has garnered momentum in recent years with a string of well-received and commercially successful album releases and tours. Here, Trip Lee explains his religious awakening and how it reflects in his music, what it means to be preachy, and why it doesn't matter if he ever goes platinum. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)

Name: Trip Lee (@TripLee116)
Age: 24
Reppin’: Dallas, TX
Label: Reach Records

On the response to The Good Life:
With every album that comes out, I’m always blown away by the responses. This one, more than any other, I’ve gotten incredible responses. Before it came out, the dudes I roll with, everybody told me they thought it was my best record. Then when it came out, it seemed like all the fans thought it was my best record, too. To see it up on the iTunes charts and then to hear how well it did on the Billboard charts, it just blows me away and excites me. I work hard on the music and I want people to enjoy the music. At the same time, I talked about stuff that matters, so I’m hoping it helps people to think and that it’s an encouragement to folks.

On finding God in his life and music:
I was always a music lover ever since I was a little kid. My dad was playing soul and [other] stuff that he grew up on. I fell in love with hip-hop at 10 or 11, and then started writing raps. Jay-Z was the dude that influenced me the most, because he was one of the first dudes that made me pay attention to the lyrics and realize how thoughtful he was. When I was 14, that’s when I had this heart change, where I wanted to stop rapping about myself and how tight I was, and started to see the world differently. When I had this heart change, that’s when I became a Christian and started following Jesus. I started to think, “Okay, what does my writing have to do with what God said in His Word?” From that point, I was rapping at different spots around Dallas and recorded a little mixtape in my room. I met the dudes at Reach when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I built a relationship with them and have been rolling with them since then. Started my first album when I was 17. It came out just a couple days after I graduated from high school and I’ve been able to keep going. This is my fourth one.

On the overlap of Christianity and hip-hop:
I don’t think there’s anything about hip-hop culture itself that’s opposed to Christianity and Jesus. I think just so many times, dudes who do love Jesus, and dudes who are Christian and do follow, haven't had much space made for them. I even get this with a lot of Christians and church folks saying, “You can’t be Christian and do hip-hop; the two don’t go together.” And I don’t believe that. That’s just not true. Anybody from any culture can be a Christian, but I just have to push off the stuff that doesn’t agree with Jesus. I don’t think it’s cool for me to say I’m a Christian and rap about sleeping with chicks in my music. That’s not who I am. God is not cool with that. I want all of my life to be consistent, including my music. I’m a Christian within hip-hop culture, and I think you’re going to be able to see that in my music.

On acceptance from the mainstream rap world:
There have been a lot of that. [The artists from the mainstream] tell me, "Hey, man, obviously we do very different stuff, but we appreciate y’all and we actually respect you for doing what you doing and being who you are within hip-hop." There’s a lot more respect from dudes than you’d expect, being that we don’t get any radio play or any of that kind of stuff. More and more people are starting to see, "Oh, these dudes can rap, and these dudes are not ashamed to be who they are." And I think there’s a respect for that.

On being classified as preachy:
If by preachy it means, “He seems self-righteous, he thinks he’s better than me, it seems like all he’s doing is looking down on me and telling me what to do,” I do not want to come off like that. I don’t want people to think that I think that I’m better than anybody. Somebody pointed me to something that changed my life, and I want to point other people to it, too. And, just like any rapper does, I want to say, "Look at life through my eyes." You got Young Jeezy, who wants to rap about the trap, well that’s fine. He wants you to look at life through his eyes. And I want people to look at life through my eyes. But if by preachy people mean, “Oh, he has something to say,” then I’m perfectly fine with that. Because I do have something to say. Rappers, we say a lot of words. More than any other music, there’s a lot of words in our bars, and I’m just not going to waste words. If I got your ear for sixty minutes on a record, then I want to say something worth saying. I want to help you think about stuff. I want to challenge your perspective. I want to show you the stuff that I’ve seen. I hope it helps people.