Surprise! Lecrae just dropped his new mixtape, Church Clothes 3, out of nowhere to continue the series. Nobody really saw this coming, we knew he was working on a project, but there was no marketing or expected release date. I’ve got to say it feels like my birthday came early this year as I’ve always wanted to review a Lecrae project. Though a few other artists have begun to challenge him at the top of our Top 25 CHH Artists, it’s undeniable that Lecrae is the most famous artist in the genre.
He just keeps getting better, and Church Clothes 3 continues that trend. That’s a bold claim considering the extreme success of Anomaly, but this one has a much more organic feel. Anomaly was a terrific album and very professional, while Church Clothes 3 is much more relaxed and natural.
To lead off the project we’ve got an awesome track in “Freedom” (feat. N’dambi). Lecrae’s delivery has only gotten better, and he’s in the zone right away. A solid use of bass complements that skill, and his lyricism is a huge focus in this track, explaining how people are slaves to money, “Heard a prophet say the profit, don’t focus on makin’ change / Just focus on tryna be it and maybe you’ll make a gain / Maybe you’ll free the slaves, maybe you’ll bring a change / The destinations are different but everyone’s on the train”. An amazing start to the project, and he’s not going light on this one.
Lecrae does not lighten up at all on the second track, “Gangland” (feat. Propaganda), as he confronts gang issues and serious struggles within the African-American community. He goes seriously hard, transitioning between spoken-word sections, a deepened voice intro, and some intense rapping verses. This is a song that you need to sit and listen to/read the lyrics while it’s playing. He and Prop talk about everything from fatherless families, gangs, Jim Crow laws, criminal justice problems, Planned Parenthood’s abortions, and the ideas behind the Black Lives Matter movement. You can feel the pain and desperation of entire communities in this song, and there’s no way for me to pull out a single line from it, because there’s simply so much jam packed in this deep track, it strikes you right in the heart. This is definitely one of the best tracks in the album, full of meaning and awesome rapping.
The next track, “Deja Vu”, speaks about how God is with us every step along the way in life, through the good and bad. The hook explains it perfectly, “And some days are a nightmare / And some dreams come true / But the Lord’s still right there / It’s just déjà vu / It’s just déjà vu, déjà vu / It’s just déjà vu, y’all”. Lecrae feels like he’s seen this all before, and he needs God there with him to keep on going through it. The flow, delivery, piano usage, and lyricism of this one are on point. He’s showing why he’s the most well-known CHH artist and likely the best.
The beat gets a lot heavier with “Sidelines”, and it’s another epic track. Though the hook isn’t as memorable and the message isn’t as deep as some of the other tracks in the project, Lecrae is not slacking off. He’s talking about the rap game and how he wants to be a positive voice instead of the junk that a lot of rappers put out once they’re “in”. Lecrae knows that God gave him his rapping talent, and he uses football metaphors to say he’s going to make a big play for the Lord.
The next two tracks, “Cruising” and “It Is What It Is”, are much more focused on how Lecrae is just accepting that he’s going to have haters and struggles in life, but he keeps working and doing his thing. It’s safe to say he’s had a good year career wise, probably his best so far, and Lecrae is feeling pretty darn confident. “It Is What It Is” has a repetitive hook that gets slightly annoying after a few listens, and they’re both slower than the intensity he showed earlier. They’re not the smoothest or best tracks on the project, but they’re still pretty solid tracks.
“Can’t Do You” (feat. E-40) features classic Black Knight production, creating a different style from the rest of the project so far. Considering the deepness of the first three tracks, this one lacks that serious feeling. Lecrae’s verse is probably the peak of this track, and the entire feel of the track just isn’t up the par that the rest of the project has set. E-40 isn’t as skilled and has an entirely different style than Lecrae, so that definitely takes something away from this one. It’s still a pretty good track in it’s own right, though it doesn’t live up to the standards of the rest of the project.
The love song of the project, “Forever”, focuses on how a man must be loyal to one woman. The message is an important one, and it’s another slightly different style for Lecrae, and he does a great job with this one. His delivery flows very well into the beautifully done hook. This is another authentic track, like the first few, and the smoothness keeps this project going strong.
Another series continues in “Misconceptions 3” (feat. John Givez, JGivens, and Jackie Hill Perry). The lineup features some big CHH names, but the mixing & mastering leaves something to be desired. All of the artists have great delivery, but the constant background sounds in general are far too loud, taking a ton away from the track. The rappers have amazing intensity and skill, but a potentially great song just doesn’t come together very well, sadly.
The final track on the project is also the first track with any of Lecrae’s label-mates on it. “I Wouldn’t Know” (feat. KB) finishes things off on the best note possible. Elhae’s hook is extremely catchy, and the trap is real on this one. That’s good, because KB’s style works extremely well with that heavy bass. Lecrae and KB tend to be terrific together, and this one is no different from their last hit, “Sideways”. Both of these CHH heavyweights plus Gawvi is an all-star line-up, and this one will probably be the big hit of the project. It’s a dope track in every way, and it continues the momentum from tracks like “Nuthin”. They’re calling out fakers in the game, and they’re representing God along the way. Lecrae references Psalm 119:105, “I just walk like I talk, got that light to my path / And that lamp to my feet / But the feelin’ so sweet, got me feelin’ like a beast / A sickness and God as my witness”.
Lecrae continuously proves why he’s considered one of the best, if not the best, rappers in CHH. His lyricism continues to carry this amazing music through the story that is almost track in this project, and his delivery has gotten even better, if that’s possible. I honestly believe that this project is even better than Anomaly. Tracks like “Freedom” and “Gangland” are so deep and full of meaning while still sounding absolutely amazing. Lecrae was out to make some serious points in this project, and throughout most of it he made them. Many people will just buy this one because it’s by Lecrae, but he constantly lives up to that reputation, and Church Clothes 3 continues that streak for sure.