Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae has shared how Lauryn Hill inspired him and showed him that he could simultaneously "love God and make music that didn't have to fit in a box."
On August 5, Lecrae shared a photo on Facebook of himself alongside Hill and explained why the meeting had "deep significance" for him.
"I love Ms. Hill's music of course, but her music found me at a time when I had embraced Jesus outside of a traditional church context," the 37-year-old "All I Need is You" singer wrote. "I didn't grow up on gospel and didn't know what kind of music would speak to my new affections for God AND speak in my hip hop cultural language. Her music did that. She showed me I could love God and make music that didn't have to fit in a box. Here was a young woman fearless enough to not conform to the misogyny the industry demanded. To be proud of her culture and heritage and love God unashamedly. She in many ways set the trajectory of my music moving forward. This moment helps me understand my supporters/fans and strive to make these moments happen for them as well. Thank you queen."
The artist also shared the photo on Twitter along with the caption: "Inspired all over again. Thank you!"
"It's amazing. Oh man, there's so many levels and layers to it," he said. "Obviously, conceptually, the picture it paints of humanity. I think we need to be reminded of our frailty. Emotionally, it kind of draws you out and reaches inside - and everybody wants to be drawn out. You don't hear a lot of music that you feel like, 'Oh my gosh, you just pulled my soul out and put it on display.' I think that's what that song did for me."
In a visual by The Boombox, Lecrae named Hill and Outkast as two of his influences because of their authenticity.
While his music is overtly Christian, Lecrae's latest singles feature secular artists like Ty Dolla Sign and Tori Kelly. He recently shared with Forbes that he believes he is able to connect with Christian and secular fans alike because his faith is "nuanced".
"I think a lot of it is just communicating," he said. "It's being involved in a lot of different things. Activism, philanthropy, also entertainment, and not even as an artist but as an entertainer. Hosting things and acting and working on some scripts and working on producing some shows and also the label that I started, Reach Records, is signing artists that are not seen as traditional. They're Christian by faith, absolutely, but their music would not be positioned in that way. Really, it's just befriending the industry and the world in a sense. Letting them become more familiar with me so they can say, 'Okay, I get it.'"
The artist also said he identifies more with the hip-hop community than the contemporary Christian scene - and that's allowed him to be successful in both genres.
"I've always connected with them, and I'm definitely more comfortable around a Sway than a Hillsong," he said. "So I think because they know I'm really cut from their cloth, I'm authentic to the hip-hop community. I've been embraced. It hasn't been a 'What is this?' I think it's been an embrace. It's been like, 'He's the righteous side of us,' you know what I mean? Because you have the skills to show and prove when you get on Sway you do the Five Fingers of Death and it's rated as one of the top Five Fingers of Death freestyles in the history of 'Sway In The Morning.' When you do the BET Hip-Hop Awards, and Cypher and people see all these things they say, 'Wow!' When you have legends who want to do music with you and you befriend the Kendrick Lamars and the Chance the Rappers, that's due to you really being authentically hip-hop and not being contemporary Christian."