For his seventh album, Lecrae may have borrowed a song title from labelmate and fellow rapper KB, but the term now belongs to not only him, but the entire community that thinks of themselves as part of 116. The community, if you don’t know, is a collection of folks, rappers included, who take Romans 1:16 as a lifestyle choice. The verse talks of being unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, and Lecrae and his entire label of Reach Records have stuck with this mission since even before the beginning of the labels days in Memphis. Lecrae’s newest record, Anomaly, is exactly what it sets out to be: different; something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

Lecrae could have played it safe, put out a solid Christian hip-hop record, stuck with the trend and been fine. In fact, he could have done that and still sold 75k (as 2012's Gravity did first week). But Anomaly is a different beast. It blurs the lines between mainstream and Christian in such a unique way, and the first evidence was the first single, the impressive “Nuthin”, put together by Lecrae and Reach Records’ in-house producer Gawvi (Rhema Soul, KB, Derek Minor). The track boasts a solid beat you’d expect to hear on mainstream hip-hop radio, with a message of focus. “It sounds like you put your feet up, you’re still a slave and money can’t buy you freedom partner,” Lecrae raps with conviction, a call to rappers (and everyone else) to talk about something more important than simply, nothing. “Fear” is another example, another track that belongs on mainstream radio with a much more positive message than what’s on there now. It’s a heart-on-his-sleeve type track, speaking on his fears. Despite what many people might think, every single comment that gets written about anything from Illuminati to hatred to praise, it eats away at the artist. Songs like “Fear” really show where Lecrae’s priorities are: the heart. “Jesus for all of my haters, who think I forgot Him, and the ones who won’t let me say it,” proves that the words people say can hurt, but Lecrae takes them to heart and tries radically to prove them wrong.

“Welcome To America” is a narrative in rap form, accurately defining the issues with our country. It’s great to see an artist like Lecrae taking on these difficult subjects that few tend to tackle in music, much less in rap music. The boisterous “Say I Won’t” is a call to the haters, the lovers, and just about everyone. For both Lecrae and labelmate Andy Mineo acting as different, as outsiders, it’s an anthem they’ll be rapping for years. Lecrae makes a fantastic point in how rap and culture have changed in the track, mentioning how his road manager regularly finds aspiring rap artists sneaking onto the tour bus with demos. “When I was younger, I just wanted a chain; now a chain of events has afforded a change.” It just goes to show that Lecrae doesn’t pull any punches. He’s not afraid to talk about the culture change in life, again something rappers and the industry don’t talk on much. “Runners” might feature some silly interludes, but features snapshots from the rapper’s past, and how he’s dealt with the same issues guys deal with too. The beat is a solid blend of trap and synth, with a little dubstep thrown in for a unique feel. The infectious single “All I Need Is You” follows, a song Lecrae wrote for his wife. The track is accompanied by a great music video with some comedy thrown in, but the song is a legit straight-up hit.

The rapper saved his more Christian-style tracks for the end of the record, with features from worship artist Kari Jobe and up & coming CCM giants For King & Country on the album book end “Messengers”. But a real gem lies before those cuts, from “Good, Bad, Ugly”. More personal stories from Lecrae’s life, some of the most intimiate and terrifying stories, being molested as a child and the dealings of abortion. When all is set aside, this is Lecrae at his most personal, and his most vulnerable. While more could be said about other tracks, there isn’t even one bad track within this 15-track collection. Some interludes might last longer than they should, but Anomalyis by far Lecrae’s best full body of work. Track after track of personal, real stories from the man’s life combined with impressive, mainstream-style production from Reach Records’ in-house producers, there’s nothing bad here. The record is also about to be his probable first #1 on Billboard. Well-deserved.

Justin Mabee