Peer Review by Helen Grant (United Kingdom)

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Call Us All Anomalies

By: Rachel Alison


    It’s an interesting case of irony, or what would be irony.

    Lecrae can’t be fit into a box. An outspoken Christian who raps and befriends fellow rappers who swing to the other side of the spiritual clock. A legitimate rapper who doesn’t preach hypocrisy. Real, but hopeful.

    Up until the release of his album “Anomaly” this past September, Lecrae has been constantly molding and evolving his image. From “Real Talk’s” heavy-hitting beats to “Church Clothes Vol. 2’s” eclectic mix of songs and collaborators, eight albums and mixtapes have been tucked under his belt, along with multiple Grammy wins and nominations, including a faceoff against heavy hitters like Jay-Z and Kanye.

    I’ve only just recently joined the journey, but I can say in all honesty that “Anomaly” is probably my favorite album that I’ve ever listened to. Mixing creative wordplay with sophisticated production and life experience with motivational determination, it evaluates society and the genre of rap with the intentions of redefining culture and the purpose of life.

    The first two tracks of the fifteen-track album are hard-hitting doses of reality. The album kicks off with “Outsiders,” which combines relatability and a challenge to stay on the “outside.” Lecrae creates a blood-pumping game of dodgeball by using a light hook to absorb the truth that lobbies through his lyrics. “Double shots in that ego/They laughing at us, yeah we know/Maybe at the bottom, but we not forgotten/The directors plotting that sequel” portrays a fiery story of determination.

“Welcome to America” doesn’t skimp on the intensity, either. The chants in the background vocals blend with the lyrics as Lecrae illustrates what he sees as America: the desperately flawed country that is somehow given hope through his belief and passion for his homeland.

Other songs like “Fear,” “Anomaly,” and “Timepiece” are equally emotionally impactful, but the delivery is different. Their lyrics are more symbolic and introspective, with a slow, heated sound that somehow combines to make a low boil to the album. It’s a nice juxtaposition of format, and it showcases Lecrae’s wide range of style, particularly when one takes into account the vibrant energy of “Say I Won’t” and “Nuthin,” both of which serve as “break songs” amid the flurry of heavily thematic tracks.

    The thread reappears in “Dirty Water,” however. With a sound that bounces like a basketball and lyrics to match, Lecrae addresses the issue of racism, highlighting the ironies of people’s reactions with others of different nationalities at home versus overseas. Interestingly enough, it marks the midpoint of the fifteen-track album and sparks the beginning of a different, mellower sound with more life experience in the lyrics.

    Lyrically beautiful “Wish” follows right after “Dirty Water.” There’s a startling unity to the song, most likely due to the masterful way Lecrae manipulates his words. From clever comparisons (“I wish I woulda worked on my jump shot/Cuz time just fades away”) to the fact that he starts many of his sentences with “I wish,” his writing skills are clearly well-developed, the muscles trained over the years of practice and hard work.  “Wish” is the lyrical high point to his album, a buildup that began with “Outsiders” and peaks here.

    After the grace-laced realizations in “Runners,” “All I Need Is You,” and “Give In,” emotional impact rebounds in “Good, Bad, Ugly.” Lecrae toys with listeners’ perceptions of life by recounting two of his life stories. He delivers it not in a self-pitying way, but in a matter-of-fact tone that bears traces of sadness at his own actions and the actions of others. It’s the most sobering track on his album, and it left me with a gaping hole in the bottom of my stomach when I first heard it. Perhaps it’s the sobriety of the piece that induced him to strategically place “Broken” and “Messengers” right after it in the album’s song sequence. Collaborating on “Broken” with worship singer Kari Jobe and band for King and Country on “Messengers,” Lecrae pursues a new theme altogether: hope. It’s the penultimate point of the album, the denouement, if you will. It’s when he pieces together the whole picture: the depravity of mankind. The empty pursuit of happiness. His own life experiences that illustrate these points.

    Then, in the end, hope. “Anomaly” leaves us not with a sense of desperation or hopelessness, but with a lingering faith in optimism, the knowledge that even though the world can be brutal, hope can always be found.



Peer Review

Definitely. A great range of quotations from the album to give the reader a little taster of what to expect, and there are some really insightful comments on themes and techniques. I loved the thought of a "blood-pumping game of dodge ball" - a vivid and apt metaphor for a rap song!


The introductory paragraphs give a pretty thorough idea of context and previous work, and often the individual songs themselves are given a bit of background explanation (Dirty Water, for example). You've definitely given us all the context we need to really get the most out of this record.


Obviously all this listening to "creative wordplay" has really paid off, Rachel, because there is some really lyrical writing here. The end paragraph is inspirational, almost poetic ("a lingering faith in hope") and it is clear that you are skilled at articulating your points. You've managed to turn something that could easily be quite dry - writing about somebody else's art - into a really compelling piece of writing, and for that I applaud you :)


Reviewer Comments

This review is genuinely engaging throughout, but I wonder whether it's necessary to comment on all fifteen of the tracks? I realise that obviously certain ones get more coverage than others, but sometimes it's a good way of improving clarity if you just pick a few shining examples and then leave the listeners to make the connections with the other songs.

Other than that, I really enjoyed reading this piece, even as someone who wouldn't normally consider this genre of music, and I hope you go on to publish more things here in the future - I imagine you must be pretty good at poetry :)