Lecrae x Zaytoven – “Let The Trap Say Amen” (June 22, 2018)
I have a lot to say about this album. First of all, that was fast. That wasn’t even a year since All Things Work Together dropped, and it’s not like Let The Trap Say Amen is an EP or mixtape. Such a quick turnaround on a full length album speaks to the work ethic in Lecrae’s camp. Producer Zaytoven deserves mention for being the sole producer on the album, which is a bit of a departure for Lecrae, whose recent efforts were reliant on a broad team of producers, each contributing individual tracks (except for Church Clothes 3, mostly handled by S1). For two guys to get together and produce an album of this length in such a short period of time is commendable.
But this is also a problem. Repetitiveness plagues this album in more than one way. While the lead single Get Back Right is well produced, fun, and undeniably well suited to the current climate in hip-hop, it’s also very predictable, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. And that’s not to retread the trite complaint that “all trap music sounds the same,” because that’s not necessarily true. The issue is that on this album in particular, the music tends to blend together between songs too easily, and Lecrae stays too close to a lot of the overused tropes of the genre.
By the time we get to just the second track, Preach, it’s easy to think, “alright, that’s enough 8th note triplets now ‘Crae.” Track four, Plugged In, sees one of the most conspicuously derivative moments, where Lecrae’s flow in the in second verse is almost identical in rhythmic cadence to the chorus flow on Cardi B’s famous Bodak Yellow. It’s literally almost identical for a few bars, and whether this was intentional or not, it detracts from originality. Zaytoven also noticeably reuses a lot of background vocal samples between songs, which can end up being distracting and confusing at times, making the album feel a bit rushed.
Lecrae can also at times be lyrically repetitive. While the theme of the album is bold – giving sacred expression to the trap and breaking down compartmentalized spirituality – some of the actual raps just revisit territory Lecrae has already overdone. Yes, materialism is shallow. Yes, we know you don’t do drugs. Yes, we know you think other rappers “aint talkin’ ‘bout nuthin.” These themes were already feeling a bit tired and preachy on Anomaly, and after the gut-wrenching honesty and soul-searching Lecrae displayed on All Things Work Together, or the lyrical adventurousness displayed on his mixtapes, the reappearance of these topics falls a bit flat.
The whole record is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. Where some of his earlier records sounded throaty and forced, Lecrae’s vocal delivery here is smooth and effortless. Many of the beats are really cool: Holy Water is immediately different, with a sort of haunting neo-classical vibe, Switch stands out for it’s sparse use of bass and inclusion of a female voice in ShySpeaks – which is a very welcome change in sonic texture – and the piano samples and drum production on Can’t Block It are particularly subtle. The strongest track on the record, though, is By Chance. This song feels sonically and lyrically the closest to the core of Lecrae’s sound from previous work. It manages to be simultaneously sound like the current, edgier, socially-conscious Lecrae, and the theologically-minded Lecrae from Rebel ten years ago. And everything in between. His vocal delivery on this song actually makes him sound like himself, and the music is a good bit more melodic than the rest of the album.
This record is not a loss for Lecrae. It likely accomplishes exactly what he set out to do, and in that respect it’s a big success. In this particular case, Lecrae had a specific audience in mind for this record, and I just might not be part of that audience. That’s fine. As far as I’m concerned, Lecrae’s strongest material this decade has just happened to be on his mixtapes. What he manages to achieve with relevance on Let The Trap Say Amen also means he undersells the lyricism displayed on those other releases. For someone else, this record might be a hit. For me, it’s passable for casual listening, and doesn’t shake any of my faith in Lecrae’s skills or credibility as an artist.
But seeing that Lecrae is willing to jump wholeheartedly on a current trend, I think it is very reasonable to say [he] won’t drop a double album and rap double time on all dubstep anytime soon.
(P.S. Look, if you like trap music like that, then this album is probably actually perfect. The fact that someone like me doesn’t quite love it might actually be a sign that this album is exactly what it needs to be. You could say I’m overthinking it too much and that the point of it is to just enjoy the music and jam out. You could say that. But you’d be overlooking the fact that I’m in training to be a pastor and my inner killjoy is running rampant, so pardon me while I over-analyze things!!)