I really didn't want to think it would happen. I really didn't. I've told several people over the past few months that, after Lecrae's latest release, "Anomaly", his lyrical shift in philosophy had not (yet) reached his Reach Records labelmates KB and Trip Lee. Today, I think I am changing my tune.
Yet and still, I have told people that KB and Trip Lee were, as far as we know, still on the same page as always, ready to make explicitly Christian music within the rap genre. KB's 2014 EP "100", seemed to confirm this.
But along has come Trip Lee, who, out of the blue, exited a tenuous 2013 retirement and announced a new album, "Rise", to be released later this month. From it has come three singles so far, "Shweet", "Sweet Victory", and "Manolo" (in that order).
"Shweet" actually had me excited, displaying Trip's characteristic campiness mixed with his D.C./Southern drawl that undoubtedly inspired the title. The song is about bragging on Jesus (another of his ongoing themes), and leaves nothing to the imagination, lyrically. By that, I mean to say that a listener, Christian or otherwise, would have largely no issue deciphering the song's meaning, because the lyrics and theme are clear as day.
The latter two singles, however, are of a different ilk. "Sweet Victory" appears to recount a story about an unclear referent, mentioning physical ailments I am not aware ever befell Trip himself. The problem is not that God is not alluded to, as there are the CCM-standard third-person references that appear to refer to God, several mentions of a "King", as well as an outro that mentions Jesus by name and is practically a worship chorus. Nevertheless, up to that point the song is at most an inspirational tune, understood as a Christian song only by Christians sufficiently versed in Christianese (and particularly that of a musical bent).
"Manolo" is the single that particularly prompted this blog post, which, if you notice, is my first in some time. It troubled me that much to see Trip release a song that is marginally Christian at (the very) best and lyrically repugnant at worst.
The song is apparently one big allegory, referring (loosely) to spiritual warfare by way of pervasive gun imagery, including where Trip keeps them, who he shoots at, why he shoots them, etc. He even brings Lecrae on for the ride, which struck me as particularly odd, given his recent comments on Ferguson and a particularly incriminating tweet:
Thoughts on @Lecrae's tweet about hip-hop artists and #Ferguson? He went on to say he isn't blaming them of course. pic.twitter.com/ZA1Tos2ALy
— Urban Cusp Magazine (@UrbanCusp) August 21, 2014
Notice that I had to embed a third-person account, because Lecrae has since deleted the (rather true) tweet. Why? Who knows. But the juxtaposition of ideas like those and the imagery used in "Manolo" is jarring. It's not as if Trip and Lecrae intend to glorify violence with the track, but what they are intending is entirely unclear until the very last line of the song (much like the outro in "Sweet Victory", except way worse).
"His Word is my weapon."
That's the line in question. A very true statement indeed. But why not actually use this weapon within the song, instead of vague (and controversially unclear) symbolism?