Recently, Christian Rap artist, Lecrae, reached the top of the Billboard 200 in the first week of his album release. Anomaly is the seventh contribution to conscious hip-hop from a rather prolific artist. The inspiration is that Lecrae achieved with commitment, a gift, and some savvy marketing. He achieved something I know is possible, yet so rarely gets shared.
He convinced others to share in his vision while staying true to his commitment. The result for me is twofold. In one hand, I am inspired to keep producing, holding my commitment in tact despite the voices telling me to sacrifice my ethics for certain success.
In the other hand, I have a new example of success to share—one that has popular appeal and a message that quality product trumps the chase to replicate popular trends.
My Hip-Hop Obsession
Full disclosure, I am fan of hip-hop. I revel in the culture and the music. I see it as evidence of a reality that needs to be expressed. I value even the grandiosity, the exaggeration, the hyperbole, the bragging, and, Yes, the language. I enjoy that for every mood I have, there is a baseline and string ensemble that can express my feelings.
Yes, sometimes it’s rage at a system that seems constructed to oppress me. Sometimes, I find solace in a song expressing my need to achieve beyond my wildest dreams. Sometimes, my mood relates to a song that denigrates those who doubted me or didn’t think I was worthy of investing in.
Industry & Artist Choice
Yet, I have often wondered why it seemed that the industry and artists made a point to move even further away from conscious rap presented with radio-friendly PG-13 lyrics. Instead, it seems that industry and artists have normed the over-exaggerated, curse-laden, NC-17 themes of violence, sex, and self-hatred. The simple answer back in 2008 was that it sold. Case in point is Tha Carter III, which sold over a million copies in a week. My argument in return is a request to look at the tracks. Lil Wayne tapped into something about our culture in 2008 reflected in our expectation that life would continue to get better.
Making Social Work Famous?
Lecrae didn’t make it to a million sold in one week. Figures from his chart topping sales place him in the 88,000 copies sold range. In second place was Maroon 5 with about 83,000 in sales. But, I want hip-hop industry A&R and artists (and my students, coaching clients, and others who will listen) to look at the track list for Anomaly. Lecrae taps the same formula for success that worked for Lil Wayne back in 2008. Lyricism, cursing, use of violence and sex, are choices not a requirement to make sales. To inspire sales, you have to inspire the listeners. Listen to what they are saying, and listen on the level of feelings. Produce something that reflects these feelings, AND point out a path to coping and adaptation. I almost agree with Kirk Franklin who tweeted a hashtag in response to Anomaly’s success,
I see it another way. To meet the clients where they are, to support successful coping, and to point out a path to increased, sustainable success is what Social Workers do every day! To borrow, Kirk’s thought: Lecrae! #MakeSocialWorkFamous.
Lecrae’s success suggests at least two things for you Social workers who aspire to greater respect. First, keep working with your ethics in tact. Listen to clients on multiple systems levels. Create interventions at all systems levels to promote service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.
Second, your product is your evidence of value. Focus on improving the outcomes for your clients. Share your process for client success. Integrate the micro and the macro. Integrate the personal and professional. Get comfortable with being unpopular, while representing the most sustainable. Be an Anomaly.