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Lecrae: On a mission — for his art

Rap star Lecrae is living up to the title of his seventh album, Anomaly, in that he’s a devout Christian hip-hopper who has hit No.1 on The Billboard 200. In a world dominated by gangsta rap glorifying thug life, a performer with such a positive message finding major mainstream success is a rarity.

But he’s not on any sort of musical mission to save the world. Far from it.

“I think part of it is just not even confining myself to the box of Christian hip-hop as a genre,” Lecrae says. “I just consider myself an artist, and as far as the music is concerned, my ambition is just to make good art.”

Lecrae hits the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Friday night, and while he’s sure to perform hits including Nuthin, Fear and All I Need Is You, fans should expect the unexpected.

“I definitely do not want it to be a typical hip-hop show,” he says. “From what I’ve seen, most of the time it’s just kind of an artist running around with a microphone jumping onstage, and I want to take a cue from a lot of bigger productions, making it more of a theatrical experience, sparing no expense. So that when you hear a song, you really experience a moment with that song, not just see me perform it.”

Lecrae says that although he understands the gangsta-rap culture, he doesn’t approve of it.

“It’s one thing to tell the story of what’s happening in that urban environment, and it’s another thing to glorify it,” he says. “So for me, it’s more challenging for artists to really strive to be all that they were created to be versus succumbing to just being the run-of-the-mill artists who promote the degradation of humanity.”

If that sounds like an anomaly, well, there’s the source of Lecrae’s album title.

“I think the meaning embraces who I am,” he says. “I feel that people think I belong in one lane or another, but for me, it’s me saying that I don’t fit in to any of the boxes that you already preconceive about me. I’m different, and I’m who I’m created to be.”

Lecrae didn’t always have such a strong sense of purpose. In fact, he found his share of trouble as a young man, dabbling in drugs, alcohol and promiscuity to the point of being nicknamed “Crazy Crae.”

But he eventually realized that they were all empty pursuits.

“I think my well just kept running dry, looking for an ultimate sense of purpose in all those particular areas,” he says. “And finally it all just came to a head when I felt like a hamster running on the wheel, and I was like, this has got to stop.”

Today, at 35, Lecrae often mentors professional athletes (“You’re dealing with a lot of young, 20-something-year-old guys trying to find their way in life, and I’ve experienced a lot of life, a lot of ups and downs”), which led to a partnership with Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade in the campaign “This Is Fatherhood,” an initiative supported by President Barack Obama, among others.

“Dwyane and I are similar in that we’re very involved fathers,” says Lecrae, who has three children with wife Darragh Moore. “He’s a great father to his boys and really goes the extra mile with his crazy schedule, and it’s the same with myself. We’re always trying to incorporate our families.”

So does this kinship with Wade make Lecrae a Miami Heat fan?

“[Laughs] I’m definitely a Dwyane Wade fan all day,” he said. “You know, I was afraid to be a Heat fan when LeBron [James] was there, because it felt too bandwagon, but I’ll be trying to be a Heat fan now.”

Lecrae performs at 7 p.m. Friday at the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; LiveNation.com; $29.50.

Michael Hamersly

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