Atlanta rappers' new album addresses church hurt and decline in attendance

Behind-the-scenes photo of Lecrae and 1K Phew on the set of their music video "Move." (Photo by Jacob " Biz" Morris)

Since the pandemic, many have noticed a trend in lowered attendance in churches. Though some congregations managed to move services onto online platforms during lockdown periods, the lack of a space to gather in faith was felt widely — especially by two Atlanta rappers. Lecrae, founder of Christian hip-hop label Reach Records, and his signee 1K Phew decided to put their feelings on this issue into a collaborative album, “No Church in a While.” “City Lights” producer Summer Evans spoke with Lecrae about this new album, getting an inside look behind the process and the sentiments that inspired it. 

Without regular church services, Lecrae described feeling a sense of needing to bring church home. “I think a lot of times we were so reliant on a Sunday morning that we needed to take some responsibility on our day day-to-day,” he said. “So that’s what it’s done for me — it’s just really made my day-to-day actions a lot more sincere.”

In conversations with other artists, Lecrae began to realize that a lot of his friends on the scene felt all kinds of ways about the disruption of their faith practices. “If it wasn’t the artist themselves, it was someone that they were close to that was struggling in this particular area, which helped us realize, this is not just something that we’re dealing with,” said Lecrae. He connected with recent Reach Records signee 1K Phew on the issue, and the two put their heads together to invite a conversation about the church through their music. 

“We wanted people to be comfortable talking about it, dialoguing about it because you don’t find any healing unless you actually address the issues that you’re dealing with,” Lecrae said. “So we looked at it kind of like therapy for people who were either struggling with not being able to go to church or struggling with church hurt.”

Tracks on the album address this “church hurt,” as well as topics like the incarcerated, with whom Lecrae has done work. He and his label performed concerts, provided COVID-19 protective supplies, and helped establish educational programs at the Fulton County Jail over recent months. They also organized a hip-hop contest and received over 500 applicants, narrowing it down to one winner whose original track will be recorded with Atlanta producer Zaytoven.

Lecrae met 1K Phew in 2017 as his star was beginning to rise in Atlanta. “He came to the studio, and the rest was history. He just showed up and started hitting home runs,” said Lecrae. 1K Phew, whose name plays off the ideas of one-thousand-percent authenticity, and being “everybody’s favorite nephew,” as he puts it, was swiftly signed to Lecrae’s label. Lecrae took on a mentorship role, building a close friendship and working relationship with the 25-year-old rapper. “That’s been really neat. He’s been like a little brother and somebody that I can just give a lot of wisdom and insight to. I’ve seen him make great decisions based off of just being humble and inquisitive,” Lecrae said.

The album created in collaboration between Lecrae and 1K Phew, “No Church in a While,” is out now via Reach Records. With streaming and purchase links, more information is available at www.reachrecords.com/releases/no-church-in-a-while