Trip Lee is at the front of the inspirational hip-hop vanguard. Alongside stars like Lecrae and Andy Mineo, Lee is helping to move Christian rappers from the niche corner they are sometimes painted into, and he says that more and more, people are looking to these artists to provide quality hip-hop — not necessarily to be some holier-than-thou stereotype of yesteryear. The Dallas native explained to rolling out that he doesn’t think that his music should be placed in that box.
“When it comes to the ‘Christian rapper’ label, that’s not how I want people to think of my music because when people hear ‘Christian rapper,’ they assume it’s judgmental and it’s not for them or assume that it might be corny,” says Lee. “Instead, I don’t want people to think I do some different genre of music. I’m a Christian man, but what I do is hip-hop. I want people who are hip-hop lovers to listen to my music.
“I would much rather people just think of me as hip-hop, but within that you’ll hear who I am. I tell my story from my perspective and I’m a Christian and you’ll hear that in my music.
“I was very influenced by Texas hip-hop. I loved all hip-hop, but I did have a personal connection with the UGKs and the Scarfaces — and even Swisha House. That affected how I approached my music early on. But as I got more into the East Coast stuff and the Atlanta stuff; I was able to take those Texas influences and also Jay and Nas and OutKast and pull all of those together to make my own sound.”
Now a veteran of the industry, Lee is grateful for the early bond he forged with his label mate and friend, hip-hop star Lecrae. Lee admits that he marvels now at Lecrae’s major successes, helping to bridge the gap between Christian hip-hop and secular tastes; and Lee is thankful that he had Lecrae as a mentor.
“Me and Lecrae have been cool for 10 years. He’s been a close friend, he was best man in my wedding,” Lee shares. “He gave me a chance when I was just a teenager, a kid. Early on, it was a mentorship. When I see his success as of late, it makes me crazy excited. Because we never thought it would get to this place where it’s at right now. We’ve been doing music for a long time. Close friend of mine, love that dude.”
Trip Lee announced in 2012 that he would be walking away from music. He says now that at the time he didn’t think he could be a rapper and be an effective pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
“I feel called to do more than just make music, but I also love helping people see the truth,” he explains. “I’m a pastor at my church in D.C., and I was pulling away to focus on that, knowing that it’s a lot to be gone all the time versus being home and walking with people in their lives. I decided to make another record because I felt like I had the time to do it and the desire to do it,” Lee shares.
Lee’s new album Rise finds the emcee in a comfortable space, but not complacent. He explained that the album’s approach and the title itself are nods to ambition — ambition to be the best you that you can be.
“I started on this fifth album Rise, and I’m so excited I did,” Lee says. “It’s really a challenge — that’s why I named it ‘Rise.’ I want to challenge us to get up and live the way we were made to live. This was a culmination. Putting this record together, I was trying to put something together that was timeless. Because rap wasn’t all I was doing during this time, it took me a long time. So I didn’t want to do songs that were trendy, but a year from now wouldn’t sound dope. So I tried to put together a record that you would enjoy, but would also make you think about life.”