Reviewed by Andrew Midgley
'All Things Work Together' is an opportunity missed. Following Lecrae's much-publicised goodbye to "white evangelicalism", the opening was created for an entry to his discography that spoke out indelibly about issues facing ethnic minorities within the American Reformed tradition. While 'All Things . . .' touches periodically on Lecrae's parting of the ways, notably on "Facts" ("I love Jesus, the one out of Nazareth/Not the European with the ultra-perm and them soft eyes and them thin lips"), most of this album meanders around other concerns: love, bereavement, depression and gratitude. These are all worthy topics in their own right, but none of them have the same prophetic urgency as racial unrest within the Church of Christ. Perhaps, as Ray Chang suggests, Lecrae is trying to walk a fine line - it is not that he "seeks disunity," Chang writes, but simply that "he can't handle the false perception of unity at his expense." Clearly, the amicable exchanges between Lecrae, John Piper, Chang and others show that Lecrae is not fuelled by any sectarian spirit, but surely it would have been possible for a rapper of his eloquence to critically assess the zeitgeist while still holding out his open heart? Consider these bullseyes: "The Master Artist makes your mess a masterpiece regardless" ("8:28"); "Had an alter-ego, but my ego altered at the altar call" ("Come And Get Me"). There is no doubt that Lecrae could produce the rap manifesto needed to dissociate evangelicalism from a politics of privilege, yet here he burns brightly too little.
Fans will not be disappointed, except by a vague sense that 'All Things Work Together' does not seem quite so cohesive as its name might lead one to expect. It features smart lyrics, bouncing beats and some beautiful guest vocals (Tori Kelly is particularly striking on "I'll Find You"), and it takes in influence from Frank Ocean ("Wish You The Best"), reggae ("Can't Stop Me Now (Destination)") and lounge soul ("Worth It"). Yet the narrative of best fit for Lecrae at the end of 2017 is a kind of ecclesiastical #blacklivesmatter that makes Kendrick Lamar his closest frame of reference. The controlled ferocity running through Lamar's 2015 LP 'To Pimp A Butterfly' was able to refract racial issues through a variety of vignettes that had their starting points in the author's personal life. Lecrae is more than capable of a similar trick. Perhaps - as he stated during his Truth's Table interview, and as Andrew Wilson has sagely pointed out - Lecrae wishes simply to be humble and emphasise the grace of God as he "navigate[s] these different spaces" post-split. The album's titular reference to Romans 8:28 shows that God's wide-angle lens, compared with our microscopes, is foremost in Lecrae's mind at the moment, so he could well be trusting in God to purify the smears on "white evangelicalism". But who knows whether Lecrae has not been raised up for such a time as this?
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