A few months back, Church Boy Entertainment artist Lil’ Dre released his newest album Under Construction. I thought it was one of the best Hip-Hop albums of the year (still do), so I sat down with Dre for a quick update on his life, music, and what’s coming next.
Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Your newest album Under Construction got some great reviews. How has getting this album out been different from your mixtape and previous album?
Basically, just the challenges of life: promotion on the job with new responsibilities, newleywed stage of my marriage being our first year, and finding out that we’re having a daughter soon. Add to that taking on the stepfather role and it was a lot for me, coming from being a single man. Definitely all worth it though.
The album has a central theme of being “under construction” by God. It also has the imagery of “God’s blueprint” recurring throughout it. What inspired you to chose this theme to be the backbone of the record?
Being raised in the church my whole life, I ran across people who always thought Christians believed we were perfect, so it was my goal to always remember that I’m no better than the next man and that God’s grace is the only reason I have hope. With that being said, for those of us who’ve allowed Christ in our hearts we know being stagnant is not an option. Therefore, the Scripture in Philippians 1:6 came to mind and I wanted to base it around that. Also, when preparing the artwork with the artist, a few ideas were tossed around about pictures of me, but we were quickly reminded that it’s the heart that’s being shaped and molded.
What were your inspirations musically and scripturally going into the album?
Musically, I am mostly inspired by the producers I’m lucky enough to work with. Their craft usually get my creative juices flowing, if you will. Scripturally I’d have to say Philippians 1:6 was the main text I used. However I did have to dig into the process of building something and how to lay foundation to expand from a spiritual aspect on where I was coming from.
Are there any tracks on the album you were most excited for people to hear before it dropped? How have these been received since the album has been released?
Yes! “Let’s Get It In” is one of my favorite tracks on the project and I didn’t even write it. The responses have been helpful; some encouraging, some criticism, but I felt like they were all given as honest opinions and in love so I take it all with an open mind.
Talk a little bit about the industry as it has evolved in the past couple years. What struggles are unique to being in both the Christian (and) independent market?
From what I’ve encountered, the biggest struggle is similar to what a pastor faces: living up to what we’re saying and the Bible we say we take heed to. We know we are far from perfect, but when you’re in the spotlight and have many individuals supporting and listenting to you, it makes it that much harder for anyone to believe you if you fall in the public eye.
This leads to the independent market question. Since we’re in a smaller market, it’s easier for our label to be close knit and more like a family instead of just strictly business. It also enables all of us to be open and honest about our struggles with each other and with our audience.
You’ve done shows with the likes of Lecrae and Flame in the past, how have these artists influenced your sound?
Without knowing it, they’ve challenged me to increase the level of entertainment along with a Biblical understanding of the Scriptures I’m singing about. They are all very professional individuals and a great example spiritually and in the business of music.
You’ve worked with CedEnough, Dre Murray, and several others in the past. Is there any specific artist you’d love to see show up on one of your albums, or vice versa?
Oh man, yes! Definitely. My favorite artist is Flame (who’s probably the most renown), but there are also some other artists that I plan to work with soon: Bishop Chase (Tulsa producer), Karlie Clifford (my church worship leader), Sean Johnson (OKC), Courtni Bilderback (Arkansas artist), and Michael Bane (Florida artist).
How has your recent marriage and becoming a father impacted your writing?
The impact was huge. I want to make my lyrics display how much work the Lord still has to do in my life. After thinking I was “strong” in different areas before marriage, I soon realized I’m not as strong as I thought (i.e. patience). I always want to tell people how I’ve fallen short of being the husband and father I’m supposed to be. At the same time it excites me and my family to see the areas we can grow in together and testify to others how far we’ve come by the grace of God!
Are there any words of wisdom you would give to aspiring artists looking to reach people for Christ through music?
My advice would be to seek Christ first and let everything else fall into place. Even our dreams & goals should not come before the will of God. I believe that’s the hard part. We can know Christ and make Him known in many ways other than music or preaching behind a pulpit.
I always end with a silly question – Who’s better, Superman or Batman?
Easy…Batman! No super-human powers, no abnormal weakness (lol), just a rich, intelligent CEO looking out for his city. I can dig that.
Lil’ Dre’s Under Construction is available at most online retailers and on Spotify. You should also check the “Hot Downloads” section for a free sample from all of Church Boy Entertainment, including Dre.