Still, as best he could, he emulated them and took to rapping himself.
Lecrae went to church, but he didn't relate to the people he saw there. They were his grandmother's generation, and he didn't pay much attention to what he saw there.
Instead, he got involved in drugs, got into fights, got arrested and dropped out of college, but then had an abrupt conversion after a Christian conference in Dallas when he was about 19. He went back to school and got involved in charities and different ministries. A few years later, he launched his first album.
During the past 10 years, he's been a rising star in Christian hip-hop, and 2013 was a good year.
"I crafted some music and broke down some barriers," he said.
However, Lecrae acknowledged, there haven't been the same barriers to his kind of Christian music as there might be with others. Christian rock, for example, typically is marketed to a young, white audience, had to struggle for acceptance and is still denounced by some conservative Christian church groups.
"I've been mostly embraced," Lecrae said, "but we're reaching out to a young and urban demographic, a disenfranchised demographic. That isn't to say there haven't been obstacles. There are always obstacles, but we're spreading out."
Some of it might have to do with the culture of hip-hop not really being at odds with the gospel message. Individual rappers might step outside of what is considered biblically moral or rap about topics often on the wrong end of a Sunday morning sermon, but it's only a part of what the music is about.
Hip-hop is about giving voice to people with little power, and Lecrae embraces that part of the culture. His raps focus more on personal responsibility and seeking grace and forgiveness than on boundless wealth -- although he's not against financial success.
He stands against violence and for compassion.
Lecrae doesn't miss the old days and is quick to say he's got a pretty blessed life. In 2014, he said, he hopes to continue what he has been doing, hopefully get another record released by the summer and reach out to more people.
But he does keep up with some of his old friends, he said, some of the people he knew before he became a star in Christian rap. Many of them have changed, too.
"Yeah, I see them on Facebook," he said and laughed. "They've all gained like 20 pounds."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.