Wading into Lecrae’s “Deep End”

Joylanda Jamison

How do you mend a broken heart? Especially when the heart that lies in pieces is not your own?

Listening to a person’s pained sobs and watching them wrestle with grief is uncomfortable. The natural inclination is to turn away from the source of pain—to put distance between ourselves and the troubled minds of others. And yet, God urges Christians to do the exact opposite of what feels normal—what feels safe.

At a time when many in the Black community are wrestling with deep-rooted pain and grief over the loss of countless Black lives, many artists are using their platforms to try and grapple with the reality of being Black in America. A reality that continues to see the systemic dehumanization of the Black community, even after the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights movement. A reality that continues to reinforce negative stereotypes of Black men and women. A reality that frequently stifles and dismisses Black grief. In Lecrae’s recent single, “Deep End,” we see a Black man who pushes back against this warped reality.

The music video for “Deep End” opens with pictures of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and others who have died during police encounters. These images are also overlaid with the 911 call involving Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased and killed by armed citizens while jogging near his home. In that call, the emergency responder is heard asking, “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.” Words that cut deep into the hearts of Black listeners because the question gives words to the frustrations many in the Black community feel. What have we done wrong to be the recipients of prejudice, racism, and ethnicity-based murders?

On “Deep End,” declarations of “Black lives matter” and other chants give way to a low, solemn hum that rises and falls throughout the duration of the song. Lecrae uses this mournful backdrop to expound upon his frustrations and angst by saying:

I’ve been tryna save my voice
But y’all gave me no choice
The world gone mad, can’t ignore this noise
Look at these people found dead in the streets

Since becoming more open about his views concerning police brutality and other topics that specifically impact the Black community, Lecrae has often had to defend his right to express these grievances. Unfortunately, some of the biggest pushback has come from people that share his same faith in God. Through vulnerable social media posts and interviews, he has tried to eschew the caricature that is often attached to Black males—as oversexualized and vilified beings incapable of basic human emotion—only to have people decry him as being divisionary. But what happens when people are denied the right to grieve? What happens when a person’s pain is repeatedly invalidated and belittled? What happens when fellow believers aren’t as empathetic as they are called to be?

I got some partners that hate the police
Me I’m just trying to hold onto my peace

What happens when fellow believers aren’t as empathetic as they are called to be?

When children of God are forced to process their pain in isolation, an internal battle ensues to resist falling into hatred towards an entity that continues to leave deep wounds, while also trying to process callous responses from fellow believers. Despite feeling pressure on multiple fronts, Lecrae still manages to offer solace to the Black community. In the video for “Deep End,” clips of past and current protests remind us that the fight for equality has long been fought and images of key leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X remind us of the sacrifices that have been made. The chorus assures us that we are not the only ones “trying not to go off the deep end” and that Lecrae too has been crying “give me a reason” to God.

Lecrae pens a song that intertwines grief and hope for the Black community, while simultaneously inviting all Christians the opportunity to partake in our pain. Galatians 6:2 instructs Christians to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Part of carrying one another’s burdens means exchanging passive sympathy for active empathy. Passive sympathy offers one, maybe two, prayers for the Black community. Active empathy is the uncomfortable process of settling in another person’s grief to help bear their pain. Active empathy listens without rebuttal. Seeks to understand without skepticism. Humbly asks questions instead of bristling with prideful ignorance. Offers sincere prayers out of compassion instead of obligation. Balances spiritual supplication with practical application.

On “Deep End,” Lecrae confesses that

Sometimes legs get weak and your arms give out

And you sink to the bottom slowly

A grown man wishing that somebody hold me

A Black man expressing vulnerability amidst his pain. A Black man voicing the cries of many from his community. A Black man seeking comfort from God and a body of believers. In the closing seconds of the video, Lecrae is seen bent over on the floor. He slowly rises to his knees, his face still pointed towards the ground. A visual representation of a person struggling to stand beneath the weight they carry. Scripture does not tell us to only bear the burdens that we can relate to personally. Instead, we are to help one another cast all of our anxieties on God. For what better burden is there than carrying an unfamiliar weight on our backs to the Father, so that others can be set free?

Topics: Music