Lecrae’s upcoming album Restoration has been years in the making, but his first single for the project “Set Me Free” (featuring Florida rapper YK Osiris) seems built for these quarantine times. From the flipped and remixed sample of Mary Mary’s 1999 single “Shackles (Praise You)” to producer Gawvi’s bombastic production, Lecrae’s execution is purposeful and riveting, conveying frustration felt from captivity and elation at acquittal with equal reverence. Energy pulsates throughout the track, but it is never too chaotic to the point of anarchy; Lecrae commands a control and displays a confidence in his delivery that is able to cut through the busyness of the beat while above all else being a team player. He does not even enter the song till thirty seconds in, letting YK Osiris and the “Shackles” sample first play off of each other like comedians in an improv session. YK Osiris sings some lyrics verbatim but imbues his crooning with more languish, asking to be set free from the circumstances binding him down. To point out its applicability to present circumstances would be overkill.
When Lecrae does enter, he comes with the intensity of someone who is all too eager to release pent-up ardor: “Let me go (Let me go), let me go / I been goin’ through so much I swear these people at my throat.” Lyrically, the track may be more vanilla than his past lyrical feasts (found on tracks like “Misconceptions 3” and “Facts”) but there are too many quotable lines for the song to be deemed forgettable (“Found my purpose, found my method / Only L I took was lessons, tell ’em (Yeah)”). Yet “Set Me Free” is more than just general inspirational messages, Lecrae laces faith throughout to accentuate and give account for the hope he carries. His subtlety acts less as nonchalance but rather as a byproduct of its integration in his life; he no longer needs to preach histrionically or solely through words because his life already is the sermon. He talks directly to God in hindsight, acknowledging His past faithfulness as sufficient strength for today: “Even in the darkest times, You kept Your light on me, yeah.”
Truly, the glue that holds the song together though is Gawvi’s production; the fellow labelmate claimed that he had not produced a song for Lecrae commercially since 2014’s Anomaly but more than makes up for lost time here. When sampling a song like “Shackles,” undoubtedly it sticks out, but Gawvi makes it a voice in the room but never overshadows the ingenuity that he, Lecrae, and YK Osiris do in how they bend and honor the song. For those quarantined now, they’ll no doubt find Lecrae’s latest more than relevant for when the shackles are taken off, and they’ll have no other response but to dance. This is freedom, and it has never sounded so good.
Zachary Lee is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].