Legin is Nigel spelled backwards, because Christ reversed my life.
Nigel “Legin” Anderson (pronounced like “legend” without the letter “d”) is an acclaimed hip-hop artist, husband, father, church leader, and community advocate. These attributions describe just a portion who he is, but all of them combined to spur the creation of Legin’s new EP In This Moment.
The four songs on the EP encapsulate a depth of emotion and passion that has touched every member of society in recent days and years beyond. Described as a “personal and passionate musical response to racial injustice, political divisiveness, and disunity in the country,” Legin tells me he wants listeners of the EP to “go on a really brief rollercoaster of emotion.”
Earlier this year, Legin played an integral role in organizing a prayer march in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia where more than 5,000 people came together following the death of George Floyd. It was in the time after the march in which the artist labored with friend and Grammy award winning artist Laquan Green to create In This Moment, a musical and lyrical journal of what Legin says is “raw emotion, feelings, and perspectives tempered with what we believe to be balanced authentic Gospel hope that isn’t polarized or intangible. Motivated by the march, the current state of affairs and political rhetoric, and our Christ, we created In This Moment.”
The collection starts with the track “Faces,” a challenge for listeners to refuse to turn away from divisive issues. In “Refuse to Pick,” Legin explains the dangers of choosing sides, why he won’t allow it to interfere in his relationships, and how he turns to Christ to lead.
Helping to bring the lyrics even more alive is the inclusion of spoken audio selections from the prayer march into the fabric of the songs. If you listen carefully at the end of the tear-jerker “Feel,” you’ll hear the crowd chanting the words “Jesus, justice.” Most pointedly, at the end of “Cry” is from the closing prayer spoken at the march by Kevin Tremper, Legin’s pastor at CrossRoads Church. The EP leaves you with the words, “Lord, make us one.”
I spoke with Legin recently about his new EP and how he has handled broaching difficult topics with his children.
You are passionately engaged in supporting your local community. Can you tell me a little bit about your vision for the HR [Hampton Roads] City Collective?
Our goal was just to help the church have tough conversations about racial inequality and what the gospel believes there. I just have a fair conviction that the house is basically leading the conversation. Not because we have to be in front of things just because we have the key to reconciliation because people feel like the racial conversation is a man-to-man proposition, but it’s a God-to-man proposition. So if Christ is who he says he is and he is the one who’s given us the ministry of reconciliation then we have to be talking about all aspects of reconciliation.
The driving force behind it was a couple of years ago with Philando Castille, and the nine Dallas officers… And so we addressed it – the church I serve, my pastor – we addressed it very heavily. Just down the middle about it and it was a great healing in our church and a great, great heartbreak and great hopefulness. We called a bunch of our pastor friends and asked, ‘How are y’all handling this?’ And it was a collective like, ‘Yo, I don’t know what to do or how to say it, I’m afraid I’m going to step on a landmine.’ And we thought of all the pressure that pastors and leaders were under to address it well and address it rightfully and so we just said, ‘Meet us in a couple of days and we’ll talk about it together.’
Like 40 pastors showed up and we never stopped meeting. So that’s what The Collective is. It’s a group of pastors who say, ‘We’re going to talk about it, we’re going to address it, we’re gonna deal with it and do our best. We want to serve those guys and gals and help them in that regard. The vision for it will be that Hampton Roads continues to unify on gospel issues, doesn’t allow politics or culture to divide us. A couple of miles from where we are was where the first slaves touched down here. So maybe 400 years after that fact, God wants to bring revival and repentance and healing from the same place where it all started.
How do you as a pastor, as a public figure, as a leader, choose to express your opinion? Do you think about the division it could cause, do you kind of step in front of it and “cushion” it, or do you just go for it?
No, I don’t just go for it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just going for it – I guess I don’t get the whole ‘just go for it’ mentality in our culture. It typically doesn’t end well and you know, talk less than you listen, like in the book of James. I mean, I’ve deleted so many posts I was about to post! I’ve got to balance what’s wisdom and what’s cowardice. But for me it’s ‘Is this going to unify?’ ‘Cause I feel like my personal calling is to be a bridge builder. If I’m going to acknowledge an issue that leans on one side, I will also acknowledge the other side or, or criticize the same way and say ‘Hey, just remember the depravity of man is not combined in one political party. We all struggle with it. And if you don’t think you are, then you’re struggling even more because your heart is deceitfully wicked and you don’t see it.’
There are a lot of things I don’t say if I don’t have context to explain the fullness of it. It’s not worth the division it will cause. If I do say something, I try to think through it and make sure that I bring up a competing view to kind of bring everybody to a balanced perspective. I can be anti-abortion and pro-civil justice and pro-racial justice. Those aren’t competing ideas, but you have to pick one of the other because of our culture.
Ah, like in the song “Feel,” you talk about the difficult conversations between friends, and how you were rejected by your Christian brothers.
Yeah, “My brother turned his back on me ‘cause I won’t support his candidate.”
Tell me more about your EP In This Moment. When did you write the songs?
Yeah, we wrote it like over two weekends after the march, but then after the march I hit like a little bit of a depression and I was really tapped out of just 2020 in general. I’d lost some people in my life – they passed away. And then you know, the murders and tension and strife and then not sleeping well – after the march I kind of tanked. I called Kevin, my pastor and said, ‘I’m tapped out.’ And then I went to my counselor and he was like, ‘You really need to do something.’
While I was going through all that I went to see my friend Laquan Green, who is a Grammy winning producer. I called him ‘cause we were working on a song a few years ago about all of this and we never put it out and I called him and said ‘We gotta do it.’ When I went over there, he started playing beats and we ended up with the EP in 15 minutes.
You brought up your counselor, and I love talking to artists about how God heals through art. Is that something that you found to be true in your life?
That’s my outlet. I want to express what’s here. The stuff that I probably will delete a tweet for, I’ll put in a song, you know. Writing and creating and getting it out is therapeutic in itself. Whether you think art imitates life, life imitates art, you’re right. Like, doesn’t matter. We live in a creation, so creating, it’s kind of part of what we are. And it helps me out to write things in that way.
I know you have a wonderful wife and family. Can you tell me a little bit about how your wife is a part of this vision?
She is the background of everything. She’s supported me. We knew each other back when we didn’t know Jesus. She’s been there the whole time. I started preaching for Jesus and she’s been there for everything. When I do shows and travel, she is there with me as she can be, like the prayer march. All the stuff that I go through that people don’t see, she sees in the background. So she’s got to deal with me tanking, she’s got to deal with all that crap. You know what I’m saying? She helps me out and kicks me in the butt when I’m being a baby and helps me out when I’m really struggling.
When I’m throwing vision around, she’s the one helping me. She keeps me grounded, but she also helps me to bring wings to that vision. I meet so many people and there’s so many resources God made available to us. I don’t capitalize on all of that. She’s the one that’s like, ‘Oh, you need to call so-and-so to ask this.’ And she’s always, always right.
It’s tough talking to kids about these topics. So how do you bring up, like, Breonna Taylor?
Yeah, that’s one part of my life I’ve been struggling with. ‘How well have I equipped them?’ I hope they see the moves I’m making sometimes because I never really addressed it with them. I wanted them to have a foundation of ‘not everybody’s like that.’ There’s so many people in my life that represent all aspects of God’s creation, all colors and shapes and sizes. So I wanted them to have this good foundation and I didn’t want to shatter their innocence with the reality of certain things. But when George Floyd happened, I had to sit down and have a conversation with them. I was questioning if I had I waited too long to have it. I was a little ashamed that I hadn’t had it before that. I didn’t tell them about Ahmaud Arbery at first, but I talked with them about him later.
We were listening to “Feel” in the car, and my daughter’s just like ‘Why did they shoot him?’ And I said ‘Well, they thought he was a threat.’ And she continued to ask a lot of questions.
I’ve had to equip them. They see I’m cautious, don’t let them go certain places and watch certain things. And I told them, ‘You have to trust me. I’m explaining it to you at age appropriate times, why I don’t let you watch and do and think certain things. You know, when I saw the innocence burst in my daughter, that somebody could hate somebody else just because of how they look – the people that she was seeing who look like her. I was just like, ‘Baby, that’s one man. Don’t forget about your Uncle John and Aunt Jenny and how they babysit you. They love you. They look like that man, but they’re not like him. So we try to build this foundation for them.
Is there anything that you would say to parents who don’t know where to start?
For me, this is my reality. So I knew we were going to be talking about it at some point, I just felt like I didn’t do it soon enough. I feel like for parents who it’s not their reality, it may be easier in some ways for them to address it because I think it doesn’t hit home as much. I would say, ‘Man, go for it.’ I think it is on all of us to make sure we’re having honest conversations with our kids.
I’m obviously not doing the best or the wisest on the timing of when, because I don’t know if I did that perfect. The conversation can’t come from a political vantage point. I think it’ll just set your kid up to be a divisive failure on this conversation at any age. If you can train him to say, ‘What does the gospel actually say about this? How should people be treated? And if people are not being treated that way, how vocal and how much do we stand for?’ We need to give what we can give to make sure that people aren’t treated that way and not put our heads in the sand. That’s the biggest thing – just don’t train your kids to have their heads in the sand.
Any closing thoughts?
One thing I challenge people – it’s easy to pray for George Floyd’s daughter because we feel bad for her, but is anybody praying for Derek Chauvin’s daughter? Because she’s got to pay for this for the rest of her life, what her dad did to George Floyd.
It’s easy not to pray for the aggressors, but they got to pay for it. Everybody gotta pay for it. Are you willing to step out of your box or the part that you feel most connected to and think about the part you don’t feel connected to? Where do we need mercy and justice over here too? Our culture doesn’t want to allow us to do that because it doesn’t fit the narrative – that everybody needs grace. But the Bible says that we have to do that.
In This Moment is available wherever music streams. Check out the song “Feel” below!