Approach With an Open Heart| Posted June 28, 2017
It has been three years since we have heard spoken word/hip-hop stylings from Propaganda, the west coast based Christ-follower, artist, activist, father, husband and podcaster. His latest project Crooked is a welcome addition to the current CHH landscape, especially given current headlines. Fans of Propaganda will welcome his no-holds-barred approach to balancing faith and social justice, while others in the church will question his motives and perhaps even accuse Propaganda not focusing on the goodness of God.
Crooked is not an album that a person puts on for fun. This is an album that deserves an honest, open-hearted listen. While worship albums require an open heart to receive what God has for us, this album requires an open heart to understand how broken we truly are as a society. As a white man listening to this album, I find myself becoming uncomfortable at times, but this discomfort is merely a result of the realization that I am broken and recognizing that at times, I have had moments where my whiteness resulted in a lack of understanding of what other races may go through.
From the brokenness of mankind in "Crooked" to the complication of relationships in "Bear With Me," through the powerful questions asked in "Cynical" to racism within the black community in "Darkie:" this album has levels. Propaganda has a way with words that is unrivalled in CHH. He can reach into the heart of the matter by using something as simple as a hatred for cats to explain the foolishness of racism as he does on the spoken word piece "I Hate Cats."
However, it is not just the message that is presented, but the humility and heart of where the message comes from. Propaganda doesn't merely bring these things up in angry street corner prophet style. His words come from a broken heart and true feelings. He is open about his owns shortcomings with self-esteem and his deep love for his wife and daughters. The full renaissance man that is Propaganda is on display here.
In writing a review of the album, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the depth and breadth of the production and features on the album. With production credits from the likes of Daniel Steele, Courtney Orlando and DJ Efechto, there are multiple layers to the production, just as there a levels to the themes. Each song feels original, yet they feel cohesive at the same time.
In terms of features, everyone is represented. There's the unique sound of Marz Ferrer, the hot bars from Sho Baraka and Jackie Hill-Perry, off-the-chain hooks from Courtney Orlando and Micah Bournes, the reflective sound of Aaron Marsh (Copeland) and Audrey Assad offering her unique voice (including singing in Syrian). For anyone who would label Propaganda as anti-white, the features on the album speak volumes to inclusiveness and diversity, painting a true picture of the global church.
Before writing off Crooked as another black lives matter protest against the church, perhaps the approach to take would be to set our offenses aside and listen deeply to the struggles of our brothers and sisters, seeking first to understand and then to be understood. Without truly opening our hearts to understand the point of view of other followers of Christ, putting our guilt and shame away and setting aside our defenses and offenses, we will not truly comprehend what those not in the dominant culture are going through.
The Bottom Line: Crooked may leave you with more questions than answers, but these questions should be ones that create a dialog inside the church around the topics presented--a dialog raised from the opening of our hearts to truly empathize with how others are feeling and what they are going through.
Song to Download Now:
"Cynical" (Get it on iTunes here.)
Music That Will Challenge| Posted July 04, 2017
Propaganda’s first album since 2014’s Crimson Cord is hard-hitting and challenging, with excellent vocal (spoken word and hip hop) delivery, musical backing and production. Much has happened in America since Crimson Cord and some of the lyrics are right out of the news.
Below are a few thoughts about each of the songs:
Crooked Way featuring Terence F. Clark - This is a powerful opening track, produced by Braille and written with Terence F. Clark. There is much to take in here, which will require multiple listenings. He covers a history of racism from Native Americans and the Confederate flag. Interjects humor about skinny jeans and Dickies. Says he is not a leader, just a hippie with daddy issues, crooked with halos balanced on the tip of his horns.
It’s Complicated – He has zipped up his emotions into a dusty duffel bag that he’s named poetry. He speaks of transgender issues, that we are a laundry list of identity issues and that sometimes our plumbing doesn’t match our urges. It’s complicated.
Bear With Me featuring Marz Gerrer – Produced by Ohmega Watts. This track is about the ups and downs of being in love. Love is not love if it's never been tested.
Cynical featuring Aaron Marsh & Sho Baraka - This powerful track is produced by Beautiful Eulogy. It hits on several items out of the news - Trump rallies, refugees, immigration – but he’s concerned that Christians are arguing about bathrooms. He addresses being lied to, intolerance and fear.
Slow Cook - This track is produced by Courtney Orlando and Steele, and it’s about his musical influences. “That's the hip hop I fell in love with”.
Do Know Wrong featuring Macho – Produced by Wert and co-written with Macho. His love letter to California (Cali), with numerous references (earthquake, smog, Poly High, palm trees, traffic, lack of water, ocean, Fatburger, King Taco).
Gentrify – Produced by DJ Efechto. This upbeat sounding track with Odd Thomas on keyboards, addresses a serious subject, gentrification. “And when you see them billboards yelling "cash for homes" Gentrify.”
I Hate Cats – This is a very creative spoken word piece on racism and stereotyping, substituting cats and dogs for Blacks and Whites. Funny and serious.
Darkie featuring Micah Bournes and Kackie Hill-Perry – Produced by Daniel Steele, this song addresses racism within the Black community (hating on they own kind). Features additional vocals from Izzy Ray.
It’s Not Working (The Truth) featuring Courtney Orlando. Produced by Courtney Orlando, who also co-wrote the song. A sad and powerful telling of the history of Blacks in America. He wants the truth and to focus on God. Features a guitar solo from Isaiah Cox. You say I’m King of Kings, but son, I don’t get it how, You could trust me for eternity, but can’t trust me for now
Andrew Mandela featuring Topknot Feather – The song title brings together the names of Nelson Mandela and Andrew Jackson, who are addressed in the first two verses. Produced by Courtney Orlando and co-written with Topknot Feather. Ooh, I take shots at your sacred cows Dance with skeletons in closets
I point at elephants in the room
And make a mockery of heroes
Olympian featuring Xavier Omär – Produced by Courtney Orlando, this song was written during a very difficult week (death, miscarriage, HIV positive), for some of Propaganda’s friends. Odd Thomas provides additional vocals. Don't you stop now, baby Show your fight now, baby
You're an olympian, baby
You can't quit now
Made Straight featuring Audrey Assad - Produced by Courtland Urbano. Co-written with Audrey Assad, who contributes excellent vocals. He looks forward with joy and anticipation for the day in which God (the time keeper) comes and makes the crooked way straight.
ICPTSD - Produced by Derek Minor and written by Propaganda. This bonus track ICPTSD is an acronym for Inner City Present Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is about the trauma of living in the inner city. It features a good guitar solo at the end.
This is an album that requires serious listening. All aspects were well done. It was challenging for me as a White man, and it is my top album of the year thus far.