Approach With an Open Heart
Posted June 28, 2017
By MarkRyan_NRT, Staff Reviewer
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.)
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