Christian rapper Propaganda is a multifaceted artist brimming with intellectual and musical diversity. He comes by it honestly—child of a Black Panther father, growing up in an ethnic Los Angeles neighborhood. His new album Crimson Cord—much like his other work—is a smorgasbord of insight super-stuffed with wit, humor, and head-bobbing grooves.
“Daywalkers” is a musical mash-up that expresses his diverse personal history. Snare drums snap, crackle, and pop while Propaganda describes the cross-cultural currents of his youth: “Broken families imposter / black rocking white Rasta / Jimi Hendrix, Courtland Urbano mocking all your preconceived.” Propaganda sees the simultaneous familiarity of Kingdom and culture as a huge asset. An early participant in secular “battle rap” contests, he extolls the redemptive impact of being “bilingual, bicultural / flowing in the King’s tongue / Elohim and human one / Rosetta Stone with a mic and Chucks on / All things to all men, so all men say ‘Amen.’” Lecrae—making a guest appearance—joins in to marvel that he is the “same dude reading Wayne Grudem / even though I grew up listening to Snoop and Ice Cube … I’m everything in one; I’m the product of great art / I’m a product of Decartes, Tim Keller, and OutKast.”
With his free-style, beatnik delivery, Propaganda pushes the boundaries of genre, lying halfway between rapper and spoken word artist. “Bored of Education” finds the rapper at his witty, acerbic best and most like a poet. With minimalist musical backing—an occasional chord banged out on the keys—Propaganda rails at the absurdity of the modern educational system where “lesson plans get clipped to fit into the low-res jpeg you call a state standard.” A credentialed teacher himself, he scoffs at the notion of making children sit in little rows while cramming them with assorted facts and figures. “My child is not a widget!” he cries, “and school should not be an assembly line.”
In contrast, children should learn by doing. A fat bass kicks into the song like an epiphany as Propaganda bursts out “Remember when we were in kindergarten, and you wanted to learn about worms / yeah, you went outside and you played with worms / what a novel idea!”
Propaganda’s talent and innovation provoke natural comparison to Lecrae, although the two are quite different. Whereas Lecrae slams down rhymes with jaw-dropping speed and power—a tour de force of rapping prowess—Propaganda is not in so much of a hurry. Each song is a meditation, where words and ideas slowly unfurl their full weight.
Like Lecrae, however, Propaganda’s artistic merit is gaining notice and respect outside traditional Christian boundaries. Hip Hop Speakeasy—a notable, secular rap forum—praised him for “creating new ideas and thoughts,” and for how he “instills a sense of introspection upon you as a listener and a human being in general.”
A powerful funk groove propels “Redeem” into a war cry for believers to renew their minds amidst division and discouragement. While secular government haplessly struggles to fix societal ills, God is “morphing the pimp, hustler, and rapist to co-laborers.” While people get despondent in the face of hardship and failures, the rapper reminds us that the broken shards are “pieces of perfect symphony / A Mozart of irony … broaden y’all’s lenses a little wider you’d see that perfect symmetry.” Resist the temptation to look back and regret because God uses it all: “There’s no rewind, just redeem.”