There’s a sense of gravitas and pathos to every word Los Angeles native Propaganda utters on his fifth solo album Crooked, which MASS APPEAL is proud to premiere today. With his distinct, crisp enunciation, he’s unafraid to tackle a myriad of topics ranging from the global refugee crisis to endemic racism in America.
What makes his work more than eloquent sermonizing on a beat though, is Propaganda’s ability to turn his scope on himself as well, examining his own role in his systems of oppression intersect. “I’ve watched my wife run so hard into patriarchal systems and seen the misogyny she’s dealt with,” he says. “It’s made me realize how overlapping our issues are. In my life I watch all these overlaps and I wanted to step into that space talk about how we’re all connected. And I know I’m indicted in all these structures I’m trying to take down. I talk about patriarchy and misogyny, but I know I still benefit from being a guy. I need to own that. On this album I’m exploring a lot of ideas, including my relationship to my wife and two kids and how to love them better.”
Turning his scope to all that is crooked within this world, it’s hard not to get cynical though, which is exactly what happens on the aptly titled standout track “Cynical.” Over ominous guitar strumming, Propaganda asks “Why you love your guns more than our sons?” while an ethereal background wail ratchets up the feeling of desperation. Then he dives into a chilling bridge: “I’m out here on some world relief / What’s a Twitter beef? / My boy Jermey packed up, moved his family to Fallujah / You argue over bathrooms.”
That “Jermey” is Jeremy Courtney, by the way, CEO of an organization providing surgeries for kids in war-torn countries. When those are the people you run with, it’s no hard to see how you can become exasperated with the triviality of some of the discussions that keep raging on in our society.
Still, to be true to life, there has to be some room for levity. On “I Hate Cats,” Prop provides just that as he explains why he’s not a cat person over a jazzy backdrop. It’s an ostensibly off-the-cuff speech, showing his experience as a spoken word artist. Even in a mellow piece like this, obviously intended as a breather within the album, the words are delivered with a certain heft.
But it’s nowhere near as heavy as it gets when Propaganda looks at how history shaped the experience of downtrodden people around the world. “God forgive me for my brash delivery / but I remember vividly what apartheid did to me,” he raps on the song ‘Andrew Mandela,’ flipping a line from a certain other rapper who’s delivering his new album today. A verse later he repeats the line, exchanging “apartheid” with “Lewis and Clark.”
In that same song he drops a line that might be seen as something of a mission statement for the album as a whole: “I take shots at your sacred cows.”
Propaganda’s Crooked is out now on all major streaming services and online digital music stores.
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SOURCE: Mass Appeal
Jaap Van Der Doelen