“You searching for new mountains to climb as if you conquered the first one / You ain’t done, you just comfy”
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How many times have you heard this story? Young turk overcomes the gang culture inherent in his hometown through gaining a reputation as a ferocious battle rapper before coming to prominence as part of an influential rap collective. While this is undoubtedly a major part of Propaganda’s career, who joined L.A. mega-crew The Tunnel Rats as its youngest member, it only tells half of his story. Born Jason Petty to a Vietnam veteran father involved with The Black Panther Party, Props grew up steeped in the Latino culture of a violent neighbourhood before becoming a classroom teacher and community service leader. While cutting his teeth rapping he started frequenting spoken word poetry nights and was struck by the lyrical complexity and captivating directness poetry had over the rapping of his colleagues. He quickly became a regular performer at open mic poetry night A Mic & Dim Lights and used poetry and his love of folk music to hone his raps into intelligent social commentaries. This complex mix of influences evident in his music has lead to him becoming a highly respected artist in the L.A. underground scene, opening for KRS-One and De La Soul, and can best be heard on his recent fourth album Crimson Cord.
Over dark beats which owe a debt to Radiohead and Explosions In The Sky as much as to hip-hop, Propaganda delivers fiery attention-grabbing missives that bring Saul Williams and Michael Franti to mind. Given his widespread influences and experiences it’s no surprise that Props touches on diverse issues of faith, race and identity over Crimson Cord. ‘Bored of Education’ dissects education systems that fail its students while ‘I Don’t See It’ is an open letter against complacency. In his thought-provoking commentaries Props is as rigorous on his own preconceptions as those of others, and on ‘Three Cord Bond’ he analyses his own past prejudices and offers an open-eyed message of racial unity. The album ends with ‘Tell Me Yours’, an autobiography in under four minutes where Props gives dedications to all his decisive life influences and challenges you to share your story with him. An appropriate close for an artist who stresses strength through unity and challenging the received notions that come blaring out of every socket in the modern world: This is his truth, now you tell him yours.
Crimson Cord is out now through Humble Beast and is available for free download here.