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Album Review: Propaganda – Crimson Cord

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O

One of the most beautiful things about hip-hop is its depth. It is so much more than just a beat and some creative rhyming, and more currently, it is much more than music to dance or get hype to. To even say that hip-hop is just music would be a gross underestimation of all that hip-hop encompasses. It is truly a culture that spreads to the b-boys and girls, to the poets, musicians, graffiti artists, DJ’s and emcees. At its core, it’s a cultural expression of art. The members of this community/culture use their art to communicate about love, beauty, intellect, injustice, pride and faith.

There are several artists that encompass the core hip-hop principles in CHH today, but few represent this as well as Propaganda. Throughout his long and storied career Propaganda has embodied what hip-hop stands for beautifully. He has consistently challenged listeners through his poetry and music, and this was most recently seen on his last project Excellent. It was a beautiful record in which Prop delivered some of his best work that aimed to pull the best out of his listeners.

The multi-talented artist is back with his next work of art that is titled Crimson Cord.

The Message:

The message in any Propaganda song or album is always a difficult thing to navigate through because you can’t fully grasp the entire message in four or five listens. Crimson Cord follows suit because the message behind Prop’s songs are so deep, heavy and sometimes intense. It takes awhile to truly digest it all. For some listeners this may be discouraging, but the upside is that Crimson Cord won’t grow stale because the listener can continually find new value in the record with each listen. A great example of this is in the song “Three Cord Bond”. This track is an honest look into race relations in this country that supplies a new nugget of truth with each listen. This song is told from three different perspectives and that’s where the listener can find the value, by hearing someone else’s struggle. It shows the depth of Propaganda’s intellect (by being able to articulate each perspective so well) and gives endless depth to the song.

This one example isn’t the only example however. The entire record is an intellectual and spiritual journey. This is a reminder of the foundations of hip-hop. It is inspiring, motivating and educational. Tracks like “I Ain’t Gave Up On You Yet”, “I Don’t See It” and “How Did We Get Here” are intellectual masterpieces which pushes the listener to do more than just listen to good music. “You Mock Me” and “Crimson Cord” are wonderful theological tracks that will touch the listener’s spirit. Overall, the message (or messages) throughout Crimson Cord is just outstanding. This isn’t the type of record that you ride in the car and blast with the windows down. However, this is a record that is a must have for all CHH fans because it will constantly challenge, uplift and inspire you.

The Sound:

Sonically, Crimson Cord gives the hardcore Prop fans exactly what they want; that classic Propaganda sound. Historically with Prop you’ll get the “boom bap” (or at least some hard drums), with a soft or more experimental melody. Crimson Cord is more of that. It’s a sound Prop fans are used to but it is the perfect sound for him. It is also the perfect production for this record because it never once steals the show. That is important with a message as eloquent and vital as the one Prop delivers. Though it didn’t steal the show, the production was still great. It supported Prop and gave a smooth backdrop for his message. A great message in a song is much easier to consume when the music is good.

Crimson Cord did have a traditional Propaganda feel to it, but that doesn’t mean that Prop did push himself musically. Tracks like the Lecrae assisted “Daywalkers” and “How Did We Get Here” that featured Andy Mineo and JGivens, provide the perfect change of pace for the album. Both tracks carry a more up tempo feel, which is a great contrast of the traditional Propaganda sound. Both tracks are well done and Prop maneuvered them well. These tracks show another side to Propaganda’s seemingly endless talent. It also gives Crimson Cord some much needed sonic depth and round’s off the record out perfectly.

The Artistry:

Nowadays the word “artist” is tossed around rather liberally. It seems as if every person who makes music is classified an artist, when the criteria should be based on whether or not that person actually makes art. No matter how you classify an “artist”, when you make a list of them, Propaganda has to be near the top of it. Whether it is his beautiful pieces of poetry or his thought provoking songs, either way Propaganda truly makes art. What makes him a good artist aren’t those individual abilities, but it’s when he brings those two together. That has always made Prop unique and that also made Crimson Cord unique. The mixture of poetry and hip-hop created a perfect balance. Just when the listener settles in to some good hip-hop music, Prop throws a fantastic spoken word piece that elevates the listening experience. Even further, Prop had the creativity to through production behind his poetry pieces to elevate those pieces, and tie the whole project together. This type of creativity and presence of mind is what makes him such a great artist.

The artistry didn’t just extend to the music on Crimson Cord. Everything from the album cover art to the concept of the album was beautiful artistry. You may not fully understand what Prop means by “crimson cord” going into this record but you’ll get a full understanding by the album’s close. Throughout the record Prop goes back to the theme. You can see an example of this on tracks like “Crimson Cord”, where he explains and uses the concept in his lyrics, and “Three Cord Bond” where he applies the concept in a different and creative way. This kind of conceptual creativity is one of the many things that set Crimson Cord apart from other records, and one of the many things that makes this record truly great.

Conclusion

Any time an artist can bring you the roots of hip-hop, it’s good for everyone. The genre grows and gets better and it keeps the original principles of hip-hop alive. But more importantly than that, with Crimson Cord, Propaganda delivers a great (Christ-centered) message on top of some great music. This record is a must have for every CHH fan. It’s timeless music that will facilitate change in the minds and hearts of many people.

Propaganda’s Crimson Cord is now available for purchase on iTunes or can be downloaded for free on NoiseTrade.

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Aubrey McKay has a strong passion and love for CHH, and he uses that to write album reviews for Wadeoradio.com. He is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland Florida. He currently resides in Lakeland and teaches middle school. Twitter: @ajmckay24

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