[interview.] Propaganda on “Excellent” and gospel culture
Published on November 8, 2012
As his lyrics echo, Propaganda raises the banner in the CHH scene for genuine boldness, godly character and commitment to excellent art- and nothing less. We’re thankful for the opportunity to speak with him recently. He took some time off his busy schedule with the Unashamed Tour 2012 to talk Excellent, good art, manhood and a little about himself.
As believers, creating great art is our duty. You’ve have been declared- stamped- excellent by the Father. So as you step into the arena, create excellent work.
Excellent is a great album. What was your heart going into this project, and what message do you hope it conveys to listeners?
My heart morphed into this project over time. I gleaned a lot from this quote:
“The presence of good art will unconsciously refine a community and that poor art will do it incalculable harm.” –Robert Henri
Good music is better for society. As believers, creating great art is our duty. We’re raising the banner of great art- not taking shortcuts, and being excellent in our craft. I felt this conviction as I was inspired to this project-I felt like I was falling short! I was attempting to lead and be a champion in this scene, but I’m not meeting my own standards! But the truth is that God declares us excellent. It’s in the price He paid for us on the Cross. So I’m seeking to convey this: You’ve have been declared- stamped-excellent by the Father. So as you step into the arena, create excellent work.
In your first track on Excellent, you introduce yourself, simply put, as a “fire-baptized battle rapper who is heavily influenced by folk music and found creative freedom in poetry”. There’s more you mention, but lets break this down- how did all that come about (especially the folk music part)?
I’ve always been a fan of music. Folk music really highlights the writing, and the bboy in me enjoys good writing. I grew up in a place where you hear music everywhere. I enjoy good writing, so I have a natural affinity because of the imagery and simplicity and complexity of this style of music. This is a dope lane- I don’t play an instrument, but this type of music fascinates and inspires my writing.
In your bio, I read that you grew up in the church but were nominal at best, and struggled with a lot of issues common to an African American youth; but in high school you received your call from God, and the rest is history. What do you feel particularly compelled you to this life changing decision in that moment?
I was at a healthy church, but not necessarily a Christian home. Since I was very young, I had been intrigued by this community and being right with God, but there was this disconnect with my home life. My mother was amazing and my father was doing his best. In junior high, everything clicked; the realization that this wasn’t just my parent’s faith, but mine as well. It was gradual.
You know, we’re just rappers, and it’s just rap; so let’s remember that the job of redeeming society is the Holy Spirit’s, and the job of impacting culture belongs to the whole Body.
Music isn’t the only thing you can do- you can graffiti, dance, illustrate, paint- and in “Lofty” you conclude that when we make art, it should be nothing short of excellent. We at HolyCulture believe that as well in our album reviews- so do you have advice for those new to the CHH scene and are developing/honing their craft?
I would advise them to plug into their local church and local actual HH scene, get into shows, cyphers, MCs- be involved! Don’t do it on your own; you need to be involved, but you can’t just be in your own church setting-that’s a skewed picture. You can’t ride your skateboard just by playing Tony Hawk on Xbox. You will grow in faith by plugging into the wider CHH community.
Your lyrical subject matter often covers topics such as standing up boldly for one’s faith, in word and life, and being real with real issues. One prominent theme I heard on Excellent, particularly on “Raise the Banner” and “I Ain’t Got an Answer,” was godly manhood. If you could speak to all the guys out there right now on this, what would you tell them?
You don’t hold yourself to any other standard than what the Scriptures have down. And it’s okay to know that you won’t measure up each (or any) time, but knowing that the Father walks alongside you, spurring you to righteousness, is enough. Let him work on you- but don’t give up! Pursue this!
Speaking of men- how’s performing with the Unashamed Tour?
Unbelievable. So fun. Wonderful brothers- whenever someone said anything we gleaned from it. I felt every time someone spoke I just grew another step in my faith; this is each time I’m with them. I’m convinced that this really is a movement- and to think that every city sold out and we’re not even on the radio?
I’m convinced that this really is a movement- and to think that every city sold out and we’re not even on the radio?
Certainly one track on Excellent that will catch everyone’s attention is “Precious Puritans”. At the end, I saw the main takeaway as this: even the most “quotable” people in history are deeply flawed… but Praise God He still uses us for His purposes. Would you add to this, and would you like to mention any inspiration you had for this track?
Nailed it. You take out Puritans and place any people group and it would just be a different laundry list of sins that would disqualify us. But the Father qualifies us- that’s the point! We need to be aware of all these things before we engage in hero-worship… but the main point really is to remember the real Hero. It was a 2-second convo I had in my brain when this guy was preaching at a conference. I was getting frustrated, but then God dropped a mirror in front of me.
I remember the first time I saw your work was in the 4 minute G.O.S.P.E.L. video that went viral and certainly made its impact. How could we continue to penetrate and influence culture at large with this message?
Good art. GOOD art- that is theologically sound. Good pastors and good art aren’t quite synonymous, but we are placed where we are for a reason. We live our faith wherever we are in whatever career- people all over the world are doing their jobs with excellence because they understand their role and their identity in God! You know, we’re just rappers, and it’s just rap… so let’s remember that the job of redeeming society is the Holy Spirit’s, and the job of impacting culture belongs to the whole Body. Let’s smash it.
Simply out of curiosity, do you have any thoughts on the current election season?
Both are men. Both have strengths and weaknesses, but Jesus wasn’t on the ballot last I checked, so… Go with your convictions but don’t be driven by single issues. God didn’t join a political party- read up and make an informed decision.
You take out Puritans and place any people group and it would just be a different laundry list of sins that would disqualify us. But the Father qualifies us- that’s the point!
Anything else you’d like to let the world know?
God is good, buy the record! Boom.
Keep up with Prop on Twitter @prophiphop
You can get Propaganda’s newest album Excellent here from Humble Beast Records.