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The artist Propaganda discovered poetry, spoken word, and hip-hop through friends he met in college. After graduating, he spent four years as a full time high school teacher in California, performing music as much as he could. He then realized he was not doing his best at either calling, so he chose to pursue a career in hip-hop. Fifteen years and five albums later, he is a veteran of the hip-hop scene who continues to passionately impart wisdom through his latest album, Crooked.

Even though he left the teaching profession, the teacher inside never left him. Propaganda explores current issues of injustice throughout the album, highlighting each theme with historical insight and careful nuance. His Christian faith features prominently, but by not offering simplistic spiritual solutions to complicated issues, he often leaves the listener with important questions to ponder.

The first (and title) track, “Crooked,” begins with Propaganda spewing words and thoughts so quickly you wonder if he hasn’t had any venue for sharing his thoughts since his previous album. This song is a perfect introduction to the themes of racial and economic injustice as well as spiritual poverty that are found throughout the rest of the album. Many songs on Crooked offer an authentic look into Propaganda’s personal life, including the difficulties of marriage in the song “Bear with Me” as well as the lighthearted track expressing his feelings about cats, aptly named “I Hate Cats.”

Juxtaposed and immediately following this lighthearted track is one of the heaviest songs on the album. “Darkie” begins with what seems to be a racist taunt sung by a child toward another child. Featured artists Micah Bournes and Jackie Hill Perry, along with Propaganda, offer a deeply personal view of their struggle with racism.

Any flames of anger the listener feels toward systematic racial injustice is fanned further by the following track, “It’s Not Working (The Truth),” which laments how the struggle for equal rights doesn’t seem to be working. Propaganda douses these flames of anger when he widens the perspective in the final verse. He considers that, while solving these systematic and human-made injustices are important, they won’t solve some of our deeper problems of the soul.

The final tracks on the album include “Made Straight”—an excellent summary that brings together many of the album’s themes and reminds the listener of a time when all the “crooked ways will be made straight.”

Crooked by Propaganda is art that deserves to be listened to and discussed further. Masterfully using poetry, spoken word, and hip-hop, he offers insight into the more challenging issues of injustice. He ask great questions with a balance of hope and concern, reminding us to include our Creator in our everyday decisions. (Fair Trade)

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