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  JFH 5-Star Review

Propaganda, Crooked


Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Hip-Hop / Rap / Spoken Word
Album length: 14 tracks: 59 minutes, 47 seconds
Street Date: June 30, 2017


Propaganda's Crooked is a face-melting, hot-pot masterpiece of an album that weaves comedy, history, self-reflection and the Gospel in an exotic stew of beats and sounds that are mixed just right. With fellow Humble Beast artist Beautiful Eulogy in the producer's booth, Crooked simmers with lyrical and musical energy, and immediately rises to the top of the list for album of the year.

The epic, six-plus-minute title track mixes a history lesson on life as a minority throughout American history (including life as a Native American, Hispanic and African-American), and needs about thirty listens to capture all the references. But the best part of all the historical commentary is the balance that Propaganda brings in reflecting on his own fallen nature against the sad weight of history. Thankfully, the album ends the "commentary" narrative with the hopeful "Made Straight" that features a grace-centered answer to the wrongs of history, and features a truly haunting vocal refrain by songwriter Audrey Assad. On Crooked, Propaganda is equal parts compelling, hysterical (listen to "I Hate Cats" at least five times for a side-splitting and profound take on racism and stereotyping), and convicting, and there is enough lyrical and idea density on the album to fit in three other ones.

In the perilous present day, where believers are inundated with false ideologies and confusing and confounding political and social times, Crooked is a handbook for how to ask the hard questions of faith in humility. There is a lot to unpack on the album, and listeners should be prepared to google all the historical references that Propaganda throws down at a dizzying pace. But those who dig in will find their perspectives challenged and minds sharpened. Crooked is an album of such lyrical and thematic quality that it transcends both its genre of Hip Hop and music in general with its cerebral take on what being a "thinking" follower of Christ looks like in a 21st Century context. Propaganda is steadily showing himself to be a modern C.S. Lewis in his ability to take huge theological and cultural ideas and boil them down to a "plainspoken" level (in the way Lewis did in Mere Christianity).

That the album also rocks, jumps around, and sounds better than anything put out so far this year is just icing on the cake. Thank God that He uses "crooked sticks" like Propaganda (and you and me) to "draw straight lines" for the kingdom. - Preview Review date 6/19/17; Review date: 6/28/17, written by Alex Caldwell of

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JFH Staff's Additional 2 Cents

    Propaganda may never escape the infamy of "Precious Puritans," but the poet/rapper seems okay with that, since his latest album, Crooked, functions as a spiritual sequel to that song -- an album that combines the best aspects of Excellent and Crimson Cord. With his tightest productions and most biting lyrics yet, Propaganda has finally made a work in the same league as Kendrick Lamar. "It's Complicated" even sounds like a direct response to "u" from Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. And like Butterfly, Prop recognizes that the best way to tackle institutional racism is addressing his own heart. On "Darkie," Prop opens up about the odd phenomenon of black people discriminating against themselves, and although the song is a jam, it's a purposefully uncomfortable listen. "It's Not Working (The Truth)" is a convicting history lesson and the most beautiful song I've ever heard within Christian hip hop, where Prop sports enough confidence in the music itself to step out of the song for two whole minutes. And I chuckle my way through "I Hate Cats" every time I listen, not only because I can't believe what I'm hearing, but because I can't believe Propaganda is actually pulling it off. - 6/28/17 Chase Tremaine

    What makes Crooked so great is the fact that Propaganda intelligently chooses to maximize the platform of hip hop by covering every aspect of the themes he addresses. The simplicity of spoken word and rap over bass-and-snare hits allows him the clarity to recognize that the problem with systemic injustice lies within the hearts of its creators. Though topics of racial injustice and other perversions feel heavy at times, there is an element of hope that makes the album feel deeply spiritual. Some songs towards the end of the album tend to overstay their welcome, but Crooked is still a cohesive, biting album that is as infectious as it is potent. - 6/21/17 Mason Haynie

    I always thought Excellent would be hard to top, but it looks like Prop has gone and done it. Crooked is a career-defining album, featuring the best of Propaganda in every sense. The lyricism, the humility, the fearlessness to "take shots at your sacred cows," all on top of some of the best production and music ever to grace a hip hop album. Prop shows that no one is safe from satire, as he calls out injustice on all sides while acknowledging his own sinfulness. From my point of view, this is without a doubt Propaganda's best album to date, and you'd be robbing yourself to not own a copy. - 7/2/17 Scott Fryberger

    Rare is the album that can make the listener "feel" such a wide range of emotions; and I certainly felt many upon listening to Crooked. I felt sadness, anger, introspective, compassion, conviction, gratitude, hope, and ultimately challenged. Propaganda must have had a lot on his mind, and he unloads it with a heart-on-his-sleeve ferocity that never seems like pointing fingers without having examined his own heart first. Humankind has truly been rotten toward each other throughout history, and like any good professor, Prop takes listeners to school. Ultimately, he concludes that we are all equal parts hero and villain due to our sin nature, and Jesus Christ is the only hope for our now, and our eternity. Musically interesting, and lyrically thought-provoking, this Album of the Year candidate is an important must-hear for all music fans. - 7/4/17 Josh Balogh



. Record Label: Humble Beast
. Album length: 14 tracks: 59 minutes, 47 seconds
. Street Date: June 30, 2017
. Buy It: iTunes

  1. Crooked Ways (feat. Terence F. Clark) (6:22)
  2. It's Complicated (3:04)
  3. Bear With Me (feat. Marz Ferrar) (3:06)
  4. Cynical (feat. Aaron Marsh and Sho Baraka) (3:52)
  5. Slow Cook (3:58)
  6. Do Know Wrong (feat. Macho) (3:46)
  7. Gentrify (3:41)
  8. I Hate Cats (3:42)
  9. Darkie (feat. Micah Boures and Jackie Hill Perry) (4:33)
  10. It's Not Working (The Truth) [feat. Courtney Orlando] (6:40)
  11. Andrew Mandela (feat. Topknot Feather) (4:00)
  12. Olympian (3:38)
  13. Made Straight (feat. Audrey Assad) (5:49)
  14. Bonus Track: ICPTSD (3:36)


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