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 There is a lot to unpack on the album, and listeners should be prepared to google all the historical references that Propaganda throws down at a dizzying pace.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 Jesusfreakhideout.com
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