'Crooked' by Propaganda wrestles with raw humanity. Five out of five stars.
Rapper and spoken-word artist Propaganda released his latest LP titled Crooked on Friday, June 30. Those familiar with Prop and his work will undoubtedly enjoy the album, which unfolds personal and political struggles while simultaneously vocalizing a hunger for truth. Listeners will find warm beats, rhythmic keys and guitars as the backdrop for Propaganda's storytelling. There are also a few other talented artists featured on the album.
Crooked shows Propaganda at the top of his game. The first song, "Crooked Way," is a relentless opener and one of the many shining tracks on the album. It prompts thinking about what is true in the midst of widespread foundational contradictions. "Crooked Way" functions well in the way that it grabs attention and holds on with a tight grip. It prepares the listener to hold on for the rest of the album and offers the representative lyric, "These halos stay balanced on the tip of our horns. We crooked."
The second track, "It's Complicated," is another gem on Crooked. It's a spoken word piece that features snyths floating over words about people's real value and where it does and doesn't come from. "You are a masterpiece fighting to be a silly selfie," Propaganda says. The track confronts the idea of settling for less than a person's true identity. Essentially, it's a reminder that we are complicated but are by no means worthless.
There really isn't anything on Crooked that should be skipped. Songs like "Cynical," "Gentrify" and "It's Not Working (The Truth)" expose and explore the shortfalls of society's proposed solutions and being left to grapple with the reality of systemic failure. Spoken word track "I Hate Cats" and the song "Darkie" discuss race and how to live with discouraging stereotypes and racism. The instrumental variation throughout Crooked is interesting as well. For instance, Prop brings some old school hip-hop sounds, jazz influences and Latin-style horn work into play on the album. There are even group vocals on "Darkie" reminiscent of African-American slave songs or spirituals.
The last two tracks, "Olympian" and "Made Straight" are a couple of the most encouraging parts of the album. "Olympian" urges people to find strength and keep living life in the midst of a variety of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It's a great pump-up song. "Made Straight" features spoken word that tells of God's deliverance for his crooked people. Propaganda says, "Yeah, hoping in salvation. Waiting for the day He make the crooked ways straight, son."
The vinyl issue of Crooked features two bonus tracks, "ICPTSD" and "Three Cord Bond." Both are enjoyable inclusions, the latter of which is actually from Prop's previous album.
Crooked is perhaps the strongest hip-hop release of 2017 so far. Music listeners shouldn't overlook it.