Propaganda & Odd Thomas ‘Art Ambidextrous’
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A couple of years ago Propaganda was a name familiar with mainly West Coast Hip Hoppers. However after show stealing spoken word pieces on Sho Baraka’s ‘Lions and Liars’ and Thi’sl ‘Ex-Hustler’ he has built a sizable buzz. On ‘Art Ambidextrous’ Propaganda, with production done by Odd Thomas, seeks to show listeners he is much more than a few hot spoken word pieces. CHH’s poet laurette serves up a full course of food for thought that will keep appetites satisfied for many years to come.
The album opens up with”The City” a challenge to those whose circumstances leave them trapped in the hood from whence they came. Itss a bold declaration of freedom that celebrates escapees. The message is simple but vital: you are not your hood – it does not define you. Prop encourages people to sing a different tune from the gunshot lullabies they were taught. He surely has taken his own advice and in that regard, this “son of a Panther” is clearly not them.
Far from your typical Christian rapper, there is simply not a box that Propaganda can be stuffed in. He makes music that rebels against simple categorization. Is he an underground emcee with an orthodox flow as seen on “So Help Me”? Or is he a spoken word artist with controversial political views as demonstrated on “I Hate It”? On the latter Odd Thomas offers a delectable minimalist beat filled with ambient noises and neck breaking snares. Prop wastes no time devouring this beat with sharp jabs at politically-blind patriots and prosperity preachers. In the midst of these fiery shots Prop surprisingly saves the most severe criticism for himself admitting his struggles with debt and faith. This is what makes Propaganda fresh not only as an artist, but as a person: vulnerability. What shines through on this album even more than his artistry, is his humility.
‘Art Ambidextrous’ is not for the faint of heart. This album dives in, rushing pass the surface immediately heading towards the deep things of faith and life. Propaganda is a mindless rap listener worst fear. He is an artist who makes music that pulls you in with style and then force feeds you substance. I hope you bring hungry stomachs for songs like “Inheritance.” This is a song that paints an amazingly detailed portrait of a heart broken father battling for custody of his only child. You can almost here the protagonist pounding on the pavement as he pleas for God to not take away the most precious thing in his life. This song is a tear jerker to say the least.
One of the most surprising aspects about ‘Art Ambidextrous’ is the replay value. In a culture full of “in your CD player for a week” albums, this LP is durable. No matter how many of Propaganda’s seemingly endless metaphors you catch the first time, there are many that you wont even realize are happening until the 12th listen. For example, as I was in the midst of writing this paragraph with “The City” playing in the background I finally caught the entire stream of thought I was certain I understood: “We chose not to slang; and that gave me much more bravery than them OG’s would ever give me credit for. Cuz the road was so lonely. We had God only. And fools would creep by slowly like ‘what’s up homie!’ And steady wins the race, open your ears These fools been hustling for years. It sounds like their grinding gears. Stripping up they clutches and ironically its automatic. [I will] literally drive by your drive-bys.”
Read that a half-dozen times. Yea. Its dope. Still don’t get it? Maybe read an auto-magazine and listen again. Despite Propaganda’s vast lyrical resources it is clear this album would not be possible if not for the man behind the boards, Humble Beast co-founder Odd Thomas. There is a distinct difference between making a “hot” beat and making one that supports the artist style instead of dictating it. Odd Thomas has mastered the latter. His sparse production gives ample room for Prop to flex his one-of-a-kind flow on songs like the title track, “Art Ambidextrous.” Here Prop blends spoken word and rap to the point where you cannot distinguish where one art form ends and the other begins.
Since Humble Beast’s formation in March 2010, the label has quickly established themselves as one of the go-to-sources for heart felt, cutting-edge music. ‘Art Ambidextrous’ is a continuation of this growing legacy. Propaganda and Odd Thomas purposely took the road last traveled while crafting this album. In the process they definitely added a building block to their legacy.
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Label: Humble Beast Records
1. The City
2. So Help Me
6. I Hate It
7. Change feat. Braille & Alert
8. Beautiful Pain
10. Como Se Dice
11. Art Ambidextrous