LABEL: HUMBLE BEAST RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 25, 2012
Propaganda has made a roaring return since he was last heard on Art Ambidextrous. Excellent is a breath of fresh air in a genre saturated with 808’s and overplayed topics and sounds. Clearly, he is not speaking just for the sake of speaking, but a thorough listen will show that this is an overflow of a heart filled with questions and wonders. You will not leave unfazed. As a matter of fact, be assured that this is not an album with bane subjects and, there is no way you can walk away without asking some serious questions of yourself. Proceed cautiously.
Propaganda uses this album to addresses a myriad of topics. Still, he is very focused as can be heard in the steady references to the few recurring and otherwise outstanding topics. Such is the case that I think it best to highlight those brilliant pieces that I figure best holds up this pristine work. This I have sought to done thematically.
‘Don’t Listen to Me’ is the ‘in-yo-face’ opening address and Propaganda waste no time nor words as he begins to make his appeal. His urgency out the blocks is bolstered by his unique verbal agility, which makes it even clearer that this is no ordinary offering. In fact, it’s the ‘clear your day, turn your speakers up’ type of album because, obviously, he has a point to make and he wants you to pay attention. With that, he lays out a captivating narrative of his life and a bunch of “I know…” with a conviction second to none. If you can’t get lost in his skill, allow yourself to be absorbed in the progressive Beautiful Eulogy production sound, which you will hear consistently throughout this album.
‘Excellent…. defined.’ In the title track, ‘Excellent’, Propaganda generously delineates his ideas and definition of what excellence itself is. He furthermore ascertains where it should find its place in the life of a Christian and even his own life as a man who is a husband and father, among other things. “ Excellence; that’s what you should expect from us/Least we can do to say ‘thank you’ for how He blest us/All else is blasphemy”….
‘Excellent…Pulpits.’ I promise you that ‘Precious Puritans’ is the outrageous track that you never expected to hear. You couldn’t tell from the track listing alone that Propaganda would go in this direction though, retrospectively, it should have been something that you expected coming out of the Humble Beast camp. Still, it will definitely turn heads and spark debates as we get a full dose of Propaganda de-mystifying, almost to the point of mockery, the misappropriation of puritans in church history as if they were inerrant and not fallible men. He talks about how pastors, in presenting them, have put them on a pedestal, as if they did not commit heinous acts which we would turn our noses up against these days and, therefore calls for them to be from here on viewed correctly.
The ‘Excellent…Fathers’ song was in fact the lead single, ‘I Ain’t Got an Answer’ which features a very convicting Sho Baraka. There has been very little other such call to arms and rebukes for fathers as we hear so blatantly here. I doubt that there will be a man who can honestly walk away, without consciously evaluating his heart and role as a father and not take great measures to leave a good, godly and lasting impact. Interestingly, an indelible mark will be imprinted on the lives of children whatever fathers choose to do. The question is, will it be something pleasant? Sho Baraka complements this song very well through his candid verse about his son’s battle with autism and his subsequent questions about his place in this struggle as a father.
Then, there is what I like to call ‘The Excellent…Christian’ themed song, which plays out nicely, yet very somberly, ‘Forgive me For Asking’. Propaganda probes the minds of his varied audience with questions about their worldviews and other ideologies (sometimes questionable), which they would readily hold up. It is forthright–as is the rest of the album–and the musical accompaniment peers into your mind as well. This track is no easy run through, and I hope you linger on it.
Finally, I think the ‘Excellent…Husband’ song is the finale, ‘Be Present’, a live rendition done in Atlanta where Propaganda puts on a easily relatable story of how absent-minded he was from a conversation with his wife, followed by her reaction and, finally, the grave lesson he learnt. I think the strong point lies in how calculative he is with each phrase, which build the performance up to an enthralling crescendo then back to an introspective gait so that listeners can process the seriousness of the matter. It’s a perfect closing for a wonderful album and arguably one of the best tracks. I wonder what it must have been like to see it live.
I think honorable mentions must be given to songs like ‘Warm Words’ and ‘Lofty’ featuring the impressive Beautiful Eulogy and the suave voice of Joel from Ascend the Hill. I feel like those songs will somehow wrestle themselves into my top five.
That said, I really enjoyed listening to this offering from Propaganda. Excellent is a paradox; it holds up pictures of broken images that we constantly look at throughout life, analyzes them for those values and calls them to a greater standard. That is why I chose to highlight the tracks that I did. In each and every one, Propaganda points out how we have dropped the ball miserably in each aspect, yet leaves us with the responsibility of coming up to something greater. He calls us to excellence.
I don’t think I have ever lost the wonder for his verbal musings and his way of presentation. I can’t help but appreciate the consistency in his messages and how potently precise his presentation are. I would really encourage you to grab a copy of this (free at www.humblebeast.com) and dig deeply into it with your mind. I promise; you will not be disappointed. Ladies and Gentlemen, ‘Excellent’!