Interview: Propaganda talks Crimson Cord

by Sam Robinson

One of the standout albums of the year so far comes courtesy of rapper and poet Propaganda, titled Crimson Cord. Read our five-star review of it here. Released at the end of April, the album has helped me, and I’m sure many others, to reflect on our crimson cords – the ways that God has been using our pasts to make us who we are today. I had the privilege of interviewing Prop to talk about the album, how it came together, and that time that Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas kicked him in the tooth.

SAM: It’s been a few months since Crimson Cord dropped, what has the reaction been like compared to past releases?

PROP: This record was mostly different because this is the first record where there were actual expectations. With most of the other records I was by and large introducing myself. But the collective efforts of those records led to a little buzz about this one. 

Reel Gospel reader Matt says that you posted that you were making the biggest risk of your career by releasing this album. He’d like to ask exactly what it was that you thought was risky?

The risk was booking my own headlining tour. It’s safe to go on the road with a bigger name because it’s not on your shoulders to sell tickets. But when you are the main name on the flyer, there is a lot at stake. 

How long did the album take to come together?

I was done writing and recording in two months but the finished product probably took three more months after that. The Beautiful Eulogy guys really like to slow cook their production so the songs went through a lot of evolutions before we landed on a finished track. 

Production-wise it’s very tight. Are you pleased with the high quality of music that’s coming out of Humble Beast?

I’m amazed at every project the team puts out. Their creativity and work ethic is unreal! 

Can you tell me more about the idea of the crimson cord, and how it is reflected throughout scripture?

That our lives, timelines, or “cords” are full of ups and downs. Wins and failures. I was hoping to offer a new perspective on our pasts that says when we look back, we could see the Father’s crimson fingerprints on our cords. 

In light of the idea of the crimson cord, what does God’s grace mean to you?

How much time you got?! [Laughs] It’s all we got. His grace is all we got. 

The track Daywalkers (feat. Lecrae) is hip-shakingly good. How did that track come together?

The idea was first cooked up in a convo me and Lecrae had during the Unashamed tour. We found that although he’s from Texas and I’m from Los Angeles, our experiences growing up was very similar. I don’t like doing features that don’t grow out of real convos or real relationship. Plus we knew this would be his first time appearing on a Humble Beast album so we had to make it special. 

The track Dear Rev. is clearly tongue-in-cheek. Why include that on the record?

Just for fun! Alphonso has done every skit on all my albums so this was just tradition. 

Have you ever seen Crimson Tide? And, if so, would you recommend watching it?

[Laughs] It’s an incredible movie. Definitely see it. It has nothing to do with my album but still a good movie. 

Framed Stretch Marks is a beautiful track and continues the crimson cord theme. What’s the heart behind that song?

Just a literal and metaphorical picture of how scars can be beautiful because they tell a story of survival and redemption. My verse especially is geared towards women to encourage them that blemishes do not lower their beauty.

Three Cord Bond touches on both racism but also the brokenness caused by Adam’s sin. After reflecting on the fall and sin of all people of this earth, does it cause you to yearn for Jesus’ return all the more?

I yearn for his return regardless. But it’s more about the occupy until his return part. We are missing out on heaps of the beauty God has provided us by allowing privilege and or bitterness to divide us.

Reel Gospel reader Sheldon has sent in a question. He says you’ve indicated before that good art or beauty is objective and not just a matter of opinion. Is that what you’re saying, and if so, what are your reasons for believing that?

If God is sovereign in all things, he gets to decide what beautiful means. For example, in Exodus where God instructs Moses to pick skilful artist, those skilled in beauty and truth to make the temple instruments and the ark, point to this view. However, what is a matter of opinion is ascetics or preference. Those are objective. In other words, God decides beauty, you decide if you like it. 

Personally the two songs that hit me hardest on the record are the final two tracks. Redeem appears to be about moving forward, is that correct?

That’s exactly it. We can’t change our past, but can learn from it and do better. The Lord didn’t erase our pasts, but redeemed it for his glory. 

And Tell Me Yours brings things full circle. As you have reflected on your own personal crimson cord how has it grown you personally, and in your love of God?

Again, that’s way too big of a question to answer in a interview. Would take me a lifetime to unpack that. But in a nutshell, those collective experiences are what He used to make me the man I am today. 

Can you tell me about the time Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas kicked you in the tooth, as referenced on that track?

He was in a b-boy cypher gettin’ down, and I was standing too close to the side. Next thing I know part of my tooth was missing! 

Has it been hard to be honest as you share your crimson cord on this record?

Not at all! It was a joy.

Have people been sharing their crimson cords with you since the album release, as you ask them to on Tell Me Yours?

Here and there but soon I will officially ask them to… *wink* 

You sent out an interesting tweet last week: “Throwin myself in a pool, fully dressed, tied at the wrist, multiple times. Sipped coffee in between throws. gotta get the shot!” What was this shoot day like from a behind-the-scenes perspective? Sounds like fun!

Oh… you’ll see!! 

What’s next for you?

More of this. Just done better. Better tours. For example, we plan on doing much more of our own booking of events and shows. It’s safe to just wait for someone to book me to come to an event. There is risk in picking a city, finding my own venue and promoting it ourselves! Though the pay-off is a room full of people that are invested In Humble Beast and actually want what we would bring. Also better fatherhood and better husbandship. The big homie Bob Goff said to me once, “Think of the people you want next to you on your death bed, invest in those relationships now.” So I’m going do that! 

Can we expect a hint of airhorn on the next album?

NOPE.

CrimsonCordCrimson Cord by Propaganda is out now. It is available for free from Humble Beast, or if you feel like supporting Prop’s ministry, you can purchase the album on iTunes. Read our review of the album here.

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