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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Out of Knowhere

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jun
Out of Knowhere
Sounds like … similar indie-styled rap efforts by fellow Uprok signees Raphi, Sev Statik, and PlaydoughAt a Glance … Out of Knowhere will not change the face of Christian hip-hop, but it's certainly a fresh addition for fans of the genre, especially underground stuff

Underground hip-hop outfit, the Tunnel Rats, are known for discovering and snatching up new talent as they see fit, occasionally impressing their audiences with fresh faces and welcoming into their fold young emcees who are willing to hone their budding skills and learn from their seasoned mentors. Such is the case with L.A.-based Propaganda, who joined the TR ranks shortly after being discovered by the Rats themselves. He unofficially debuted on last year's Speak Life album by Sev Statik, and you probably heard him earlier this year on veteran Peace586's psychedelic track, "Here for Years," off of his smooth, yet unjustly under-the-radar effort, Generations.

Ready to strike out on his own, Out of Knowhere is Prop's official debut on Uprok Records. Produced mainly by Donavan Luke Henry (TR's TunnelVision) with Dert (Peace586, New Breed) helping out on one of the tracks, Out of Knowhere, as a whole, has an underground feel not entirely unlike past projects hailing from the Uprok camp. While other labels make hooks and poppy beats the focus of their hip-hop, most Uprok releases are characterized by lyrical innovation and progressive indie-styled rhythms, relying more on the flow techniques and message of its roster than punchy basslines or bouncy jams.

Not that this project lacks any of that. As a matter of fact, the first single, "Time and Place," is a Jeep-bumpin' track that unabashedly declares Prop's need to step up to the plate and continue the mic-blazin' legacy left by hip-hop heads before him; the inclusion of a soulful male vocal (provided by some cat by the name of Kulial) on the chorus gives the track a gospel-tinged touch of propriety that's nothing short of expressive. In the same dance-y vein, "I Know" brims with Fabolous-like bravado and finds Propaganda trading verses with fellow TR debutant Dokument, culminating in an arm-waving, slightly Neptunes-ish chorus that asserts "You can't underestimate/no army can ever infiltrate/no man can tell me who I am or who I ain't/'Cause I know." Bold indeed.

Macho of New Breed lends his rapping and singing skills to the celebratory, Latin-themed track, "My Life, My Music," where he takes over the hook with a Mexican-styled chant that describes in Spanish, the different muses that inspire the rapper's craft, namely, life, love, music, and God; if you're a fan of New Breed, you're bound to enjoy this track immensely, since it's highly reminiscent of the similarly ethnic cut, "My People," off the duo's Stop the Music album. He later reappears on the not-as-hot "Move With Me," a quasi dance track that's aching for a thicker bassline and more rhythmic oomph, as its ailing old-school beat isn't enough to carry the party vibe of the song.

In good underground fashion, this album contains a number of lyric-driven, conversational tracks that put more emphasis on the flows and the story being told than the cadential conventions of the song. This is evident in "Ya Never Know (Played by the Game)," where Propaganda candidly ponders his inability to decipher the motives of those who attempt to use him as a liaison for obtaining "well-intentioned" benefits. And the neo soul feel of "Keep on Singin'" serves as a framework for this smooth tribute to the teachers, elders, and mentors who have gone before us. Both of these tracks are laid-back and jazzy in nature, and might require you to have some patience if you're accustomed to hard-driving beats and sugarcoated hooks.

One thing that's commendable about this album is its brevity, at least for a rap album. While most hip-hop artists usually feel compelled to overload their releases with 20+ songs, numerous silly interludes, and unnecessary "filler" material, Out of Knowhere feels just right with only 12 tracks and 3 interludes, bringing the total length to a little over the 47-minute mark. This is something admirable if you're one of those who hates to skip over unnecessary stuff that detracts from the net value of the album.

All things considered, Out of Knowhere is a satisfying debut by this young emcee. If you've enjoyed previous releases by Playdough, Sev Statik, or Raphi, you'll definitely find yourself bobbing your head to the recollections and narratives of Propaganda. His flow style is confident, the production is capable, and the album is a favorable early indicator of the things to come for him. Remember … this is not your run-of-the- mill, poppy, Christian rap album, so if you've never given this type of hip-hop a chance, the album might take some time to grow on you. In any case, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and get a taste of a different kind of hip-hop. You just might like it.