Born Jason Petty, Los Angeles-based rapper Propaganda is the son of a Black Panther, married to a Mexican woman and hangs out with Caucasian best friends. He has a degree in illustration and intercultural studies, and he loves his family, mangoes and studying history. Propaganda often introduces himself like this at shows, as part of his rap, “Don’t Listen to Me.” A Journey through NYC religions has distributed Propaganda's rap bio and remixed one of his best and most controversial raps "Precious Puritans."
Propaganda mixes his rap with stunning virtuosity in spoken word rhymes. His name comes from his zeal to get his message out in every artistic form possible: art; poetry; rap; preaching; and teaching. This last week-end Propaganda joined up with performers Josh Garrels, Lacey Nicole Sturm, Run River North, a former trafficking victim, and various other speakers to rally New York college students to fight sex and labor trafficking.
Over 800 college students gathered Friday and Saturday nights at New York City Center in Manhattan to cap off a 100 event, thirteen day campaign against trafficking called The Price of Life. Led by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, over 75 organizations, including World Vision, American Bible Society, and groups with diverse ideologies and faiths from 15 university campuses in the city, collaborated in the effort.
We talked to Propaganda backstage Friday night.
In your new song, “Crimson Cord,” you mention “the coincidence that proves to us God’s existence.” Can you tell us about your own coincidence?
I grew up in a pretty violent Mexican neighborhood. My whole life I’ve been around Latino culture, ended up marrying a single mom who is Mexican, so now I’m raising a little Mexican girl and kinda knowing culturally what her experiences are about to be. Looking back and being like, dog! God was planning that the whole time, I just didn’t know it.
So what can you tell us about your upcoming album, Crimson Cord?
It’s about looking back on ordinary coincidences in life and just celebrating those. It will be out early next year for sure. I’m dope excited about it.
What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
When I look at music, I’m thinking about it from a visual artist’s perspective… so my hope is to give an illustration of what’s happening culturally and offer a lens that looks through the world from a perspective that’s there’s a grand designer who is intimately involved in all the workings of life. I just kinda paint what I see.
How do you think Christian faith empowers people to fight for justice?
There’s common ground, and we have every right to lock arms with [all] people for the sake of the community.
What makes it unique on the Christian side is the idea of the value of a person… Every human being is fearfully and wonderfully designed by a loving God.
From a Christian perspective, it’s like, you ain’t got an option about being involved in justice issues… Humans are valuable, and not just because of the scale for which they suffer or don’t suffer. In the sense of, well, this person was trapped in issues of third-world extreme poverty and sex trafficking, but that person maybe was just irresponsible with an inheritance, so their suffering isn’t as sexy as a plight. No, you’re equally image-bearers, and I have a duty to seek both of them.
What people consider the religious right, the right-wing conservative view that this nation was founded on Christian values, so all the laws need to reflect that. If you take it to its logical conclusion, it’s a theocracy. Then, how we’ll redeem the culture is that we’ll make the culture Christian, rather than redeeming ourselves and serving our communities from out of the redemption we’ve accepted. So that religious right view to me is always uncomfortable.
So would you make laws that are specifically Christian and force them on non-Christians, like gay marriage, for example?
Yeah, perfect example, to be like, okay, gay marriage should be illegal because it’s unbiblical. In the sense that, well, homosexuality is unbiblical. So, what you’re trying to say is that sinners can’t get married. That means none of us can get married!
If you’re saying that a Biblical marriage is only heterosexual, you’ve missed the entire book of Ephesians, which explains all the nuances of a Biblical marriage. It’s not just heterosexual. There are issues of service, care, esteeming others higher than yourself, there are all these other things that describe what makes it Biblical…
According to Martin Luther’s argument, what we’re voting on is the state’s version of a legal union. The state can do what they want with it, it’s theirs. And to me that makes perfect sense…
But if it’s an issue of civil rights, I have a duty as a Christian to fight for liberties and rights for all citizens.
Do you have any spiritual disciplines?
I put myself through devotionals. I try to make them week-long so that they’re smaller chunks. Before I get out of bed, I have to do that.
I’m a big Charles Spurgeon fan. And then I make sure that I’m listening to the podcasts from my own church, Sovereign Grace [in the Los Angeles area]. It’s Evangelical, Calvinist, Reformed, Charismatic.
Any musical inspirations?
I’ve always been influenced by Radiohead. Incubus has always been a big one for me. And a lot of folk music… right now, I’m really into Seryn.
I was thinking you and Josh Garrels [on tour with Propaganda] should rap together.
We’ve been planning on it. We want to. At some point, it’s going to happen. He is on some of our label’s [Humble Beast] work. We have another group called Beautiful Eulogy and he did a song [“Anchor”] with them.