AM Live Sessions: Propaganda
Propaganda is a Los Angeles based hip hop artist/spoken word poet. But he's also just as much of a coffee nerd as most of the people that visit this website.
I had heard Propaganda's music a while back and loved that he included both hip hop and spoken word pieces on his albums. As someone who used to be involved in the 'poetry slam' scene in a different life - I can dig that.
But it was the content of his lyrics that stayed with me. Because even though he may be associated with the Christian music community, he's not afraid to call the church out on it's history of intolerance and bigotry. And as someone who holds the same beliefs as him - I respect that he uses his voice to speak truth to power.
It was through a close, mutual friend of ours, Daley Hake that an introduction was made - and while following Prop on Instagram I began to notice that he would post some pretty impressive coffee shots, both at home and while he was on the road. As well as, it was our shared love for the old school Handsome Coffee Roasters (RIP) and his involvement in Left Roasters that let me know - this dude is serious about his coffee. (more on that in PART.02)
Propaganda was in the process of recording a new record when we sat down for our interview. I asked him how the process on this upcoming was different from the last.
Propaganda: Well, as far as we’ve gotten now is a testament to God’s goodness. Because it’s been shoestring budgets - you know what Im saying - to be able to get where we are. And Ive never really had the resources to do what Im thinking. So this time we're really slowing down the process and working more like a band than a hip hop artist.
He spoke of how the process of working with live musicians has been a learning experience.
Propaganda: I’m like a studio rat - we’ll get there at 9:30AM - I’ll toss up a Chemex real quick and I’m like, let’s get to work.
But in this new, slower process of allowing for everyone to take their time and get it right, he's learned that waiting, "... has made my creative process better - because you’re not actually going with your first thought…and it’s been cool to see that type of discovery."
We also discussed how learning and becoming a student of the slower creative process can spill over into "dad life." A world we're both living within...
Propaganda: In some ways it’s broken a sort of confidence that was leaning towards arrogance. And it broke it. And it made me have an actual confidence - rather than this puffed up - defense mechanism. You know...that first verse may not be the best version. And if my daughter is acting out - then I have to become the student, listen, following the signs....so that's spilled over into my creative process to be like, you're first 12 bars you wrote - it may not be the best verse. But that's actually given me a better confidence that's not a defense mechanism.
I've got a ton of respect for this man. He's rocking out some powerfully charged albums - he's rocking it as a husband - and father to two girls - and he's taken a stand as an artist - that he will not back down from using his voice to speak on issues that are important to him and the lives of so many others.
Along with discussing his upcoming album, we talked about the connecting factor that brought us together: Coffee.
Propaganda's love for and involvement in the world of coffee came about while touring. "You're just going to different cities - the vibes of different spaces were so cool and then you start drinking good coffee and then you try to come back to and just go to your normal Quickie Mart on the corner and you're like - Oh Wow! I can taste the difference."
For Prop that was the beginning to a whole new world of coffee. One that eventually led him and his label, Humble Beast Records to partner up and start a coffee roasting company at the labels headquarters in Portland, OR called Left Roasters.
They decided to approach Left Roasters almost like an artist on the label and build it as if it's its own artist. Even building out a roastery and hiring on a roaster. But, as Prop tells of it - they soon discovered that "at the end of the day you can't be a full time artist and a full time coffee company. It's almost insulting to other roasters out there."
But even though he's not actively involved in Left - as with all of us who've been involved in the coffee world in one way or the other:
And if he does get back in the coffee game, it may be more local this time around. Because even though it's sexy to open a coffee shop in DTLA or Long Beach, "What about Lakewood, what about Bellflower - West Covina. There's these cities, that if you grew up here, you know are on the map but culturally speaking there's not too many people of color or black people in craft coffee...but if you start creating a taste for it, you know what Im saying - and put something that more homegrown." So the question that Prop would need have answered now, for him to get back in coffee - when the time is right would be, "what do I know about Black LA culture that can spill over in to coffee life?"
Dear God I freakin' hope more people like Prop make moves in the world of coffee. Especially in neighborhoods that are underrepresented and/or being gentrified by outside companies and people that look nothing like the neighborhoods they're opening their shops in.
The world of coffee needs that now more than ever.