Propaganda Doesn’t Have an Answer, and Neither Do I

Last week, Humble Beast artist Propaganda released his latest album, Excellent. You can snag it here for free, or you can support Propaganda and the label by purchasing it on iTunes, a physical copy from their website, or at a show. The album lives up to its title, and is definitely worth a listen. Most people who’ve heard of Propaganda prior to this release know him from his now-famous G.O.S.P.E.L. video. He’s a great poet and an energetic performer who considers his words carefully; this is not only something I appreciate deeply, but that I’m quick to point people towards when I get the chance.

This latest album is sure to stir some people up. In fact, it already has, quite a bit. I don’t intend to address the topic that those posts talk about (and that’s just a sample; the issue has been talked about much more widely), though I will say that it is worth doing the reading, research, and possibly repentance that the track encourages. The track in question comes at the beginning of three lyrically heavy songs; each of these made me want to stop listening, pray, and start the song again.

“I Ain’t Got an Answer” (which you should listen to now, right here) deals with parenthood and the struggles inherent in training up your children in the way they should go. The first verse details the woes of having a teenage son: we watch the child grow up from going to little league games to attending doctor’s appointments with his now-pregnant first girlfriend; we hear how his friends make fun of him purely for his skin tone; and we eventually see him grow into an irresponsible parent, spending his money on himself instead of his newborn daughter. It’s convicting, the reality of it, even if the listener is not capable of relating directly. The second verse is provided by Sho Baraka, a talented former Reach Records artist, and hits even harder than the first. I’ve never heard him more transparent, and the verse came as a surprise. Topics like autism, parental love, and societal expectations are all gracefully and passionately explored; the result is something more like a diary than a rap song. The final verse, back to Propaganda, flips the coin from the first verse; now it is your daughter getting pregnant, considering an abortion, and needing you more than ever. Again, this is a heavy track; it really gets to you.

The refrain, however, is really what hits me deeply. The chorus goes:

When it’s apparent, that you have failed as a parent

Homie, I ain’t got an answer. No, I ain’t got an answer.

Simple as that. No solutions, no quick fixes. No answer. There isn’t even that moment where the track turns to the positive and reminds the listener that everything will be alright. No, this track will leave you convicted, hurt, and maybe even frustrated. Near the end, Propaganda does a bit of speaking, out of verse, which drives home his point:

I’ll walk with you boy I promise you. Pray for me, I’ll pray for you.

This idea, right here, is worth dwelling on. Those who are struggling, those who are mourning, those who are frustrated with some turn of life: these are the people who most need us to be with them. We won’t always have answers, and often the answers we come up with will either be unsatisfactory, equally frustrating at the situation that led to our answer, or even flat-out wrong. Sometimes, the griever does not need or want answers; sometimes they just need consolation. Presence. Camaraderie.

I speak this not only as someone who’s been on the giving side of comfort a number of times. A number of years ago, my father passed away. I remember wanting answers, but not knowing who could possibly give them to me. I was frustrated when people told me that God knew what he was doing; of course he did, but he didn’t seem to concern himself with how much it hurt me. The times that I felt most comforted, and the times that I felt the most whole, were those times when my friends or family just sat with me. Sometimes we’d sit for long periods of time without saying a word. Sometimes we’d pray. Sometimes we’d ignore what was going on, and talk about the homework we had due the next week, or the crazy weather we’d been having. but what mattered was that people intentionally sought to walk with me through my grief; people cried with me, they laughed with me, and they hurt with me.

And this is the call, isn’t it? To bear one another’s burdens? To walk with them, pray with them, and grieve as they do, regardless of their situation or our own?

Published by

J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).

  • Soujirou7

    “When it’s apparent, that you have failed as a parent
    Homie, I ain’t got an answer. No, I ain’t got an answer.”

    When I heard this part of the song, it was in the repetition of “I ain’t got an answer” that I sensed the speaker was offering comfort through solidarity. You don’t have a solution to this problem and I don’t have one either; we’re in the same boat. People have a surprising amount of resilience when it comes to weathering life’s tumult. I believe a major source for this resilience comes from knowing we are not alone. While the track may may hit hard with some social commentary, I think what he is really offering is hope, forgiveness if necessary, and support if possible by identifying with the one being spoken to. Ultimately, I found the song to not only be sobering but very comforting.

  • jamesfarnold

    Spot on, Jonathan. Thanks for the comment.

    Likewise, for anyone reading this, that guy right there is the photographer behind today’s picture! Neat!