Currently in the third week of a national tour with Joell Ortiz, underground NYC emcee Propaganda Anonymous (aka Prop Anon) is gearing up to drop his musically & politically abrasive new album Squat The Condos in the coming weeks. Recently I caught up with the emcee, whose music is as much inspired by punk rock as hip-hop and who always has some engaging socio-political message to share. I wanted to know about the concept behind Squat The Condos, and how an artist like him, who has shared bills with punk rockers and alternative hip-hoppers in tiny dive bars in NYC, would end up on tour with a more mainstream rap artist like Joell Ortiz.
Of the tour with Joell, which came together via his booking agent, he said, "This type of tour is something new for Joell. It's more of nation wide grind out variety -- the type of stuff that artists like me are used to, but that more industry cats are not usually known for doing. It's a smart move on his part, because there have been cats who have done tours like this, and those MC's have a strong and loyal following now. People like Talib Kweli and Mos Def are two who come to mind. And I've done a number of tours like this, so when they reached out, I knew it would be a good match."
But he notes that life on the road, while great and truly satisfying, is a lot of serious non-stop work. "I'm working my ass off, as I have three jobs on this tour. I am the opener for Joell. I am the main driver, clocking insane amounts of miles behind the wheel, and I am the tour/road manager," he said, adding that getting on stage every night is one part of the pay off. "It's a good feeling to watch a crowd full of people throw their hands in the air when you are killing it on stage." But how different is his show when he is playing to a more mainstream Joell Ortiz audience vs. playing some small dive club with a mixed punk/hip-hop audience? "My show is not be much different, to be honest. One thing that people who know me as a musician will tell you is that my style is extremely versatile. So, while Squat The Condos has that electro-punk hip-hop feel to it, for the past five years, I've been rhyming to a more traditional hip-hop back beat over at Sin Sin Lounge. I've been doing this for nearly every week for the last five years. Plus, the one rule for rhyming at Sin Sin is that it all has to be from the top of the head. On the last tour I was on, I had to rhyme for a half an hour straight off the top in front of an audience while the headliner was getting ready to come on the stage. The crowd loved it. When I toured the Czech Republic, I rocked many of my verses over those old style 90's boom bap beats and the audience ate it up. So, in other other words, playing to different crowds is not hard for me. And I came up on that ole 90's boom bap shit. I was raised on a healthy diet of that. I've just chosen to make my own sound when I have the chance, but rocking over styles like that is easy for me. And I see Joell's music and his fan base as a positive throw back to those times, so this is not going to be much of a stretch, I don't think."