"Bad boy, no Will Smith. I wear these big ass jeans 'cause I'm trying to steal shit. Bitch." --Propain, "The Bad Guy"
Propain is a calculus.
Propain is an oak tree.
Propain is an ornery, pinch-mouthed menace.
Propain is not smiling.
Propain is FUCK YOU.
Propain is hard screen set by a power forward with jagged knees and elbows.
And his brand new tape, Dangerous Minds, is every bit as good as everyone actively rooting for underground rappers in Houston hoped it would be.
The atmospherics are aggressive and broad and ambitious and (mostly) original, thanks in large part to emerging production force G. Luck and B. Don. And Propain, who appears to possess an inherent understanding of the rap cosmos, is deft enough to navigate his way through all the pieces.
When the tape opens, he raps in a tempered manner for all of 15 seconds before he becomes belligerent (which is when he's most effective), shouting to himself, "FUCK THESE NIGGAS, PRO, FOCUS!" It's a clever bit, and might me dismissed as unsubstantial in a grander consideration of the album, but that's a mistake. It's an important moment, because it unintentionally firms up that no person in Houston is better at openly wrestling with their existential dread than Propain is. And that gasoline powers the entire tape.
Paired up with other acts, which occurs sparingly (the only rapping features on DM come via Short Dawg, Slim Thug, Bun B and Chamillionaire), he is capable and focused, his agro-stomp flow sounding confident and slightly territorial.
When the effervescent Short Dawg attempts to hijack the new age funk of "I'm On," Propain flexes, parrying with a series of metallic jabs, somehow pumping an immeasurable amount of charisma into what would've been an otherwise mundane chorus.
When the booming Slim Thug begins smashing buildings and eating villagers on the swarm of "My Life," Pro snaps, emptying his vehemence without discretion.
Good as he is among his contemporaries though, he's best when he is alone, allowed time to poke around his psyche, almost always sounding honest, furious and nearly tilted.
There are moments when he tries to appear calm, but his antagonism is matched only by an unspoken sense of paranoia, and that tinges everything. Even moments that should be clear and submissive, like when he bleeds all over "Nothing But You," doing his very best to relay a sense of love and semblance of a normal existence, it's obliquely intimidating and conflicted.
Propain is a razor blade.
Propain is bare-knuckle boxing match with an ex-con.
And he's all of these things within himself.
Propain needs little more than room to writhe in his own skin to be interesting in music.
And that is a remarkable strength for a rapper to possess.
Download Dangerous Minds for free at Datpiff.