Propain: Musical Influences, Messages, and Managing the Majors


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Hip-Hop is ours. Often, it is easy to forget that it was born from our community expression. There was a time when our MCs’ lyrics concentrated on uplifting and inspiring, rather than ridiculing. Dollars have diluted our once-precious art. Many have witnessed the profound shift from the meaningful lyrics reflecting our purpose to immature lyrics mocking our existence. Corporate wRap is trying to kill our Hip-Hop heroes.

Our emerging artists are forced to take a stance; they may choose to become part of the inane minstrel show, or they may become part of Hip-Hop’s reformation. Propain, a Houston, Texas, artist is prepared to share his creativity to improve our current state of Hip-Hop. Pro ardently believes his skills are, “very musical, very lyrical, and very conceptual.” In his debut, he discusses his influences, his message, and his negotiations with the majors: How do you view Hip-Hop as a culture, as part of your extended community, as an art? When you think about Hip-Hop, what comes to mind?

Propain: I mean, it’s a lifestyle, you know what I’m saying? I grew up on this. I look at it like it’s an everyday thing in my world. From fashion to sports, everything is in tune with Hip-Hop. Albums can be viewed as time capsules. These musical exclamation points are tied to different important memories. Is there a certain album or a certain MC whose message has served a significant impact to your life?

Propain: Most definitely—Nas, Joe Budden—of course, Jay-Z, and Andre 3000. So, you appreciate lyrics. When you say, Nas, which of his tracks or albums resonate with you?

Propain: I always rapped [ever] since I was little. I rapped and played basketball. But, after that Stillmatic album, I knew that [pursuing music] is what I wanted to do. That’s the way I wanted to rap. Nas, has a song called “Rewind” where he tells the whole story in reverse. That sh*t was amazing. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do; that’s what I’m going to be.’ Nas’ wordplay and the way that he’s a poet—I feel like nobody can do it like he can do it. The storytelling, the way he played with the words—all of that was big to me. There are many things that you could be doing with your time. Why do you choose to invest into pursuing a Hip-Hop profession?

Propain: Sh*t, the love. I feel like this is what I was born to do. I don’t feel like it’s about the money. This sh*t is real to me; it’s therapeutic. Plus, I feel like I’m pretty good. I feel like there’s a purpose in everything that I do. I feel like my music has a voice for a lot of people.

[youtube] What is your truth that you hope to share?

Propain: You can have it [and] anything is possible. You can go from nothing to something. Life’s not about [buying] jewelry, or [purchasing] cars, or no sh*t like that. Especially where I come from, I want to show it’s hope and always a way out. I want my music to be an everyday symbol that you can make it from there even if you ain’t got sh*t. You can always preserver. Being a Southern artist, a lot is demanded for you to stand out. Given that you’re from Houston, why’d you decide to hook up with Unauthorized Entertainment?

Propain: They saw my movement and saw what I was doing. I felt like they could do something for me, and that I could do something for them. More so, it was like a partnership, you know what I’m saying. On my part, it was a real strategic move. What does it feel like to earn a co-sign from a legend like Bun B? Did you have to pay him some money to get that, or did it happen naturally?

Propain: [laughter] Hell, nah! The crazy thing about that—from Bun, to Z-Ro, to Chamillionaire, Slim Thug—I’m never the one to go reaching for attention, or to ask for a co-sign. When I was doing my thing they saw it and it earned them more respect for me. Every time I jumped on a song with the Bun’s or the Slim’s, it was approached to me. They saw me doing my own thing in the city and coming up, they f*cked with the movement. They like where I was going with it. I respect them to the death for that, because it was big for my career. Man, you got some people who rely on a co-sign. But, with me, I was doing my own thing. They noticed it and they respected it. Honestly, I feel they look at me as someone they can feel comfortable with representing the Houston culture, and the Houston name. So, they f*ck with it and they get behind it; they support it. Z-Ro and Chamillionaire are raw lyricists. How do you mentally prepare to get on a track with an MC of their caliber?

Propain: At this stage in my career, it comes naturally. Even when I’m on a track with a Z-Ro or a Slim Thug, it’s just like a basketball game when you know you’re going against somebody that’s good. There’s an adrenaline rush. It’s almost like a given. I know I gotta come with it, because my competition level is dope. It’s going to make me excel. It’s just like when you’re in the gym. You run faster, you jump higher when there are a lot of people in the gym. Every time that I’ve been on a track with them, God-willing, I was able to do what I had to do to get some notoriety. So, I feel like there’s never any pressure; it’s more like a respect factor. I’m not going to come weak, because I know I’m on a track with legends. That’s the beauty of it. I always feel like I step it up when I get into the same building with these dudes. It’s evident that you’re grinding, because you have the streets talking. It’s being said that you’ve gained the attention of some major labels. Are you at liberty to give us the exclusive on if you’ve signed to one?

Propain: A lot of labels have been calling, but at this point we haven’t made a decision of what we’re going to do. I want to make the best decision for Propain. As an artist, until that deal is presented to where I feel it can take me to the next level; I’ll continue to working [the independent route]. We’re not forcing nothing. We’re not settling for anything. But, we have been in a lot of talks with a lot of labels. Right now, we continue to build the brand, and we’re building the movement. I’m sure they see it. Man, we’re just going to keep going. One way or another, we’ll make it to the next level. If the right situation presents itself, we’re definitely going to take it. What’s essential for you to feel comfortable signing to a major?

Propain: For both parties, I want a reasonable deal. Of course, I still want to be able to be myself and put out real sh*t. I want to be able to present my message. I don’t want to become a puppet, you know what I’m saying. I want something reasonable to where my brand will be able to grow. Not just locally, or regionally, or nationally; I want to do it [share my music] globally. At the end of the day, I want to be heard by the world.

[youtube] That is a huge goal. What are you willing to sacrifice to manifest your dream?

Propain: At the end of the day, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. That sums it all up right there. I’m willing to do whatever it takes, you know what I’m saying? But I wouldn’t sacrifice my character or what I stand for, nothing like that. At the end of the day, I won’t get rewarded if I don’t take a risk. I’m willing to put it all on the line. To those who would like to learn more about you as a man and as a musician, what would you like to share?

Propain: Check out the music. It’s Southern, but it’s something different. When people think of Houston, they think of a certain type of music. I’m everything but that, you know what I’m saying? When people get in contact with my music, there’s so much to it that you don’t normally hear from a Houston artist. It’s way different; there’s a different movement. This is something that more people can gravitate to. This is for the regular Joes and the have-nots and people on the come-up.  It’s not about the drank and the candy-paint. Not saying that’s not where I’m from; that’s my culture. But, I’m an artist all day. When you think of your real artists you think of Nas, Common, Jay-Z, and everybody else who has came up and made a movement. They’re real artists; that’s what I’m trying to present for Houston.

I’m trying to be that artist that Houston got. You know, the Scarface, the Bun B, you feel me? Some sh*t like that. When you’re having conversations with people from other states, I want to be that one that you’re proud to call his name. They scream out, ‘Well, we got Biggie, we got Jay-Z.’ I want for them to be like, ‘We got Scarface, and we got Propain!’ For Houston, as a whole that’s what I’m trying to do. I want to be that artist. Not to knock no other artist that’s coming up out of Houston, because I feel like everybody’s doing their thing. At the same time, there’s nobody in my lane. The ones that are in my lane, I don’t feel like they’re doing what I’m doing with it. In that aspect, I want to be [viewed] as the best artist from Houston. Not the one with the best song, or the best beats—I want to be seen as, ‘He is the artist; he is the one that can go!’ That’s the brand that I’m trying to bring [forth] for Houston. Not just Houston, but Texas, period. I want to be that for Texas.