Immortal Technique: The Man Behind The Revolution

posted July 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM CDT | 42 comments

A myriad of diverse faces made up the crowd that had been fortunate enough to get tickets to the venue. I couldnt remember seeing such a varied array of cultures and styles at any other show I had ever been to, and it was then that I truly began to realize the significance of the following that the man performing possessed. The intensity projected into the microphone forced the audience to absorb his words, and it appeared that every person could somehow relate to what was being said. When you take away the mic, lights, and crowd though, its even more intriguing. Yet when tranquility is substituted for the rage exhibited on stage, the man known as Immortal Technique maintains a passion behind his words. Its quickly apparent that this is about more than just music. For some people thats all it is. Entertainment. Even if those skeptical critics of hip hop are correct, and it is just entertainment, they need to realize that entertainment serves various purposes. Entertainment can educate, enlighten, inspire, and pacify. It can mask problems and distract people from whats really going on in life. For me its always been more than just distracting people. More than just doing what most music nowadays does.

In opposition to distracting, he brings attention to real issues and takes action. He recently started a project entitled Police State Chronicles [click to read], and when asked about how the response has been, Technique explains with satisfaction that, Its been absolutely amazing. The amount of stories weve gotten is incredible. Some people have really been through some terrible instances. And, for a country thats sheltered - and I dont mean to say this disrespectfully because I know there are a lot of people in America that have been through it, were kept sheltered. None of us really know what a dead Iraqi baby looks like with its skin peeled off, being burnt by Napalm or white phosphorus. They wont show us. We have to dig for it ourselves. We dont even know what a dead American soldier looks like, staring at us with his eyes open, as if he was still looking for the democracy that we promised to bring a place that we havent done anything but bring more death and chaos to My music is a reflection of all the work I do. So when people talk about Police State Chronicles or Project Green Light, I think the response is based on the people that not only gravitate towards the music, but the message as well.

It doesnt stop there. The list of the revolutionary emcees projects is lengthy. I had a whole gang of ideas to work. Some of them were mine; some of them were from people in my camp. Some wanted a shirt contest, for example. At first people were confused. They were like, Why are you giving people $200 to design a shirt?, and since people are naturally cynical, I guess it makes them feel better to doubt me than to believe that I am what Im really about. Its easier to believe that everythings fake. The t-shirts? Yeah, were giving someone a couple hundred dollars, but we aint pressing up thousands of shirts. Well press up around 200, and well give a decent percentage (30-40% of the money) to Omeid International [click here]. Of course, since its not a lot of shirts, the rest of the money will probably just cover expenses. Thats one tiny project. Others require more logistical planning, like the essay contest [click to read]. I decided to put that into effect because I want people to understand that I make money off of writing. I wanted to let them know that the press, the people working at HipHopDX.com and AllHipHop, makes a living off of their writing skills; off of being able to entrap the readers mind.

When informed that a living isnt necessarily the case for this particular writer, he jokingly retorts, Wow, Im sure youre not going to put that in the interview, or the editor will probably take that the fuck out!, then immediately gets serious again. Im giving away over $3,000 in cash to the winners. Ill get my last submissions this month, and Ill have to read them myself. Ill probably read them on the road. It speaks volumes that Im taking this money out of my personal account. Sure, Oprah opened a school. But Im not Oprah. I dont have Hollywood celebrity money. This is being done with underground Hip Hop money. And the project in Afghanistan [click to read] is a whole other can of worms. Itll be in Kabul. Id been briefed about what the concept was in the beginning. As I got more involved, I got deeper into the intricate politics of Central Afghanistan. It starts getting very personal and you realize that its not as simple as throwing something out there and saying you want to do something for charity. Its a complicated matter. On one side there are people thatll say, Youre western. Youre trying to westernize people and take away from our culture, since this is originating from here. On the other side, if we open a madrasah out there, for example, then well get a lot of heat from here because theyll say What are you really teaching people? Whose children are being orphaned? Were you taking in children from the Taliban? Its not simple. I cant sit here and just be a rapper. People always ask, Are you a revolutionary or a rapper? I gave up just being able to be a rapper a long time ago. From that perspective, you can see the weight that a revolutionary must carry, which is why I kind of understand why people dont want to be that. They just want the glory of what it represents, kind of in the same way rappers act like gangsters because they like respect. But few of them are truly committed to having to kill a friend, or torture someone. Revolutionaries are usually hated by their own people - especially those that want to be, and consider themselves, revolutionaries. After the logistical stuff is done for Project Green Light, the next Project Green Light well do will probably involve Africa or undocumented people in the States. Thats something that needs to be addressed. The Republicans wanted to make it an issue. Badly. Until the economy got in the way of their bullshit and people said, Shut the fuck up about immigrants already. The economys a mess. Gas prices? When Bush got in office they were around two dollars. Now theyre pushing five! Thats disgusting.

Despite the positive projects, there are always doubters. Hip Hop will always come with contradictions. People will say, You dont want to sit down with me and debate Marxism until four in the morning? Youd rather hang with girls in the club? Youre not a real revolutionary. You basket case, nerd ass nigga! You arent the litmus test for revolutionaries. I never had that attitude like I was the nicest nigga in the world, but I definitely know that I work harder than 99% of people to make this happen. Running an independent label, a farm, teaching at prison programs, helping with a certain community outreach program to gangs across the country, traveling, and trying to put out music? Its very hard. Thats why I gauge the revolutionary work I do as part of a struggle. So is the Hip Hop. But if I wasnt good at it, people wouldnt buy the record. They supported Revolutionary Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 [click to read]. I sold the most in a week that Ive ever sold (a worldwide count of almost 10,000 units; 7,500 US SoundScan in the first week), for The 3rd World [click to read]. Obviously the work I do needs explanation, because people enjoy challenging someone they really respect. People come to shows and want to talk with you, based upon what they want to learn from you and feel they need to teach you. Now, some are presumptuous, and feel they need to teach you their version of history. Ive known people that are like You know, Obama is a Zionist puppet, or The only truth sayer is Ron Paul, and If you dont think Bush and a reptilian race living below the Earths surface are responsible for 9/11, then youre not a real revolutionaryEveryones entitled to their own opinion, but if youre a random individual that bombs my MySpace with angry words about what Im doing to Hip Hop? Youre turning Hip Hop into a fuckin Islamic jihad, fuck you. I get this stuff all the time. To me, it just shows that Im being hated on by the right people, so why should I ever stop that? Because Im afraid theyre going to kill me? Fuck those people! Come kill me muthafucka, what you gon do? Shut the fuck up!

That attitude may be part of the reason that Technique wont be stopping in Canada as part of this years Rock the Bells festival. I think Ive proved during my life that being smart doesnt mean youre soft. As a kid I was really smart, but I had no direction in life. Being that I took Jiu-Jitsu for a few years and grew up fighting, it got out of control at times. Looking back, I regret that because I feel I couldve handled a lot of those situations differently, and those things piled up. When I got out of prison, I was stuck with these charges. I went to the border once, and they said, Uhyoure not coming in here. Sometimes I think that was more of a personal thing with the people working there at the time. Maybe if I went back now and tried, it would be a different story. Id say that since its been a while since Ive been arrested, pretty soon itll clear itself up. Hopefully by next year Ill be in Canada. And Canada isnt the only place being difficult. England has never turned me away, but they give me a hassle every time. Its funny because its one place where in the airport the dudes are cooler than the women. I think its because the women have to try to act tough, and I see that behind their attitudes. Shell put that ice grill face on and Im like yo, who are you foolin right now? In a surprisingly decent British accent, Tech continues, She was like, Look, where are you going to be staying? What are you going to be doing? I swear, I was holding in the laughter. Just her talking reckless in that sexy accent did it for me, but I guess because they got sexism there like a muthafucka, she feels like she has to show her tough side to niggasI get a kick out of it.

After a good laugh, Tech gets back to seriousness and the topic soon changes to the music. When asked if he feels the poorly performing economy is having an effect on the music industry, he states, To some extent, yeah. Obviously there are people doctoring their sales. There are record labels who are buying thousands of their own records in order to give the illusion of their projects extreme success. I dont have the luxury of doing that. They arent the only ones with tricks up their sleeve, though, and Tech decides to let his fans in on a playful trick of his own how he hid the Apocalypse remix [click to listen] featuring Pharoahe Monch and Akir on The 3rd World. I think if people havent found it, Ill have to tell yall niggas. Its on the negative track of the first song. If you play it in a CD player and rewind on the negative of track 1, youll get to it. As something that very rarely, if ever, has been done in Hip Hop before, I wanted to try a different approach to a hidden track.

Moving on to some analysis of The 3rd World, he addresses what some may mean when they say his sound has matured. Im not 21 years old anymore. Im a grown man. I wrote The 3rd World when I was 28, and when I turned 29 we were moving into release. When those stages of development began, I learned that artists in general, whether they like to admit it or not, are sensitive people. They must be inspired and sensitive to the world in order to create. A lot of rappers have difficulty taking criticism. Me? I used to get pissed back in the day. I felt bad once because somebody was reviewing something for me and really thought I was a joke or something. They were like, Hes smart - he must be one of these backpack niggas. I found this muthafucka, and was like What the fuck did you say about me? Ill fuck you up right now! This nigga was so taken aback, and was all I dont want troublestraight bitched up. Then I realized later how ridiculous that was. And how even the people reading this that will post, I woulda stepped to you Technique [shakes his head] You missed the point. And you wouldve got fucked up. These days? Id probably just laugh you off. I have too much stuff to do. Some people will always have criticisms. And Ill be honest - the majority of my critics were never my fans in the first place. But in other terms of maturing? My voice got deeper. I do 150 shows a year, so I have some rasp to my voice. To help this, Tech just started going to a vocal coach in order to perfect his flow and repair the damage and raspy tone that the touring has caused.

Regardless, when it comes to Technique, its not necessarily the scratchiness of his voice but often what hes actually saying that may end up touching a listeners nerve. For instance, the line from Lick Shots that goes, marry a Muslim girl and fuck her five times a day, every time right before we shower and pray. Im respectful of peoples religions and cultures. Especially of Islam since it has a major role in Hip Hops foundation. I believe its something the roots of hip hop are based in. I checked with a lot of my Muslim brothers before I ever put that out. What I got back was that it might lift some eyebrows, but any true Muslim or anybody that understands the culture of Hip Hop, will look at it and say, He said hell marry her.' That already negates anything you could say about that. That doesnt mean Im going to be at the club the next day drinking and smoking, making excuses about it, like a lot of yall Muslim niggas do. Im not going to go to prostitutes like a lot of yall brothersIm not going to blow yall up, but some of yall that frequent whore houses on the low and then talk about righteousness? Dont fuck with me, homie. Im the KGB of Hip Hop. I know what you niggas do. Its safe to say that nobody will be able to marginalize me off of one line. If anything, all theyre doing is marginalizing themselves. That particular track is loved in the hood. Whats funny is that for the first time, the fan base I had in schools and stuff almost seems threatened that people in the hood like me. Im sorry, yo. People from the hood bought Vol. 1 before anybody else did.

And a lot of people, whether from the hood or suburbia, recognize Tech for Dance with the Devil [click to read] and possibly not much else. A lot of people definitely know me for that and say, Are you that guy that made that fucked up song? But 10 years from now while someone is coming up to me saying that, someone will go up to another rapper and say, Are you that guy that made the song about niggas and lollipops and shit? No disrespect, but Id rather be known for making a song about something I can defend ideologically.

Sometimes genuine critics of mine want to prove their own revolutionary worth by proving theyre 'a better revolutionary than Immortal Technique,' and if thats what your goal is? I hope you achieve it. I really do. Because if theres a rapper or activist that does more than I do? Wow. We need more people like that in Hip Hop and the world in general. People that will dedicate their lives to this. Because Ill live and die doing it. And to think, this is coming from the same man who said, If someone told me in school when I was runnin around robbing, stealing, and acting crazy, Hey, one of these days youll end up being a rapper, then President of your label, an orphanage fundraiser, and then a farmer? Id have thought they were fuckin crazy.

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