By: Andrew Bruss
If you're listening to Top 40 radio, rap must seem pretty stale. Thankfully, Immortal Technique (born Felipe Coronel on February 19, 1978) has stayed off the airwaves and kept the underground as interesting as ever. In a bling-obsessed culture, Immortal Technique is ripping things the other way with his new album, The 3rd World (released June 24 on Viper). His rhythms are raw, and they pack a message. With words as his weapon, he paints a fierce picture of the world as he sees it, oozing with anger at the wrongs committed against the innocent.
Immortal Technique raps about foreign policy issues regarding Latin America and the Middle East, while keeping things personal on tunes like "Industrial Revolution" where he says, "I've been nice since niggas got killed over 8-ball jackets and Reebok Pumps that didn't do shit for the sneaker." The Immortal Technique listening experience is, as Technique says himself, not for everyone.
"It's definitely violent. It's hardcore, and its got some real themes, things I've experienced personally and things I've witnessed first hand, so it's a lot of real stories and first person experiences," he says. "When I go up there I'm not portraying anybody else. I'm being who I am. I don't think people are used to that nowadays. It's definitely shocking and metaphorical. There's some street hip-hop in it, and its got a revolutionary twist. You could say Soulja Boy isn't for everyone or Wu-Tang Clan isn't for everyone. So yeah, maybe my music isn't for everyone. But maybe it's for everyone at some point in time. If you're not a fan of any of the people I just mentioned, you might find a point in your life where a part of their music speaks directly to you."
As intense as his message may be, and whether you agree with him or not, what Immortal Technique says is both brutally honest and increasingly necessary in what feels like an increasingly bland hip-hop market. His stories are hard to hear, and immensely provocative. On "Bin Laden" he raps, "Bush knocked down the towers, tell the truth nigga" (although Technique cautioned this was not to be taken literally). On "The Fourth Branch," Technique takes a shot at Condi Rice, billing her as the "New-Age Sally Hemings."
Technique has not always been on the right side of the law, but he's also witnessed many violent crimes being perpetrated by those who vowed to serve and protect. He recently posted a journal entry on his MySpace page that recounts the police brutality he witnessed as a teenager, and urged his listeners to speak out.
"When I heard about the Sean Bell case [that charged three NYPD officers with Manslaughter and Reckless Endangerment for firing 50 shots at the unarmed African American], I wanted to link it to other people's struggles, and I thought about posting a story about police brutality that I experienced at the age of 13," he says. "I wanted to get other people to post their stories to show that it's not just about race, although race is a relevant issue. We should connect these stories to show that this isn't a fluke accident. It's a reoccurring thing that happens all the time to all kinds of people, unless you can afford a multi-million dollar lawyer. Even then, it's more about the police state and its ability to deprive people of due process."
Hyper articulate, and in this case, very pragmatic, he went on to add that the goal of this campaign was to collect people's individual stories and "submit them to state legislators and people that work at the UN. We're hoping to show a pattern of the type of abuse that goes on," continues Technique. "More often than not, something like this won't necessarily pan out into a gigantic change, or force them to indict the officers, but it's going to provide a different avenue of expression for people, and more exposure for this growing relationship between a militarized police force and the state, which has no accountability."
As he talked about Sean Bell and police brutality, he weaved in and out of subjects such as being born at a military hospital in Peru, the direction the U.S. is headed in and his marketability as an artist. Given the graphic nature of his art, he's never planned on a Top 40 hit making him famous.
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