Don’t Sweat The Technique

By Team JamBase Jul 3, 2008 10:22 am PDT

By: Andrew Bruss

Immortal Technique
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.”

Immortal Technique
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.

Continue reading for more on Immortal Technique…

We talked about issues in Africa and ethnic cleansing… We talked about Southeast Asia and all different issues that are encompassed to draw that parallel with how the superpowers of the First World have traditionally exploited the Third World for its resources, land and industries. And we relate that back to how superpowers and major labels have exploited the Third World of the [music] underground.

Immortal Technique on his new album

Photo of Immortal Technique at a mosque in North Africa

Immortal Technique
“I never relied on radio to help sell records or get stuff out there. When I was coming up in the rap world, getting my feet wet as a teenager, back then it was all pay-for-play. There was no secret about it. That’s what it was. Any DJ that says that pay-for-play does not exist is either a lying bitch or the only motherfucker that’s not getting paid,” observes Technique. “I hate to say it that way. I know a lot of DJ’s who say, ‘I don’t fuck with that,’ but they’re not going to tell you it’s not real. They’re not going to insult your intelligence and say it doesn’t happen. They may personally remove themselves from the situation but for anyone else [that would] come to me, and say that [pay-for-play is] a myth from the ’50s, I don’t know whose dick you were just suckin’, homie, but you gotta take that dick outta your mouth.”

When socialism came up in conversation, his response was a bit defensive with the implication that he’d been verbally harangued over the subject before. To set the record straight, Technique says, “I’m not anti-democratic in any way, shape or form. I’m not a Marxist. I’m not a communist. I just think that when we talk about socialism, people get the wrong idea. They come into it with these stupid preconceptions like, ‘Oh, socialism is the government paying for things.’ Yeah? Well have you ever heard about the fire department or the police department, you stupid motherfucker? Those are socialist organizations. Have you ever heard of the military? That is possibly the most socialist experience you could ever have. The government is paying for every single thing that you own.”

As he talked about his connection to Latin America and its influence on his politics, he managed to connect U.S. economic policy with his beefs with the record industry.

“I don’t know if I would say my being born in Latin America has a lot to do with my rapping about that regions politics because I have no connection to the Middle East in terms of my heritage and those are a big part of the issues I rap about,” he says. “It’s not just that I rap more about the war on terror and situations in the Middle East and the Muslim world than I did Latin America, but I think with The 3rd World we talked about it a lot more. We talked about issues in Africa and ethnic cleansing, Bosnia or Serbia or whatever it may be. We talked about Southeast Asia and all different issues that are encompassed to draw that parallel with how the superpowers of the First World have traditionally exploited the Third World for its resources, land and industries. And we relate that back to how superpowers and major labels have exploited the Third World of the [music] underground.”

Immortal Technique
“Anyone you see in the mainstream, all these people are in some way, shape or form survivors of that Third World underground,” he continues. “Nelly, 50 Cent, Puffy, they all used to be underground at some point. The difference is when an artist goes mainstream that’s not following the same process developing nations do when they deal with First World capitalist regimes who say, ‘Listen, you have to give us your water. We want to privatize your oil and communications.’ [Similarly, they tell recording artists], ‘Give me your masters and partial ownership. We want 360 deals, and a cut of the shows.’ It’s gotten that bad, and even if they don’t take it from that artist, then that artist has to find people to feed to the industry so that they don’t get nothing taken out of their chunk. But, they’re still feeding the motherfucker to the machine.”

His capacity to find parallels with abusive foreign policies and major label practices is the smoke to the fire that is his masterful ability to take major issues and put them in a light his listener can connect with. He may not be playing Madison Square Garden any time soon, but when folks look back at the many laughingstocks hip-hop has given us this decade, Immortal Technique will be able to hold his head up high.

As the conversation moved from his music towards his future, he talked about leaving behind a legacy that would be very much immortal.

“I want to be remembered for standing up for what I believed in, that I learned from both my successes and failures, and that I prepared the way for the person who will come after me. Because believe me, I’m not the first and I won’t be the last.”

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