Don’t Sweat The Technique
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.”
“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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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.”
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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