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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Immortal Technique

Immortal Technique is a figure in hip-hop that needs no introduction. As a forceful character in hip-hop activism, Tech is one of the rare few that unveils the realities of our world first-hand. His cutting delivery and intelligence on government, poverty, religion and institutional racism has not only opened our eyes to real-world problems, but it has furthered our grasp on actually understanding how to deal with them.

In a recent interview with Bonus Cut, Tech talks about media bias, terrorism, institutions around the world and the hip-hop human condition.

Bonus Cut (BC): In your song the “4th Branch” from Revolutionary Vol. 2 you touch on a lot of important issues regarding the corruption and double standards that exist within the political sphere of the United States. This song was written in the middle of George Bush’s presidency. Ten years later, where does our government stand on these issues and have we made any significant progress?

Immortal Technique (IT): In terms of corruption? I don’t think that even requires my insight or political acumen to see that. It’s just gotten worse and people have been conditioned to receive it without shock or action. Now it’s a complacency that perhaps was not there in the beginning. I think that people are becoming more self aware here, however I don’t know that the way the government is structured now will make it any easier for them to change things.

BC: In light of recent events it seems as if there is a divide between what is considered an act of terrorism, and what is not. Why were the events in Boston immediately labeled as an act of terrorism when the shootings in Newtown, Aurora and Columbine were not? Furthermore, in your opinion, what constitutes an act of terrorism when the United States has been responsible for countless atrocities to push it’s own interests around the world?

IT: Terrorism is not just committed by individuals, loners and such. People need to understand that a state, its counterparts and such, are capable and are actually probably more likely to commit acts of terrorism on each other. The manner in which it’s interpreted in the U.S. though will have obvious bias for a reason that I think we’re all familiar with here. We have been engaged in constant wars since the birth of the Republic; in all truth we have only had 20 some odd years of peace. Presently we are at war in the Middle East, before we were restructuring Central America, crushing the remainder of Europe’s old regimes or encroaching our influence in Southeast Asia. The average American was once trained to see the German people, the Japanese people, the Vietnamese as their enemies. If someone went on TV ranting about those 3 people now we’d have them committed to an insane asylum. However, if they do a lecture series about the evil of Islam, the evil of Arab culture, they find themselves being economically breastfed by a bevy of right wing groups and are invited to speak on college campuses. People find this logical in this day and age, whereas in the future it will be a joke. But it won’t be funny.

techonstage

Immortal Technique on stage via http://tristanstefanedouard.com.au

BC: Going off of that, how have your travels to the Middle East and Latin America shaped your views on American foreign policy and its relationship with other nations?

IT: I think I feel a lot more grateful for what I have now. I tell people, if you don’t like the Justice system in America, you’re really not gonna like it in China. If you dislike the bureaucracy here, then you’ll hate it in South America. Dislike Corruption here? You’ll despise it in Russia. Don’t like American prison? Spend a day in jail in the Middle East and you’ll cry for home. I get first hand accounts of these things from the people, I am shown around wherever I go and I explore on my own. I have the ability to see things with my own eyes. I experienced some of these things as a child returning to the so-called “3rd World”.

BC: How does hip-hop fit into this equation?  How can hip-hop be used to process the pain that people experience everyday at home and abroad?

IT: Hip-hop is about the human condition; it’s about people’s lives. It started out speaking on what it was like growing up in a slum in the Bronx, the trials and tribulations of living in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island. Then it spread to the West Coast, to the South. Now it is a global phenomenon. Why shouldn’t a child reading this looking over Mogadishu, Tirana, Lagos, or Aleppo tell the world of his struggle and his pain? We had drug dealers, war torn streets and poverty that the other side of the country almost seemed oblivious to, ironically since the majority of all hip-hop sales. No matter the artist or the region come from middle class European America. So why shouldn’t the rest of the world be just as interested as they were in how people live? In the end it is entertainment, let’s not embarrass ourselves by not admitting that, but entertainment can be used to educate, to ennoble, or to distract and mislead. This form of entertainment has the ability to reach far beyond the Bronx. And whether we’re willing to admit it or not, it connects people from across the word. In the end a human being just needs one thing to start the process of healing. To have their pain acknowledged.

BC: Considering all of this, does hip-hop always have to be political?

IT: It doesn’t have to. But it always is.

Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol. 2 was the Bonus Cut Album of the Week on May 22nd.

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Album of the Week: “Revolutionary Vol. 2” by Immortal Technique

Revolutionary+Vol+2

Immortal Technique
Revolutionary Vol. 2 
Viper Records

By: Gus Navarro

The revolutionary stance of Immortal Technique is set from the very start on his 2003 album, Revolutionary Vol. 2, as it begins with an introduction form Mumia Abu-Jamal. From there, Immortal uses his music to discuss history, the international drug trade, politics, institutional racism, terrorism, capitalism, the music industry, the media and religion. With Revolutionary Vol. 2, Immortal Technique points out contradictions embedded in American political rhetoric, and comes down hard on the Bush Administration. Given the year this album was released, there is much we can learn about the tumultuous years that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center. Beyond that, it becomes clear that there are still gross inequities and oppression that exist, not just in the United States, but also across the globe. With Revolutionary Vol. 2, Immortal Technique forces the listener to reflect on these global problems that have an impact on our lives.

This is evident on the third track, “Peruvian Cocaine.” With help from Pumpkinhead, Diabolic, Tonedeff, Poison Pen, Loucipher and C-Rayz Walz the complexities of the international drug trade are revealed. Immortal Technique begins rapping from the perspective of an exploited field worker who harvests the coca plant because there is no other source of income. “I’m on the border of Bolivia, working for pennies / Treated like a slave, the coca fields have to be ready” and later, “Dreaming about revolution, looking at my machete / But the workload is too heavy to rise up in arms.” From there we hear from Pumpkinhead, rapping from the perspective of the South American drug lords that have the financial influence to pay off the police. “I got the power to shoot a copper, and not get charged /And it would be sad to see your family in front of a firing squad.” From there, each MC provides a different perspective from the various individuals involved in the complicated cocaine industry that oppresses, kills and makes people rich. As Immortal Technique explains at the end of the song, “The story just told is an example of the path that drugs take on their way to every neighborhood, in every state of this country. It’s a lot deeper than the niggas on your block.” I can hear Clarke Peter’s character from The Wire, Lester Freamon, advising McNulty to follow the money.

Following “Peruvian Cocaine,” Immortal Technique transitions from talking about the international business of the drug trade to the people of Harlem, New York. On “Harlem Streets” he reveals a neighborhood that is demoralized and struggling. As Immortal Technique laments, the citizens of Harlem are not to blame for this unfortunate situation, but rather the long history of racial subjugation in the United States. This song is an example of hip-hop being used to give voice to an under-represented community that is not taken into account in the predominantly Euro-American culture of the United States.

After “Harlem Streets” comes “Obnoxious,” “The Message & The Money,” “Industrial Revolution” and “Crossing The Boundary” where Immortal Technique demonstrates his abilities as an MC in all of his political incorrectness and reveals the exploitative nature of the music industry. Up to this point, Revolutionary Vol. 2 is up close and personal, providing crucial social, political and economic analysis.

On “The 4th Branch,” the content of this album is taken to the next level. With this track, Immortal Technique calls into question the narrative of the media based on the history of foreign and domestic policies of the United States. As he points out in the first verse, “Indigenous holocaust and the home of the slaves / Corporate America, dancin’ offbeat to the rhythm / You really think this country never sponsored terrorism? / Human rights violations, we continue the saga / El Salvador and the contras in Nicaragua.” And then in the second verse, “Embedded correspondents don’t tell the source of the tension /And they refuse to mention, European intervention /Or the massacres in Jenin, the innocent screams / U.S. manufactured missiles, and M-16’s.” Immortal Technique is revealing the highly contested history and imperialist ideology that is not a part of the history we learn. The dominant narrative is about the valiant, Euro-American triumphs. As Immortal Technique makes clear, these “triumphs” have been at the expense of Native Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, the Chinese, poor whites, women and Arabs. It becomes essential to seek out alternate versions of our history. This way it is possible to have a more accurate understanding of the past.

On Revolutionary Vol. 2, Immortal Technique uses hip-hop to challenge the institutions of oppression within the walls of our world. He presents a different version of history and image of the world we live in. In doing this, he makes it possible not to depend on only one narrative and encourages people to seek out multiple sources and versions of history, and current events. When people have a more complete understanding of history from multiple sources, it truly becomes possible to work for a better future. Ultimately, Immortal Technique’s music is more than revolutionary, it is educational.

Must-Listens

“Peruvian Cocaine”

“Harlem Streets”

“4th Branch”

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