Tag Archives: immortal technique

Album of the Week: “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star” by Black Star

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Black Star
Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
Rawkus Records, 1998

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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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The Ideas of the Panthers Live on in Hip-Hop (Final Installment)

Kathleen-Cleaver-and-Black-Panther-co-founder-Bobby-Seale-right-at-a-Free-Huey-rally-in-Oakland-California-in-the-summer-of-1968.-Photograph-Howard-Bingham

Note: this is the final installment to Kelvin Criss’ four part series on the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and its relation to hip-hop. You can read part one here, part two here and part three here

By: Kelvin Criss

Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby explains many hardships in society from the perspective of a twelve-year-old mother:

“She’s 12 years old and she’s having a baby / In love with tha molester, whos sexin’ her crazy / And yet she thinks that he’ll be with her forever / And dreams of a world with tha two of them together, whatever / He left her and she had tha baby solo, she had it on tha bathroom floor / And didn’t know so, she didn’t know, what ta throw away and what ta keep / She wrapped tha baby up and threw him in tha trash heap / I guess she thought she’d get away” (“Brenda’s Got a Baby”)

This song not only discusses the problem of women, but also girls. A twelve-year-old is pregnant and, “ Brenda’s barely got a brain, A damn shame, The girl can hardly spell her name” (lines preceding those above). Tupac is trying to make everyone in the community aware of these problems; problems that don’t have to exist. These are partially self-inflicted problems, they are not caused by outside perpetrators but from people in the community. Dead Prez’s “Can’t Sell Dope Forever” addresses other problems that the youth face and are holding back the community. For example, sex and drugs are destroying the community. It was for this reason that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense kept drug dealers and pimps out of their neighborhoods. These counter-revolutionary actions not only hold back the community, but they poison it. Another problem for the community is lack a of helpful police assistance. Public Enemy’s “911 is a Joke,” which discusses the lack of police assistance when people in the community call 911, states, “Now I dialed 911 a long time ago, don’t you see how late they reactin’, they only come and they come when they wanna.”

Raising class-consciousness is necessary in hip-hop because people cannot help each other until first they help themselves. This of course cannot be done until the people realize their situation and the problems with it. This was the same for the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense; it was why they did so much community outreach before they tried to better the community. Before people can be educated they must learn why they need to be educated.

Implications of Findings

I have found that the ideas of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense are reborn in the lyrics of many hip-hop artists. This is because the artists are trying to help their communities just as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense did. This is evident in countless songs by Public Enemy, Immortal Technique, Dead Prez and the late Tupac Shakur.

“We view each other with a great love and a great understanding and that we try to expand this to the general black population and also people, oppressed people all over the world, and, I think that we differ from some other groups simply because we understand the system better than most groups understand the system and with this realization we attempt to form a strong political base based in the Community with the only strength that we have and that’s the strength of a potentially destructive force if we don’t get freedom.” (Huey Newton Interview)

This interview of Huey P Newton (Dead Prez placed this interview clip in the end of “Propaganda”) explained the shared motives of hip-hop artists who wish to bring about change through their words.

This interview is just one of many interviews of members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which Dead Prez and many other hip-hop artists include in their songs. In addition to direct clips of speeches and interviews, hip-hop songs also reference members, ideas and programs of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

The ideas and goals of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense have been reborn because of the many references to them in hip-hop. The love of the people and the lust for change is why so many hip-hop artists rap about political and social issues. Rather than using guns and police encounters to gain attention, hip-hop artists use beats and rhymes to reach the people. This is an easy way to spread the message due to today’s technology and the ability to so easily copy and transfer music on computers. Through downloading, stereos, concerts and word of mouth, the messages are spread amongst the people.

 

Work Cited

Public Enemy. 911 Is a Joke. Rec. Jan.-Feb. 1990. The Bomb Squad, 1990. CD.

Tupac Shakur. 2Pacalypse Now. Rec. June-September 1991. Atron Gregory, 1991. CD.

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The Ideas of the Panthers Live on in Hip-Hop (Part Three)

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Note: this is part three of a four part series. You can read part one here and part two here

By: Kelvin Criss

“They schools can’t teach us shit” (Dead Prez, “They Schools”)

In addition to the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense protecting their community, they also had a strong focus on educating their community. Many hip-hop artists educate their communities as well. They teach us about what the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was able to accomplish when the people worked as one.

“I tried to pay attention but they classes wasn’t interestin’ / They seemed to only glorify the Europeans / Claimin’ Africans were only three fifth’s a human being / Until we have some shit where we control the fuckin’ school system / Where we reflect how we gon solve our own problems / Them niggas ain’t gon’ relate to school, shit that just how it is / Know what I’m sayin’? And I love education, know what I’m sayin’? / But if education ain’t elevatin’ me, then you know what I’m sayin’ it ain’t” (“They Schools”)

Dead Prez’s song entitled “They Schools” is about the racism found in many school districts. It describes the dire lack of relevant information taught in many schools. One lyric discussing the necessity of education that relates to the community is, “Until we have some shit where we control the fuckin’ school system, where we reflect how we gon solve our own problems? Them niggas ain’t gon’ relate to school.” This quote explains the frustration of much of the youth in urban areas. The lack of relevant information in their schools makes it hard for many students to want to learn. Immortal Technique has similar ideas, which he expresses in “Revolutionary.”

“They’re preparing your children for the prison environment / When you don’t amount to shit prison becomes retirement / But I refuse to be took in to central booking in chains / Cause sleeping on the floor in cages starts to fuck with your brain / The system ain’t reformatory, it’s only purgatory” (“Revolutionary”)

These lyrics express the distaste for the education system as well as the “reformatory” system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense understood this, and thus created their own classes to help educate the community on relevant matters such as their history, their rights, their social status and how they can change those things.

Some hip-hop artists promote illegal downloading and bootlegging of their albums to counterattack not only the record companies, but also to spread the message. In Immortal Technique’s “Harlem Renaissance” he says, “Bootleg my own album, to reach customers.” This shows that he does this because he does not care about the money or the fame. He simply wants his message to be circulated; he wants the people to be educated. The Political hip-hop artists stress education of the community just as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense stressed it. However, the problem is that most of the news that is broadcasted is extremely biased. This makes it hard for the community, especially those who believe what they hear, to learn what is really going on. For this reason Immortal Technique’s “Leaving The Past” addresses this issue. He says, “I never seen so much racism in all of my life, every program and newscast, all of them white. It’s like Apartheid with ten percent ruling the rest.” This is a warning not to trust all of what you hear. And that the listener needs to dissect the news he or she hears on the television, radio and the Internet.

Many artists such as Public Enemy have used their lyrics to work almost as news. Sometimes specific, but often broad topics are expressed in their lyrics. For instance, Public Enemy’s “Raw Shit” depicts the exploitation by big business.

“In between the government and the public that’s trained / Where white companies profit off black death / And house nigga rap thugs sell murder to kids / Where the media maintains all thought control / And fake news propaganda serve to rot the soul / We all unified to fight, keep the message and awake black / Open up your eyes, see the enemy and shake that / Bullshit lyin, free your mind, we combine” (“Raw Shit”)

This song not only explains what companies do to the people, it also addresses the problem of “fake news propaganda” and what it does to the people. Dead Prez’s “Propaganda” addresses the same ideas when they say, “filling our head with lies got us hypnotized.” The chorus of this goes, “The views that you see in the news is propaganda.” The goal of these types of songs is to educate the community, for no weapon is stronger than knowledge.

Educating the community was always one of the top priorities of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, as well as some of those who are involved in hip-hop. This is because without an educated community, little can be done. An uneducated community can be violent, however they will not know what to do with the power they posses. They will be a mob rather than a political power.

Works Cited

Dead Prez. Let’s Get Free. Rec. 1998-2000. Loud Records, 2000. CD.

Dead Prez. RBG: Revolutionary but Gangsta. Rec. Feb.-Mar. 2004. Sean Cane, Stic, 2004. CD.

Immortal Technique. Revolutionary Vol 1. Rec. 2000-2001. Viper Records, 2001. CD.

Public Enemy. Rebirth of a Nation. Rec. 7 Mar. 2006. Pari, 2006. CD.

Tupac Shakur. 2Pacalypse Now. Rec. June-September 1991. Atron Gregory, 1991. CD.

Tupac Shakur. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Rec. January-March 1993. Atron Gregory,1993. CD.

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The Ideas of the Panthers Live on in Hip-Hop (Part Two)

Note: this is part two of a four part series. You can read part one here.

By: Kelvin Criss

Analysis

“We gotta fight back’ that’s what Huey said” (Tupac, “Changes”)

Hip-hop has a strong focus on self-defense, not violence. The idea of protecting one’s community, much like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s idea of police patrol and self-defense, is very clear in the lyrics of the music. Hip-hop often has notions of confronting police due to injustices against one’s community and protecting the community from foreign exploiters. This can be seen in countless songs such as Dead Prez’s song “Assassination.”

“Them belly full, my trigger finger got pulled/To cut the bull shots’ll warm your flesh like wool/These tools for survival make fools out of rivals/Fuck the Bible, get on your knees and praise my rifle/Your life is done there aint another place to run/Eat your own gun, scared because my people never known fun” (“Assassination”)

“Them belly full” conveys the same message as Tupac’s “Holler if You Hear Me” as far as police exploitation. “My trigger finger got pulled” has the same message of fighting back in order protect one’s community from further innocent blood being shed by the police. Immortal Technique’s “Fight Until the End” has a very similar message to Dead Prez and Tupac’s songs.

“Dem’ shoot at us/Turn around and deny it/People on the streets are dying/We must come together/Fight depression and pull de pressure/On de system that tries to diss us/Tries to hurt us, and tries to kill us/We don’t win, we fight again/We gon’ fight until the end, until the end/We fight until we win, until we win.” (“Fight Until the End”)

“Dem’ shoot at us, Turn around and deny it…Fight depression and pull de pressure, on de system that tries to diss us,” shows the violence that police use against those who are from the community; people are being shot in their neighborhoods for unknown reasons by the police departments. Dead Prez has a song entitled “I Have a Dream Too” which describes a group of Panther-like revolutionaries who are looking for a police officer who shot a boy. Later in the song, a woman sings about the incident of a young boy being shot by the police.

“Just when you thought it was safe/Police kill a little boy last night/They said it was a mistake/But that won’t bring back his life/His momma couldn’t believe/That it could happen to her/She prayed to God everyday/Guess it just wasn’t enough” (“I Have a Dream Too”)

These lyrics show the hardships that people in urban communities endure. As if poverty wasn’t bad enough, they have to deal with the police shooting their youth. In their song entitled “Far From Over,” Dead Prez state:  “Truth is like a 44 magnum in this business/I’m out to go Jonathan Jackson on you bitches.” This is a direct reference to George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, who was taken out of his trial by his younger brother, Jonathon Jackson and friends, who were armed with automatic weapons. Dead Prez say this to not only incite community action, but also to commemorate what the community had done. “You ain’t got the right to bear arms, huh?/Sometimes you might have to brandish a motherfuckin’ firearm.” This line from Immortal Technique’s “Lick Shot” describes the mentality the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense has. This belief is not exclusive to the Party, but rather is common belief amongst revolutionaries. In order to protect ones community, one must pick up arms to protect one’s neighborhood.

Public Enemy’s “Can’t Hold Us Back” is about protecting one’s community:

“We rep justice, equality and freedom now/Put fam first, man, woman and child/Never mild, keep it hostile ’til we raise/Where we say, what we mean and we mean what we say/It’s been a long time comin’ that we mob as one/Guerrilla Funk, Hard Truth nigga, that’s what’s up/No peace on the street ’til the justice come/From the ballot to the bullet, if it’s on, it’s on” (“Can’t Hold Us Back”)

This song both resonates the ideas of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and describes what the community needs. These lyrics not only mention the lust for “justice, equality and freedom,” but also that there will be, “No peace on the street ‘til the justice come[s].” All of these songs mirror the principles of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. In particular, how the members of the community are willing to stand up for their rights, pick up arms and fight, even die, to protect their community.

Keep up with Bonus Cut and its continual look on the ideas of the Black Panthers in hip-hop every week in this four part installment.

Works Cited

Dead Prez. Let’s Get Free. Rec. 1998-2000. Loud Records, 2000. CD.

Dead Prez. RBG: Revolutionary but Gangsta. Rec. Feb.-Mar. 2004. Sean Cane, Stic, 2004. CD.

Immortal Technique. Revolutionary Vol 1. Rec. 2000-2001. Viper Records, 2001. CD.

Immortal Technique. The 3rd World. Rec. June 2008. Bronze Nazareth, 2008. CD.

Public Enemy. Rebirth of a Nation. Rec. 7 Mar. 2006. Pari, 2006. CD.

Tupac Shakur. 2Pacalypse Now. Rec. June-September 1991. Atron Gregory, 1991. CD.

Tupac Shakur. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Rec. January-March 1993. Atron Gregory, 1993. CD.

Tupac Shakur. “Changes.” Rec. 1992. Changes. 1998. Song.

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