Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thinking Mans Rapper An interview with Immortal Technique

by Adisa Banjoko
Immortal Technique is a Peruvian rapper, based out of Harlem, New York. In a few short years, Immortal Technique has given new life, to the arguably dying art of politically concsious rap. Album releases like Revolutoin Vol. 1, and Revolution Vol. 2, are not just mere albums titles to him. He seeks real political change inside the Hip Hop community and arcross the world..

On a song entitled "The 4th Branch" he aggressively states:

"Got my back to the wall, cause I'm facin' assassination
Guantanamo Bay, federal incarceration
How could this be, the land of the free, home of the brave?
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 Savador and the contras in Nicaragua
And on top of that, you still wanna take me to prison
Just cause I won't trade humanity for patriotism"

On another track called "Bin Laden" featuring Mos Def he goes for the jugular vein of neoconservatives and terrorists in the same verse:

"This s*** is run by fake Christians, fake politicians Look at they mansions, then look at the conditions you live in All they talk about is terrorism on television They tell you to listen, but they don't really tell you they mission They funded Al-Qaeda, and now they blame the Muslim religion Even though Bin Laden, was a CIA tactician They gave him billions of dollars, and they funded his purpose Fahrenheit 9/11, that's just scratchin' the surface"

The lyrics of Immortal Technique can go from politically motivating, to spiritually empowering, to offensive and shocking- depending on your mood. One thing you cannot deny though, is his honestly.

I caught up to him between recording sessions to talk about his upcoming release "The Middle Passage". In this interivew we talk about everything from the weakness in the Democratic Party, the recent comments by The Pope on Islam, Immigration and Barack Obama. If you finish this interivew and you ain't angry- read it again.

AB: With just a few albums, you have pretty much become Public Enemy, Tupac and Fat Joe rolled into one man. How did that happen?

IT: I never ran around with the assumption that I was the best rapper in the world, people can respect me as a lyricist but those that know my business mind and my street tactics here in NYC respect me for that just as much as they do for rhyming. Nowadays everyone rhymes, but not everyone can present themselves the way they want to be seen, a label always skews that because at the end of the day it's not your vision, it belongs to someone else.

I take great pains to run a very tight ship, as Captain I see myself responsible for the things that go right and wrong although everyone is personally responsible for their actions, if the tour or the political mission is to be successful it is a

question of my organizational skills and the will of the troops. I am always considered to be a very outspoken person but I think people fail to realize that if I was broke and my crew didn't run the way we do this would be impossible.

It's a sad reality here in America, but it also details that anything you get in this life you have to fight for. I definitely had to fight and be ruthless about my uncompromising approach to music to get my position now and I don't think that this fighting will end, in fact I think it has just begun.

AB: You are a powerful, very visual lyricist. Tell me about how you cultivate that aspect of your rhymes.

IT: Some people started getting serious about rapping when they were in college or just on the street with their friends on the corner. I could always rhyme since I was a child but I didn't take it serious until I was in prison or trying to get a job upon my release. Sometimes in the hole in the bowels of the facility I couldn't see the outside world so I was forced to draw a picture of it from a cell that was shut off to me. The being released to what I thought was freedom but economic incarceration made me question what we physically see as reality even more.

But more than just that I some times travel back to my homeland to Peru and I see a whole other dimension of poverty.

It elevated the stakes for me. I always wanted to go to Africa and see where my grandfather and his side of the family came from, to see the land for myself rather than just observe it through Hollywood's eyes.

I think that after I have a chance to see the Middle East and Africa for myself I will become stronger as a lyricist than I have ever been before. Because I write about life I experience and as well as things I read and learn about.

But lyrics are just one aspect of doing this, there is the heart and soul that you have to pour into your work and also something I've been refining lately, the cadence and the deliver. Some people have one of these things I have mentioned and a few have two. Very few have all of them and can still take care of themselves and stand as a man in this world.

Being a lyricist doesn't make you a good all around rapper in this day and age, it is one of the main things you needed to be respected in the 80's and 90's but now it is simply a detail. I view it as essential but it is just one weapon in the war we fight now.

AB: What are your thoughts on the Democratic Party and their inability to effectively mobilize themselves, young people and minorities in general?

IT: Both parties are actually weak, the news media presents a scandal on Republicans and their corruption and quickly will point to a similar occurrence among Democrats. The reality is as disorganized, weak and fragmented and tired as the Democratic party is the Republican party is too.

That is why they are presently involved in cultivating the next generation of people that are out there in the world. They are trying their hardest to instill values of theirs in a younger generation.

The Conservative agenda does a very good job of effeminizing the view of liberals, as the champions of abortion, of gay rights and the "Anti-War" stance, they are forced to fight on a battlefield where the language has been designed by someone who already has their verbal artillery in place. Unfortunately we cannot go about redefining words and the ideas they represent and simultaneously win elections.

It would be like stating that Africans, and Indigenous people are the real Blacks and Latinos, while this may be scientific truth to some degree, if you wrote it on the posters it would not carry in their own neighborhoods.

If you tried to heal Latino peoples racism and Black people's self identity while running a mud slinging campaign you would get bogged down in a war with several fronts. Even a two front war is difficult to contend with. Not even the military genius of Napoleon or the German War machine could conquer it and America and Russia had enough trouble with Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

However illogical we think it is, it is man's nature to war. You cannot argue with 130,000 years of homosapien existence, the stronger more powerful, better man wins. That is the lesson history teaches us and when we are unwilling to face that we look like cowards. But the truth is that conservatives manipulate these views better than Democrats do in order to win elections, and to manufacture of a general consensus to their agenda.

After all who would a young child- especially a young Black or Latino child emulate? A rich and successful business man with connections to large businesses? Or an apologetic ambiguously heterosexual person that is defined by their desire to exterminate human life, before birth, and their inability to commit to a war when we are under attack as a Nation.

This is done so well that when you bring up healthcare and race relations it's such an overblown topic. No one attacks it at the source of terrorism, of health, no one attacks the birth of the idea of race. In talking to the American public like they are children they will never understand the true nature of the festering wound. You're trying to to put a hello kitty band aid over in a speech. So the preconceived notions about these different political positions sticks, even though there are just as many gay Republicans as there are democrats or any other political allegiance.

Even though neither party official would like to send their child to war, or see another September 11th. We constantly see the church used as a political tool but neither party wishes to address the deep rooted hypocrisy in it not just the simple surface of child molestation for fear of losing votes.

People don't get into politics to change things, they just want to survive make money and stay in power, and that negates all other abilities. For that reason they are not gaining ground.

Truth is there is a war for freedom. The war for our children's freedom, everyday in the schools, in big cities and it starts with the psychological development of children. Their cognitive skills as babies, to their impulse control as toddlers and their ability to read and process information instead of memorizing and reiterating as elementary students.

I don't know any Democratic candidate who wants to kill babies, they also don't want our soldiers to kill people unnecessarily and be killed themselves either but the life of 1 white American is more important to the American media than 1000 dead Arabs. Democrats have not consolidated the problems with this country past a few talking points during a debate. It doesn't require them to turn radically to the left in order to do so.

Remember something. Democracy was created with a prophetic vision to control capitalism and all other systems that require totalitarian rule, in order to reap the most benefits for those who sit in power. A true Democracy can balance that, we don't live in that model though and Democrats cannot make that argument.

So if Democrats win the house or the senate in 2006 it is not because they won, it is because the Republicans lost.

AB: You have been doing a lot of work in LA and in Watsonville recently with the Brown Berets. Tell me about what do you've been doing in those areas and why it's important.

IT: The history of the Brown Berets is a long one. One that dates back to when Latino people especially the

Indigenous majority (and not the 15% of our population that looks white that we see on television) were slaves here. We had even less rights in the 60's than we do now. We were not just mocked, and not targeted on TV by people complaining about illegal aliens. We were brutalized evermore in real life.

Some people chose to be activists, to hold rallies and s*** like that, but they chose to go to the streets and change the ghetto rather than relying on the government to do so. Some people criticize the idea that appealing to government can change anything, while others think that only a Martin Luther King Jr. approach can be successful.

But truthfully we need to work inside and outside of the system, so they are both necessary. If we were colonized on so many different levels and so many different dimensions how can we win if we just choose to fight with only one form of resistance.

Our enslavement was built on the pillars or religion, self identification in terms of race and history, economic principles, relationships with our women, our scientific advancement and the politics which defined our people.

How can we think that just one belief like Christianity or one political system like socialism, or one thing like Hip Hop could set us free. Our fight must be on several fronts. The Brown Berets and others like that once exemplified that for us. People like them and the Young Lords and the Black Panthers.

They started in the hood, in the street, and they were not Marxist scholars or Cuban Economists, they were not Colombian Guerillas or even the most refined members of society. They were regular street niggaz, who Revolutionized their existence and changed the courses of their lives and in doing so became the most sought after by the government.

This was for one reason only, they provided an alternative to simply addressing grievances in a traditional way, unfortunately we are reaching that level

now where we must stop being care free and to care for our own survival. The future will demand serious Rebels and not happy go lucky activists. That's why I resent that title whenever short sighted people call me that.

We have set up a Migra Watch Network in the greater Bay Area so that we can monitor the economic action behind their raids and who is supporting them besides the government funds. What politicians, are supporting this, without this information and the legwork that goes behind a simple actions such as this we are just a social club. This is real Revolution. It's not a movie, and it's not always drama, it's tedious hard work, that's reality.

AB: You have also been doing a lot to push for more Black and Brown unity. Recently, especially in LA, there have been some serious clashes between Black and Latinos and throughout California in the prison populations. What will it take to get a handle on these types of incidents to create a more positive future?

IT: I grew up in Harlem and I always had friends who were both Black and Latino but even on the East Coast the idea of Latinos used to be very different than it is on the West. On the West Coast since the majority of people are Mexican you can't get away with talking reckless about them without consequence.

Here when I grew up it was Puerto Ricans who were in the majority who were followed by Dominicans and it was only recently that Mexicans have come to endanger that majority. But numbers do not equal strength for many have been enslaved by few before, just look at South Africa. We share a history of common enslavement yet we as a people were conquered. Made to be divided by racial ideas so that the white population could control us. Please don't be naïve to think it just worked itself out this way, it is by design.

It is hard to imagine Black and Brown Unity when there is no such thing as Black and Black Unity, or Brown and Brown Unity. Some argue against this idea saying whites commit crimes against each other even certain white ethnicities target each other, which is true. But we are not in the same position as them.

We live in an economic prison. You can walk away from a fight on the street, but it is much harder to walk away from one in prison. All the gangs that were formed, either by Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans, Blacks, or any other immigrants or forced immigrants are the only reason they began to have any respect in the streets.

But only certain ethnicities had the racial benefit of being able to advance themselves beyond that into the acceptable sectors of society and the industries of America where power could be consolidated. We have forgotten that there is a world beyond the streets, that there is a dimension of existence where race matters less and money matters more.

We are blind to that because we have no knowledge of self, we have no historical context to what we have accomplished so rather than seeing each other as a people who have done great things through the course of history we still look each other through the eyes of the people that enslaved us, through that ancient hatred.

And not only that, but the sad truth is that we look at our brothers through the same lens. We fight over scraps, and while some criticize that, you would fight over scraps to if you were starving and you didn't realize who had been eating your food this whole time.

It almost doesn't make sense how a people who once controlled their own destiny and ruled half North America, Central America, South America and Africa could fall so far. Look at us now.

AB: Recently, the Pope made some remarks about Islam that set of a series of violent events across the planet. Then he reframed his remarks and began a more direct dialogue with some of the Muslim community. What do you make of that entire fiasco?

IT: The Pope is not a fool. But I have a concerted belief that he takes the rest of the world to be compromised of such people. Why else would he quote such a ridiculous statement? And it is not the idea in his implication that Islam was rooted in violence that we have to speak on.

That would have been easy to address seeing as how Christianity is a very violent religion itself. It was his choice of example that makes him all the more disingenuous to me. And all of you who never read about the 4th Crusade were played like a fool by his eminence the ruler of a religion.

See, Pope Benedict chose to quote a man called Manuel Paleologus II who was born in 1350 and became emperor of the Byzantine Empire a few decades later. His quote was to say that the Prophet Mohammed only brought evil things, and I laughed at his hypocrisy, not because of the violence and evil that Christianity brought to the Americas or too Africa but just at the fact that less than a century before Manuel II was born the Byzantine Empire as he knew it didn't even exist.

While it once flourished and extended across present day Greece and Turkey when he ruled it was just comprised of 3 city states. Constantinople and half the empire was once snatched from the Byzantines and ruled by a succession of Crusaders. It was called the Latin Empire, look it up. What's even more ridiculous is that this all occurred during and after the 4th Crusade in 1204 when the Knights and Nobility of the Holy Roman Empire acting in the name of the Pope set out on their quest to "liberate" Damascus" and "Jerusalem".

The reality of what ended up happening was something that sounds fictitious until you read history. The Crusaders during that 4th Holy excursion did not achieve any "liberation" of the sort, in fact the only thing they accomplished was the sacking of two cities and the destruction of an Empire. And what's worse both of those cities were Christian and the empire was a Christian one as well.

The cities they sacked were Zara and Constantinople, where it is documented that besides the murder of innocent civilians who had not attacked them, the Crusaders were committing mass rapes that included children and nuns, they ran the streets red with blood and burned half the city to the ground. They also were said to have stole various religious artifacts including the Spear of Destiny, the Crown of Thorns, and pieces of the actual Cross upon where Christ was crucified. All in the name of collecting a debt of 200,000 Silver Marks from a prince who promised it to them as well as the subjugation of the Greek Orthodox Church under the Catholic Pope.

The Pope at the time didn't want to seem powerless and although it is unclear whether it was done at his specific order with a few written complaints to hide his true goal he did crown the empire and give it legitimacy. So when you look at this in context how can a Byzantine Emperor's quote be used when his empire as a whole was destroyed and then loosely constructed again a skeleton of it's former self because of the Siege created by Christian Troops themselves.

Only 2 rulers before him separated his reign from that of the Popes own Crusaders that overthrew his nation. Perhaps in that time there were more problems with Muslims but it certainly doesn't annul the history attributed to the situation.

It would be equivalent of quoting Jefferson Davis a slightly known figure in our history 500 years from now and use his quote to speak about equality.

The 4th Crusade ladies and gentlemen, you can only laugh at things like this because it is said history repeats itself twice, the first time as a tragedy and the second time as a comedy because it's funny that muthafuckaz don't see it happening again.

The Pope proves this to be true, and all the subjects of the kingdom of ignorance missed what lesson it proved, we know nothing of our own history and are doomed to repeat it.

AB: What do you think are the top three things America should be concerned with and what do you feel the most immediate steps taken to cure them?

IT: The Environment, Education and the War of Terrorism is what we need to address. We need to understand that this world as we know it is dying and life will have to either genetically altered or there will have to be population control in order for us to survive as a species. Without a complete reverse in our policies that concern the planet we will become extinct.

Education is important and not just buying books but updating the information that is inside them, and making not just intelligent design available if people really request that but Ahteism which is it's true counterpart (Not Evolution) a part of curriculum in study. Also make the history of Africa available, the history of racism Available, the history of South America, the history of Communism, and the history of the Crusades Available make this reality that we live in now available and then maybe people wouldn't get away with being able to put these outlandish statements out.

Some say they are available, true they are if you are capable of paying an average of $23,000 a year to go to college. Many Americans are not, especially the Black and Brown ones.

And when it comes to the war on terrorism we need to understand the cause of terrorism and follow the paper trail on who is making all the money off this war. After all if it such a patriotic achievement then why aren't these American companies working for less?

It is not just patriotism that motivates them as much as it is greed and the ability to manipulate the media. Without changing the nature of this war it will never be winnable beyond some ceremonial token victory in order to cover up for the largest money laundering scheme in human existence.

Terrorism is real and it does need to be addressed, but without understanding where it comes from and attributing such college bumper sticker philosophies like, "they hate our freedom" or "they want to kill us all" the answer will be lost to us in the simplicity of distracting rhetoric.

AB: On the song, "You Never Know" you talk about how you met a girl you dated who died from AIDS after a blood transfusion. It was a powerful song that almost brings me to tears every time I hear it. Is that a true story?

IT: While Dance with the Devil is a true story in that it happened, except for my actual participation in the rape itself.

You Never Know was much more of a story that was based on several things in my life that I wrote over the course of 4 years. I lost people, lost love, I lost my freedom, I lost my direction and in losing all that I found what I already had and what I needed to continue to fight for.

I took all these things that happened to me and I put them in a song out of chronological order to make it into a comprehensive story that centered around physical love because very often that is the only kind that we can see and recognize. It speaks on many topics, our Black and Brown women dying of AIDS, our prison system, the difficulties in adjusting to a world we left behind, and the idea that love is worth so much more than the moment.

AB: Right now, you have a lot of people waiting on the new release "The Middle Passage". When can people expect that LP to drop and what should they expect from it when it arrives?

IT: It is a brutal continuation of the previous work I have done in the past but it was designed to address the problems that we face now in America and around the world. It is much more street too, the flow is stronger and I'm 4 years older so my voice in a little deeper.

Overall I think it shows the progress that I have achieved. It is coming in 2007. Aside from the album I also have a Mixtape coming out before hand and that one will be just as raw. Get ready.

AB: When the song "Bin Laden" dropped, I thought I'd see you getting snatched up for a bid at Guantanamo Bay. How do you feel that song was received overall? Also, is there a limit to how hard you'll push the political envelope?

IT: No limit, I will not pull punches with this administration the one that comes after it or any other political perspective that I face. I don't fear having my politics attacked because I know that nothing I say is out of hatred. It is built on the need for change and not just on the surface. I say things critically so that people will take them to better things not just to tear people apart if America which has a great deal of ideological freedom and systems to protect the poor and the working class can be salvaged then why not die trying. If not then we have accepted the future the way people who just seek to profit from her death have envisioned.

AB: What do you think of Barack Obama?

IT: Honestly? Smart man, means well, token loser if he runs in 2008.

AB: Any last words?

IT: I thank you for the opportunity to speak my mind and I will continue to do so until the that I die. Check out Support the albums and the T-shirts. Also look me up at join us if your already on here.

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