Throughout history, music has served as a mobilizing technique, from anti-war songs such as Stevie Wonder's "Front Line" to "War" by Bob Marley and the Wailers. The people have always been hungry for the truth. It seems fitting, then, that Immortal Technique's new project, The Martyr, could serve as the soundtrack for the #Occupy movement across the country.
Free speech and hip-hop are not strangers for rapper and political activist Immortal Technique. To this day, he has maintained his artistic independence, refusing to become a slave to the multi-billion dollar global music industry. Technique's announcement of his new album was returned with a gusto that left the message boards buzzing. He is back, with a refined voice and same clear message: The system DOES NOT work, and we must do something about it. This eerily echos the timely sentiment of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has claimed the streets across the country as "Our Streets."
So as "Ain't no power like the power of the people 'cuz the power of the people don't stop" is chanted through the streets, the lyrical firepower of Immortal Technique won't stop either. In his first single, "Toast to the Dead," he states "I will never let an Eyedea die with a man." Music as a voice of dissent is the immortal technique and will live on forever.
Gimme Noise: What is the significance of your free project The Martyr?
Immortal Technique: The compilation album, street mixtape, free project, however people choose to categorize it, is a collection of previously unreleased tracks of mine from the past couple of years. It also includes some new music that I have been working on which I felt was very much representative of what is going on in the world and in America right now. One or two of [the tracks] I thought would make it on The Middle Passage, but as you will see, there are some aspects to the music that would have made clearing them impossible.
So who is 'the martyr?'
The significance of calling it [The Martyr] was not a search for a 'glorious or vainglorious death,' but rather to show the willingness to leave one part of my life behind and start a new Revolutionary life. Within The Martyr, selfishness, ego and vanity have to slowly die. And when that happens, the closest thing to God within us awakens.
Has your work been influenced by the recent Occupy Wall Street movement? If so, how do you hope this contributes to the movement?
I had this plan in place well before the movement became public, so this process has become very organic. My decision was split on how to proceed with some of these songs, and when I saw how the public was in such an uproar, finally, I hoped they will listen and realize how much is attached to that genuine holy anger, that justified frustration within the album. I am very supportive of the Occupy Wall Street movement and I want to see them hold the people who were raking in money hand over fist, and cheating people of their homes, be held accountable. I would like to see fundamental changes to our Republic- perhaps some more representative democracy.
We've seen you on the streets protesting in New York City. What message do you have for those holding it down at Occupy MN at the People's Plaza?
Don't give up, I know that it is cold and winter is coming, but if we leave our young republic in the hands of the people that have mismanaged it, then we will just continue to proceed towards oblivion. This protest isn't about liberal or conservative politics. At the core, it's about being held accountable for what you do. It's about standing up for your rights, not only as a citizen, but as a human being. The New York Occupiers are already making Wall Street very nervous. I know that you will also have an affect, but you can not be infiltrated or turn against one another. Let not political factions, the demand of nitpicking words, and the small differences divide you. Always remember that you are there to remind the people that are in power, that their responsibility is not to leech off the system, or to fund an extravagant lifestyle that they desperately try to convince the rest of the world we can share a piece of. But rather, to be responsible for the decisions they make, and to be accountable for the corruption they have taken part in. No longer can service to the government be an excuse for leniency. If anything, they should receive a harsher sentence for their crimes since they know the law better than anyone else. For those who walk past the protests with cynicism and condescension, ask yourself, "What have you ever done to make this country a better place?" If you're in the military, you swore to protect America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. How many American homes did Al-Qaeda destroy in the last 2 or 3 years? How many homes has a the baking system corrupted by illegally snatched from people? How many veterans have seen benefits slowly disappear? How many times has the media tried to distract us from what the real question is with irrelevance? We need your help. Don't just walk out on the future of this country.
You have over a dozen collaborators on this project. What are some memorable moments as this project came together?
The last-minute contributions from the legendary Chuck D and working with a few people for the first time that I respect and am friends with. People like Vinnie Paz, Brother Ali, Styles P and Killer Mike, all of whom I know and have hung out with, toured or traveled with, but just never made any music with. Of course, the addition of my nephew on the "Goonies" track with Diabolic and Swave Sevah was just outright hilarious to me. We had to work to edit my laughter out of his vocals in the background. He didn't hear any of the music though 'cuz it's full of curses. But he played his role well...You'll see. Also, I always knew Poison Pen was a great host/MC but I had no idea he could put a hook together like that. So, it was a fun time.
Should fans expect that you will be performing new material off of the The Martyr on your upcoming tour, starting Saturday?
Yes. I'll be performing a few songs from The Martyr, particularly the joint produced by J.Dilla called "Toast to the Dead" which is already well beyond 200,000 downloads in 3 days. If you're reading this go burn it off the internet. It's not stealing when it's free.
When will you be returning to the Twin Cities? We've missed you since Soundset '09!
I love Minneapolis, I even thought about buying a house out there once upon a time. I used to go there a lot with someone I really loved, so while I have great, beautiful memories, sometimes they are somber and reflective. And yet, I think there is no way I could ever let anything remove me from one of the bastions of Hip Hop in America, so I'll be back soon. I have a long history with Minnesota: Slug from Atmosphere randomly saw me on the street in New York City almost 9 years ago and bought Revolutionary Vol.1 from me. He said "Dance with the Devil" really bugged him out at first. [laughs]. I did my first major tour with Brother Ali and I first battled Eyedea (RIP) to a tie at Rocksteady 2000. Even though he eventually won the battle in overtime, we remained friends and used to freestyle and talk about life whenever I saw him. Whenever I see Jordan or Felipe, we laugh and reminisce about those times I used to pack my own CDs in a box and mail them out to the Fifth Element before I had any real distribution. So, as you see, Minneapolis is a big part of my growth, from angry young kid fresh on parole, to a Revolutionary man.
1. Burn This
2. The Martyr Produced by Southpaw
3. Angels & Demons (feat. dead prez and Bazaar Royale) produced by Dj GreenLantern
4. Rich Man's World (1%) produced by Shuko
5. Toast to the Dead produced by J.Dilla ... Cuts by Dj GreenLantern
6. Eyes in the Sky (feat. Mojo of Dujeous) produced by Southpaw
7. Goonies (feat. Diabolic, Swave Sevah & Gomez) produced by Southpaw
8. Natural Beauty (feat. Mela Machinko) produced by Slimfass
9. Running Nowhere - interlude produced by Southpaw
10. Civil War (feat. Killer Mike, Brother Ali & Chuck D) produced by Southpaw
11. Mark of The Beast (feat. Akir & Beast 1333) with cuts by DJ DP One produced by The Molemen
12. Black Vikings (feat. StylesP, Vinnie Paz & Poison Pen) produced by Southpaw
13. Conquerors (with Dr. John Henrik Clarke) produced by Engineer
14. Young Lords (feat. Joell Ortiz, Pumpkinhead, CF & Panama Alba) produced by Southpaw
15. Ultimas Palabras produced by Immortal Technique and Southpaw
16. Sign of the Times (feat. Cetan Wanbli, Lockjaw Nakai & Cornel West) Produced by Southpaw