Immortal Technique: ‘I’m seen as a threat to the status quo of hip-hop’ (Participation)

Reaction; thoughts?  Why is he a threat and what does this tell us?

Immortal Technique: ‘I’m seen as a threat to the status quo of hip-hop’

The reality rapper on conspiracies, the presidential race, the industry’s flaws and his many run-ins with the US government

Voice of conscience … Immortal Technique

Voice of conscience … Immortal Technique

Felipe Andres Coronel, aka Immortal Technique, is more than just an underground hip-hop legend – he’s an activist, humanitarian and a revolutionist. Born in Peru and raised in Harlem, New York, the 34-year-old has struck a chord with those seeking an alternative voice in hip-hop. He represents a thorn in the side of the mainstream with his messages about class struggle, religion, government and institutional racism.

He is currently touring the UK and will be performing with Lowkey – a British hip-hop artist and activist – at a sold-out Electric Brixton tonight.

What are the themes of your music?

A better response is: go on the internet and steal all my music and listen to it. If it speaks to you, then feel free to support me. But if you want a real answer to that question, I’d say that the music I make is very personal, passionate and tells a story of sacrifice. There are a lot of historical and political references. People ask me: ‘Why do you rap about politics?’ I’ve always tried to reflect real life in my music and go beyond the experience of the inner-city ghetto of America. I like to have multiple dimensions in my music.

What do you make of Lowkey and the political/conscious hip-hop scene in the UK?

It’s a very positive thing to have multiple dimensions to any hip-hop scene. So I always think the voice of reason is great to have. People such as Lowkey and Akala rap about real life. Reality rap is what I call it. I think the UK has a rich culture of immigrants who are coming from Africa and Asia and share experiences that are so unique, it’s only right that they document it and recount their struggles too. Without that diversity you’re going to end up like we did in the States, and I hope that never happens. We are fighting a real guerrilla war in America in terms of getting independent music out, getting out music with a message. They are resisting. We’ve found a home-base to fight from in the jungle. They’ve found it too hard to wipe us out; we’re not going anywhere.

Who is resisting and why are they doing it?

It’s more the industry. There are forces within the industry who like very much what I do. Why? Because it’s a money-maker. It’s more people who see the music I make as a threat to the status quo of hip-hop. They don’t want people to hear about Palestine, slavery or torture. They want us to just dance and sing and smile and pretend that the world is OK. They believe hip-hop is sheer entertainment. Entertainment can be used for many things: to inspire and educate but also to pacify, to keep people stupid and preoccupied with things that aren’t important.

Where does the anger in your music come from?

I think it’s righteous fury. If someone shot your mother you’d be angry, right? But would you be wrong for being angry? No. I’ve heard people criticise me for the most ridiculous things, calling my music abrasive. If you’re troubled by the words I speak, then you should probably hang yourself because the world is going to tear you apart or is too real for you to accept. I’m not offended by fuck, shit, pussy, dick, motherfucker. You know what I’m offended by? I’m offended by seeing a child in Gaza who has had his skin burned off by white phosphorus. I’m offended by seeing the graves of civilians that are there because they are the “collateral damage” of a drone strike in Afghanistan or Pakistan. I’m offended when I see people perverting Christianity, Islam or Judaism for their own political purposes so they can justify taking land or killing people in the name of something.

How have you evolved as an artist since your first album, Revolutionary Vol 1?

I just used to write rhymes in my mind and then I tried to find beats to fit them. By Vol 2 I was mastering and perfecting the flow and by The Third World album my flow had a developed a lot more. I had to learn to breathe with my diaphragm rather than my lungs. I learned to expand my arms so I get the extra 10% of breath that opera singers do when they sing. I had to go to a breathing coach, and there is no shame in that. If [rapping] is your instrument, learn how to use it.

Who are your musical influences?

Most of my lyrical influences came from people who didn’t really do hip-hop. Like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali – people who I thought were incredible speakers. But in terms of rap, I’m talking KRS-One, Ice Cube, Chuck D, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Big Punisher, Lord Finesse, DITC.

What was involved in making the 2011 documentary film The [R]evolution of Immortal Technique, and what did you learn?

That I hate documentaries about my life but at the same time I loved making this. It was a seven-year-long project. We went everywhere. We did hip-hop shows from one corner of the Earth to another.

What places hit you the most?

Afghanistan in terms of seeing struggle, poverty and strife. But in Haiti after the earthquake, I saw some of the worst conditions in my life. I saw a 10-year-old girl who had become the surrogate mother of all these little three- and four-year-old girls whose parents had perished. She was feeding them and giving them water so they wouldn’t die. That is a 10-year-old girl! There were four or five families in one tent. When I went to Peru I saw a 10-year-old girl prostituting herself on the street. That affects you differently.

What do you make of Obama’s first term as president?

Why are we held prisoner by this two-party system when neither of them represents the true values of America? Romney’s position is fairly deceptive. Obama painted him as a man who will say anything to get elected. That’s what Romney is. Romney said he wasn’t anti-abortion when he was governor of Massachusetts, then when he was running for the Republican party he is the most anti-abortion guy in the world. He said he would start a war with Iran but when he realised the economic and political reality of starting another war and how much America is against it, he began mirroring Obama’s policy.

What should the world expect if Romney becomes president?

I think he would make it end up looking like [George W] Bush’s third term as president. Obama is still a war president. He didn’t shut down Guantánamo Bay; he deported more people than Bush did; he supposedly ended the war in Iraq just to expand in Afghanistan; he signed the National Defence Authorisation Act, which is very draconian. I have a lot of problems in actively supporting someone like that.

In your song Point of No Return you say the government is after you. How much truth is in that?

I’ve definitely had a lot of run-ins with the government. They have tried to do my father for taxes; they thought I was hiding money with him. I have had my passport confiscated and have been questioned by Homeland Security upon coming home – not from Afghanistan but anywhere in the world.

Do you see yourself making music forever?

In some capacity yes, but the soul has to develop in some form. I like writing books, stories and essays – I may do that. I use to teach ancient history in prison for children. I found a lot of gratification in that because I saw people’s lives turn around.

Your lyrics contain a lot of religious messages. What does religion mean to you and do you follow a faith?

If I told people I was a Muslim, people wouldn’t say: “Wow, that’s wonderful you’ve found inner peace in your life by embracing Islam.” They’d ask: “What type of Muslim are you? Are you one of them fucking Wahabbi, Sunnite, Salafi psycho-niggas? Are you down with Hezbollah and them?” If I told people I was Jewish, they’d ask: “Do you support Israel and do you support the colonisation of Palestine?” It’s irrelevant whether you call yourself a Christian, Muslim or Jew because if you don’t reflect that in your life, you aren’t that at all. I have always been hounded by people about it; people try and pry it out of me. I believe in God and have a faith that’s very personal to me. That faith is between me and God. We have polarised religion, rather than it being a personal reflection of your relationship with God and how you communicate with God. I’d rather be friends with a good atheist than a bad religious person. Your religion is suppose to ennoble you, but if all it makes you do is become contemptuous of other people, or make you say other people are going to hell, your religion has failed you, or rather, you have failed your religion.

What struggles do you face with being a “reality rap” artist and people trying to pinpoint any sort of hypocrisy in your life?

I don’t shy away from anything. As human beings, we’re all works in progress. If I can get some constructive criticism, you’re helping me grow as a human being. Sometimes I realise I need to grow. It happened with me trying to take the word bitch more out of my music. I’m not a “gay-rights champion”, but if I’m going to talk about people being oppressed in my music, then aren’t some people oppressed if they don’t have the right to marry the person they want in a society that’s supposed to be free? They shouldn’t be punished by a government because of the way they are born.

Do you feel a lot of your music is about conspiracies?

I wouldn’t call it conspiracy. I would suggest people research – for example when I said Bin Laden was part of the CIA and people said “that’s not true”. There was a poll in the US and it showed less than 15% knew Bin Laden knew was employed by US. When people say it’s a conspiracy I welcome the criticism, because the music I make is backed by historical facts. I’m not afraid to be wrong or debate it. I won’t allow people to marginalise my music.

What do you do in your spare time?

Read, sleep, work out, box, spend time with people I love.

Why do you use the N-word so frequently?

I would say I use it less frequently than I have before. I have made a conscious decision to replace it in the music I make. I understand a lot of people have used that word to express camaraderie. In the States we remade the word to be something that reflected unity among ourselves. I think it was a confidence-builder and a way of showing that hip-hop could supersede any of the stereotypes thrown on top of them. The only problem is that when it became corporatised, someone else decided what those stereotypes would be replaced with.

Will you continue to use the word?

I think eventually I will have to phase it out. I don’t want to be 50 years old and yelling to my children like that. I think what people need to keep in mind is the way individuals are introduced to that word is incredibly unique for everybody’s experience. There is a certain power in reclaiming language.

Do you ever see yourself starting a family?

I was born with the disease I inherited from my father – it’s called responsibility. It prevents me from dropping seeds in random women and not taking care of children like a man should. When it’s time for me to have a family, I intend to dedicate my life to that. It’s hard to juggle that as an artist and a revolutionary.

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9 thoughts on “Immortal Technique: ‘I’m seen as a threat to the status quo of hip-hop’ (Participation)

  1. Immortal Technique has always been a completely different kind of hip hop artist to me. His subjects he uses in his music are both unique and somewhat debilitating to him. He is unique in that he speaks as a revolutionary. He is educated about real-world problems and uses those issues to evolve in his music. His music has taught me a lot about issues I did not know of or did not understand. He is also different because he doesn’t just speak of illnesses in our society, he actually takes action to educate others and eradicate social injustices. While these qualities make him and his music stand out, it also hinders his popularity. Non-hip hop heads don’t want to hear about children starving and being raped in third world countries. No, they want to hear about the “riches and bitches” that come with fame. So, to bring the realism that Immortal does, it scares a lot of people, makes them uncomfortable. The truth that he uncovers in his music is a threat to mainstream hip hop. If listeners start getting educated and realize that all the hype isn’t what hip hop is really about, they’ll start listening to what they’re hearing and want more Immortal songs over a 2chainz track. That is scary for the industry because the industry doesn’t know how to conform and produce that type of meaningful stuff. Not only is Immortal a threat to the industry, but he uncovers truth that shows the “American dream” is not all apple pies and red, white, and blue. He reveals injustices that are happening right outside our doorstep. Making music that pushes people to realize these truths is, in a sense, un-American, and that challenges what most people were brought up on.

  2. The first track that I had ever heard from Immortal Technique was ‘Dance With the Devil’. Just seconds into the song, and I knew right then and there that Immortal Technique was different from all others. The music he makes is personal to him. Rather than rapping about ‘making it rain on hoes’, he talks about issues such as politics and religion. He believes in rapping about real life or reality rap as he likes to call it. He challenges himself to go beyond the experience of the inner-city ghetto of America, which most rappers do not. Mainstream hip-hop, particularly rap, just regurgitates that same things over and over again. Rappers are always talking about money, cars, and women, oh I mean bitches. They aren’t talking about the genocide happening around the world. Immortal, aka Felipe, describes independent music as Geurrilla Warfare. It’s not that people don’t want to hear it, it’s more about the music industry pushing the music they think will sell. Hip-hop is viewed as being one dimensional and that is for entertainment only. But in reality it can be used as a vehicle for activism. Mainstream may view Felipe as a threat simply because he scares them. The authenticity and realism that he puts into his music goes against the majority mainstream hip-hop. The truth that he spits is ultimately why he is viewed as this threat. I think that this is exactly what the industry needs. Real music, about real issues. I’m tired of content consisting of “ASS, ASS, ASS, ASS”. It’s time for a change.

    • I completely agree with you on all of this. I feel that the Music Industry, a place heavily tied with governmental entities, may not want to put some of these songs out because they may create too much attention and cause anti-government overthrow and revolution, something Immortal Technique stands for, but they have no faith in the possibility of a peaceful reform once all are educated on the issues in his rap. This may be due to Hip-Hop being seen as a violent entity. But you are right, the industry still would resist to put this out because sad and depressing lyrics “won’t sell” from their perception. Or possibly, could that be their public statement as to why they don’t play these riotous and anti-governmental artists when it is really fear of revolution?

    • Like you, the first song that I heard from Immortal Technique was “Dance with the Devil” that song sent chills down my spine. I had never heard a song before with such strong content. I agree with you, he is authentic and although, the content that he raps about is in some respect disturbing, it is real to the reality of which he lived and lives. He’s a threat because we’re afraid of the truth. The truth is both enlightening and scary. It’s much easier to enjoy and listen to rappers who have nothing to say because ultimately they do not leave lasting impressions on us that challenge who we currently are.

  3. Immortal Technique stands out a lot to me because he not only speaks the truth but does it in a way that you feel the pain he is speaking of in his songs. A song he did that really stuck out to me was his song “Bin Laden”. In the song he talks a lot about the hot topics of politics today and does so in these lyrics. “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”. A lot of rappers today when they are talking about the government they just say f*** the government and f*** the police but really in their lyrics there is no true sign that they actually know anything about politics. I think Immortal Technique is a threat because what he raps about is the truth and he presents it in an educated manner. I think he is a lot like rapper Lupe Fiasco in a way because they both try to focus on political issues in America, Immortal Technique however is much more critical and uses far more explicit lyrics. It doesn’t surprise me to hear that the government has been targeting Immortal Technique because due to his success he could pose as a threat. I think this is interesting that they would pick him out as opposed to other rappers that continually talk about gang banging, drugs, sex, and killing. It is because he is rapping about something with substance, and lyrics that talk about what is going on in the world. Immortal Technique can fuel a intellectual revolution with his music and can make people truly think about if what the government does is good for our country.

  4. Immortal Technique is in his own category as far as his messages and lyrical content. His lyrics are so deep and powerful, with each sentence comes with such raw emotion, it is easy to see the pain he has dealt with in his life in each of his words. There arent many rappers who are “revolutionaries” as Immortal Technique is. He makes a conscious effort to undermine what people see as the mainstream, and the music “industry”, and government. He isnt afraid to voice his opinions in his music as he says himself when talking about Bin Laden being in the CIA. What makes him special in my eyes is his choice to be a “reality rapper” meaning that instead of rapping about commodoties and materialistic fantasies, he raps about current issues in politics, social and religious conflict, topics that can educate people and start an “underground revolution”. Another special thing about immortal technique is that even tho he raps about things that the industry and government might not want to hear, his lyrics, punch lines, delivery, and rhythym are amazing. The emotion in his delivery can be compared to that of DMX or Tupac and that is a special thing for a rapper. Immortal Technique is a threat to the status quo of hip hop because compared to most mainstream rappers these days immortal technique is so far ahead of them in almost every category, rhyme skill, delivery, emotion, contenet, being able to freestyle. I truly think Immortal Technique is in a league of his own, there arent many rappers like him. If Any.

  5. Immortal Technique is considered as one of the leading underground hip-hop artists of today. What makes him stand out from other hip-hop artists is that he is so so different from what we are used to hearing on the radio. He uses his craft and medium to speak out about social issues of today. Often he uses his life experiences , current events, religion and politics as basis of his songs. He considers himself a “reality rap” artist and often raps about subjects that most mainstream rappers wouldn’t even dare rap about. A song of his titled “Dance with the Devil” is brilliantly written song about a young man’s self-destructive ways. Full of religious references and opinions about our society it was one memorable single I will never forget. Never have I listened to a more complex story telling in a rap song than “Dance with the Devil” and made me believe that Immortal Technique is a very rare kind of rapper. As more kids discover him and other reality rappers out there it’ll be interesting enough if more will follow down that road and make more “conscious” hip-hop music.

  6. Immortal Technique is an artist is isn’t afraid to speak what is on his mind, at all. He seems to be a threat to the game because he’s a unique artist who speaks about what really matters. In the interview, he was asked what his themes of his music were, he replied that his music involves ‘personal, passionate, and tells a story of sacrifice’. Also, when asked who his musical influences were, he noted that Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, no hip-hop artists, had influenced him; would any other rapper say the same thing? Already, you can conclude that he is not like other artists in the sense of what he talks about. Unlike other artists who rap about materialistic things, Immortal Technique actually travels to parts in the world where there have been tragedies (like Afghanistan and Haiti). He is seen as a threat to the industry because he hasn’t conformed to what the industry wants. There was a question asked who is resisting and why are they doing it; he answered, “They don’t want people to hear about Palestine, slavery or torture. They want us to just dance and sing and smile and pretend that the world is OK. They believe hip-hop is sheer entertainment.” The industry believes that entertaining hip-hop consumers involves rapping about materialistic things. What makes Immortal Technique a threat to the industry is his view on entertainment; he believes that entertainment can inspire, educate, and pacify the consumers, which sets him apart from other artists.

  7. Immortal Technique is true example of what real rap is. He is a threat to what most people would consider Rap today to be–rhymes about conforming to what society accepts as the promotion of sex, drugs, and violence. Immortal Technique challenges the industry and artist who sellout to what the industry wants to produce. He is a threat because he talks about real life situations, in not just his life, but in other peoples lives that most of us are unaware of like the people of Gaza who are burned by white phosphorus and who live in a life of torture. These are examples in which the media fails to point the spotlight at. Instead they put celebrities and the lives they live on a pedestal and make it a priority to share those stories to the people of America, instead of stories of struggle of the common person that are not highlighted. It is like he mentioned, by making it seems like the world is good and the American life is a Utopia where everyone is smiling and everything is perfect. But it is not. That is why the media tries to hide and censor certain things to make us think that it is.

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