Louder Than Bombs

For MC Immortal Technique, planting the seeds of revolution ain't nothin' but a g-thang

This isn't the sort of message that will endear Technique to Maureen Dowd, much less Joe Scarborough. But as Technique repeatedly reminds me during our conversation, he does this for the street and could care less about the progressive, NPR set. When I ask him if he believes if a violent revolution is inevitable, he pauses and chooses his words very carefully, replying, "Voting isn't enough. At some point, all revolutions become violent. But if you're gong to consolidate some kind of use of force, you have to understand your beliefs, and you have to understand yourself. If you really know, understand, and believe in yourself, anything is possible. An army that is outnumbered but with heavy morale can overcome an army that doesn't have high morale."

This reveals another central aspect of Technique's message: the absence of racial bias and the ideal of unity amongst the various minority factions within the United States and Latin America. It's a philosophy that he borrowed in part from Che Guevara's idea of a unified America as well as from Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Nation, but it also has its roots in his personal history. Technique himself is of mixed race, and he's witnessed firsthand the consequences of racial animosity.

"Racism is not politically incorrect in Latin America," he says. "There's still Sambo cartoons in the media."

Welcome to the Jungle: Immortal Technique 
on patrol.
Welcome to the Jungle: Immortal Technique on patrol.

Besides calling for racial unity, Technique has also championed the cause of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the award-winning Pennsylvania journalist who exposed police violence against minority communities and was subsequently convicted in 1982 of murder based on questionable and inconsistent evidence and has been on death row ever since. Abu-Jamal provides Revolutionary Vol. 2with the excellent monologue "Homeland and Hip Hop," in which he asserts, "If ever there was the absence of homeland security, it's seen in the gritty roots of hip hop," as well as the album's introduction and several interludes.

"I'm trying to raise some sort of awareness of Mumia's case," says Technique. "Mumia had heard my Vol. 1 and was impressed. And I approached him about doing something with hip hop. I told him about how hip hop at the very core is revolutionary. You can see that in all gangsta rap albums that have ever been done. N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, the Geto Boys' We Can't Be Stopped. If you listen closely to those albums, there's something revolutionary embedded in all of them."

Technique's championing of the gangsta ethos, as well as his adaptation of gangsta tropes in his lyrics, exposes and attacks a long-held dichotomy in hip hop: the division between hip hop gangstas and the culture's revolutionaries. For Technique, the essence of gangsta rap speaks to the same conditions that are addressed in so-called conscious rap.

"[The disconnect] wasn't there when it started, but now hip hop is controlled by corporate white men who really don't understand what the culture is about. ... But everything about hip hop is political. From what label you're signed to, to what gets played on commercial radio, everything is political."

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