Talkin’ about a revolution

Harlem’s Immortal Technique stomps through Sacramento

Check(mate) the Technique.

Check(mate) the Technique.

Just a few months ago, Immortal Technique was in the midst of doing the impossible. His plan was to create an album more brutal than Revolutionary, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 put together—to anchor a more scathing critique of America than any crusty punk rocker or liberal news network could ever accomplish. But with the lyrics displayed on “The 4th Branch” (on Vol. 2), where Tech argues that Condoleezza Rice is “just a new age Sally Hemmings,” you wonder: Is it possible to go any further than comparing the African-American secretary of state to Thomas Jefferson’s slave?

Well, if anyone can, it’s Immortal Technique.

Tech (né Felipe Coronel) was born in a military hospital in Lima, Peru, in 1978. A few years later, he was taken from Latin America to Harlem, N.Y., where he became fascinated with the elements of hip-hop culture—especially graffiti and emceeing. Despite remarkable intelligence, Tech ultimately chose the streets after high school, racking up multitudes of assault charges and finally landing in prison for a year. In prison, he took to writing down his thoughts to occupy time. His writings ended up being the core of the Vol. 1 album.

Not only did he rehabilitate himself (Tech is now the president of Viper Records), but with the release of Revolutionary, Vol. 1, then two years later Vol. 2—with their furious, well-articulated sociopolitical commentaries—he inadvertently rehabilitated hip-hop as well.

Last month, after a few roadblocks, The 3rd World finally dropped. Full of pared-down beats, cuts by DJ G.I. Joe, and guest spots by Chino XL and Ras Kass, Tech was anxious to talk about the concept behind this long-awaited release that he’s obviously very proud of. “World nations often come to the Third World to exploit natural resources,” he explained. “It’s the same exact way in which major-label superpowers come to the underground—which is the third world of hip-hop, or of music in general.”

Using the Third World as a metaphor for hip-hop is a solid concept for an album, and certainly less cliché than the old hip-hop-as-a-fine-lady bit. However, if you’ve followed even a little bit of Technique’s work, you’re aware that there’s more to it than a simple comparison. The Afro-Peruvian emcee will take a metaphor, undress it, prod it and punch it in the face a few times, just to make sure it won’t talk back.

“No matter how hood we think we are, we don’t understand the dimension of poverty of the Third World. And no matter how backward and savage our media tries to portray other parts of the world … we are no less of a savage and backward; we’re all born with the same abilities—to be programmed and trained a certain way,” Tech said, pausing, which usually means the next sentence will be hard to stomach. “It’s one thing to roll up on someone and shoot them in the head or to kill a child by stabbing it in the heart; that scene is horrible and disgusting, but flying 20,000 feet above a village and saying, ‘Oops, we missed,’ napalming the wrong vicinity or practicing a disproportionate amount of retaliation … ”

Tech definitely has a way of taking the conversation to the next level. He’s bleak, yes, but he’s quick to offer solutions, which is important, especially when he’s addressing a generation that’s been labeled as complacent and superficial.

And he’s not all talk. Technique, who takes issue with the label “conscious rapper,” has been pivotal in raising money to fund children’s hospitals in Palestine, and he’s worked with youth offenders to help them restructure their lives, teaching them about their own cultural worth and identity. After all, consciousness, he says, “doesn’t mean you’re going to do shit.”

So with the release of The 3rd World, you’ve got to decide for yourself: Is this album more brutal than Revolutionary, Vol. 1 and 2?

Here are some lyrics (“Hollywood Driveby”) from The 3rd World to make your decision easier: “Revolución, motherfucker, you heard of it / I light the spliff with the flag while I’m burning it / Hollywood drive-by, spraying the cucarachas / war with the system like the streets of Oaxaca.”

And that’s just the hook.