Immortal Technique is one of the few emcees in New York City re-writing the rigid rules to the Hip-Hop game. With a volatile mixture of brutal political commentary, spiteful battle raps and street knowledge, Technique put himself on the field of play without significant aid from outside forces. Now, the Peruvian-born, Harlem-bred rapper has remained independent, but opted to make a few adjustments to increase his exposure. AllHipHop.com talked with the firebrand about his Middle Passage project, the elusive right to vote and the agents that kicked down his door in Colorado.
AllHipHop.com: In the wake of the Hip-Hop voter push, should people vote in your view? If they don't vote, what can they do instead?
Immortal Technique: Voting is not the end all solution to problems, it's just another dimension of voicing the concerns of a community, keep it real...we have an election every time we buy a product at the supermarket, every time we pay to see a movie. Or, to keep it even realer every time we buy a CD we are having an election to see who is gonna get the support of our community. Do you think when we vote it's not about money? That elected official controls the budget, controls government contracts and legislation that affects every aspect of our lives. Some people say voting doesn't matter and no one cares about our vote, I know someone that does.
IT: Rich, conservative white people, corporate America, some of the greediest people I've ever met and dealt with in my life. They believe in voting, and more specifically our vote, so much, that they invest non-tax refundable money to pay for television adds, for newspaper adds, for lobbyists, for campaign strategists because they want us to believe in them. They want our vote, if someone who is always willing to put business above the standard of living of people in order to make themselves richer, gives away millions of dollars, they are not throwing it away, they are making an investment. In our votes, if they believe in our power, we should believe in our power. And in that belief create not just a voting block but an economic block or people that buy black, that support local businesses, that use their economic influence to create political influence for things like healthcare immigration issues and affirmative action. Voting is just one finger in the fist, it may be the pinky in terms of its direct effectiveness, based on who you ask, but it still forms a part of the fist.
AllHipHop.com: It’s a sensitive question to us all. But, what’s your reaction to the election?
IT: I told everyone I knew that Bush was gonna win, it was never a question in my eyes. I had hopes, but then again it's like watching the Knicks in the playoffs, you know it's not gonna go down the way you want it to but there is always a chance that something might change. It doesn't though. At least this will show people what is really going on in America. Because if John Kerry was elected president, they might try to oversimplify issues and pretend like America is the champion of freedom instead of the corporate machine. S**t in the hood is still the same as it ever was.
AllHipHop.com: Are you starting to get more mainstream acceptance now, working with Green Lantern and Shady. Your song "Bin Laden" (produced by Green Lantern) has a similar tone to Eminem’s "Mosh."
IT: The track with Green Lantern came from a personal relationship. I had met the brother a while ago, and he wanted some street s**t, but relevant to the topic of his mixtape. I don't think just cause he let it slide and played it on Hot 97, that people will automatically flock to me. Some will, but most won't. People like blowing up their own artists that they are getting a piece of, not competition. But maybe it'll just let n***as know that I'm not gonna pay to be on anyone's s**t I'm just tryna make my own way and be my own man. When Revolutionary Volume 2 hit about 10,000 on SoundScan, I had sold about 15,000 myself, [and] the market was fully aware of who I was, I had a #1 single and record on CMJ, and I had opened up for major artists and done tours of my own. The A&R's around New York knew who I was, had me come in and reject offers, and even though I could never sign to any of those labels, you'd be surprised how many muthaf***as that work in the industry, and for the majors, love that hardcore underground s**t.
AllHipHop.com: What’s the problem then with getting hardcore in those big buildings?
IT: Underground has gotten a bad rap in these past years, much the way the word liberal has. Underground ain't just white people with nerdy voices who rhyme about skateboarding with backpacks and make rap songs about obscure, random nonsense. Underground is also that gutter s**t that talks about the situation in the hood, in the world, the other side of the coin. Whether they like it or not those mixtape rappers that have nothing but crack stories and gun talk, they are underground, N***as ain’t ballin', we all live in the hood, tryna get the best situation for themselves and they fam before they sign and some label uses them as a tax write off. Lots of major label cats still consider themselves underground, and what's the alternative? Being commercial? Being a f***in’ b*tch for the label, taking an advance and seeing no back end on the money? That's gangsta? Having someone tell you what songs will be on your album? Having someone else own your publishing? Own your masters? That's being real? Get the f**k outta here, n***a. That's the fakest s**t that you could possibly do.
AllHipHop.com: So little is known about The Middle Passage. Who'd you work with, and what's the real situation with BabyGrande?
IT: The Middle Passage is a record that I decided to do before I put out Revolutionary Volume 3, it's a break from what I was originally planning to do with the order of the series. Before I released Volume 2, I had a few labels come at me with some bulls**t offers for production or development deals, I didn't want to develop myself into their bulls**t idea of who I was. I have always been my own man. I don't rely on other people, I distributed the record myself, and because of that hustle, and a big opening day at Rocksteady 2003, I managed to sell the initial 3,500 in a few weeks. I hit every hood in [New York], schools, battles, open mics, still hustling. But still people were nervous cause of my content, everyone except Uncle Howie, who I will always remain in good standing because of our similar views and business etiquette. I eventually found someone else, Caroline/EMI to do the CD's, and we have moved about 20,000 through them. But on the flip-side, I'd moved over 20,000 myself, and if they can't do more for me than I can do for myself, then there is no point in being there. I just wanted a more powerful distributor, a distributor who was capable of meeting a larger demand and not being so conservative with orders. I appreciate all their help but there were some errors made on the distro side of things, and I feel I could have sold more records.
AllHipHop.com: So where does Babygrande enter the mix?
IT: Me and Chuck worked out a one-time deal for a joint venture based on distribution through Babygrande/Koch. The details are in my favor to the point that I am contractually obligated to not divulge, but I brought a lot to the table myself and took on much more responsibilities than just as an artist. After having sold about 45,000 units of Volume 2, I was ready to take on more responsibilities and reach more people, so this is truly a joint venture between my label, Viper Records and BabyGrande.
AllHipHop.com: Rumor has it the Feds raided you in Colorado. What happened with that and was it related to you music, in your opinion?
IT: Actually, they never declared themselves as Federal agents. They were government agents, maybe DEA Taskforce, they had vans and they raided my room accusing me of dealing cocaine and heroin. [They] tried to get me on charges of trafficking, flipped my mattress for crack, and all that. I really can't comment too much on that cause I am considering, and really surveying legal options for litigation. They knew who I was though, and they found me somehow so it wasn't no coincidence that they were there.
AllHipHop.com: What brought you to Colorado?
IT: I had just worked on a campaign with Rock the Vote the entire time I was out in Colorado, trying to encourage Latino kids to get registered, I guess in Colorado that's a crime cause they know that in a lot of these states, we gonna out number them soon. That's why the conservative agenda is based around religion and the military two forms of colonial control. There was a Latino cop with them and I looked right at him and refused to look away, I then told him the only way for us to get ahead in America wasn't blind assimilation in a desperate attempt for acceptance but educating ourselves about our culture and supporting our community economically. The n***a got mad a left, I had more money on the table than he made in a month, they wanted to confiscate it but when my peeps came in my room with the camera they put their badges away and broke out. It'll be on my new DVD next year.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned the development of Middle Passage, what about the actual facts? And what else is keeping you busy?
IT: It'll be just as raw as the other projects, with a more refined flow, stronger production and few surprises, I took it back to what made me, originally; that raw street s**t, it has not lost content or concepts. And of course it will never be without a revolutionary purpose, but it is not as outright, when you see the cover you'll understand, it needs to be read into, but on the surface. Aside from that though, I'm working with my n***a Akir, he was on the '"One" remix. I also got this kid [AllHipHop.com Breeding Ground Alum] Diabolic, who I know that I'm tryin produce some s**t for, but that dude is out control, f***in’ crazy, he's always catchin’ charges and getting arrested. I'm tryna get his head in the game and tellin' him this is a business. I been where he was, though. So I understand, dude is lyrically disgusting, so hopefully we can get that out soon. Aside from that, I'm also working with a Union called G.A.M.E. It's not only a place where we educated young artists about the business of Rap, and network among MC's, producers, DJ's, [but] such we also have been able to secure healthcare coverage for the artists that are in our Union. The website is www.kickgame.com.