Immortal Technique: Police Brutality, Snitching & The Evolution of Revolution

Immortal Technique is probably the most relevant artist in the political Hip-Hop arena, barring long running, battle torn acts like Public Enemy. Although he has brethren in the struggle, he continues to speak out and he’s kept fans waiting for over three years for the Middle Passage. The looming album, the MC’s third opus, has assumed an almost mythic status in the hood. The people are waiting. What Technique hopes to offer is the same thing he offers in real life. “The subject matter [on the Middle Passage] is –as always – diverse and focused on revolutionary action. To me, revolution is destiny,” he tells Sean Bell’s destiny didn’t end when he died after four undercover police pumped 50 slugs into his car. Amadou Diallo, also murdered in 1999, has a spirit that is alive and well. The slaying of Bell (who was killed on his wedding day) reignited the topic of police brutality (two other men were injured in the hail of bullets), a dilemma that appears to have no end for impoverished people. Immortal Technique has matured by his own admission and converses about the issue of impropriety by the law and how the battle for justice must adjust if the insurrection will ever meet its true fate.

[Also check out Immortal Technique's new song, "Military Minds."]

Immortal Technique: People are still talking about a boycott, but the police don’t have a corporate sponsor. What are we going [to do]? Boycott the city? Don’t ride the train? What are you really going to do? The Citizen Review Board is the most democratic nonexistent thing in the world. Its basically a sign up sheet for n***as that want to voice their opinion and have nothing happen with their opinion. We need to understand that we are powerless in the mother f**kin’ struggle right now. In order for us to be powerful, we need to know we don’t have [power] yet. We don’t meet with power. Never. We might have a sit down with [New York mayor] Bloomberg, but we don’t discuss the policies of his government; we don’t get the contracts to build these buildings. We might work for the contracting company as a foreman somewhere. We don’t control them.

We need to listen to what 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement have to say. These are people that have survived the police system from the inside. Its easy to say, “F**k all 5-0 [police],” but I bet the same n***as that say that, if somebody breaks into your apartment, somebody steals your s**t…[they would want to use the police]. There are more Blacks in law enforcement [than ever before]. So, I agree, there is a certain validity to criticize those that assimilate to the “Blu Klux Klan” culture, but we have to work with those [officers] that understand how they function [from within]. We need to have a dialogue with them before we’re like, “You’re a f**kin’ Uncle Tom.” What are you really about?

I remember being a kid and 5-0 beating motherf**kers down. New York was mad different in the '80s. You think its bad now, the police used to f**k n***as up for nothing. We were 13 years old and they beat up my friend right in front of us, because they didn’t like his attitude. The police would grab little kids and push them right next to the train when the train was coming and pull them back just to be a f**kin’ a**hole.

If they are going to criticize our supposed street movements, like the “Stop Snitching Movement,” that does harm to the community… I never seen 5-0 snitch on each other. I never seen one of them cross that Blue Wall of Silence and say, “Okay, I saw my partner f**k that n***a up.” Yet, they are more than eager to have us testify against one another.

These views are coming from a more mature perspective. You have to understand that there is a difference with throwing a rock at a tank and planting a mine where you know that tank is going to be. When you actually understand how something works, the mechanism itself, you know how to fight it. How do you beat a boxer? You watch tapes of him fighting so you know how he moves. You know he drops the left [hand] right before throwing the right. We don’t even know what their movements are. That’s the problem. We need to understand that before we just go running in crazily. I’m not mad at activists, but I think we need to reach out to the people that wouldn’t normally [come out to rallies] – the people that are caught up in the hood. A lot of times, people in the hood are not educated on how they need to respond to [police]. They don’t even know their rights. They don’t know you don’t have to respond to police unless you have a lawyer. That’s the difference.

That doesn’t reflect race. That reflects poverty. We equate poverty to Black and Brown. We don’t equate it to the birth of civilization. We don’t equate it to math and science. We equate it to poverty and being tough. Being poor don’t make you tough. It makes you f**ked up in the game right now. Living in the hood don’t make you tough, that just means your parents are poor. The toughest people I know are the ones that can push a button and say, “F**k this n***a’s life.” That’s some gangster s**t. Go to somebody else’s country [in war]. Tell them how to live.

I can see how the music I make, influences how people see the whole situation. Now, I feel we need to not just focus on the anger, but channeling that [energy]. Anger is a nuclear emotion. I say it all the time. You get power from nuclear power, but when that melts down, you got yourself a s**t storm. And when you don’t transfer that power, it melts itself. Feeling anger is justified. It’s a natural byproduct [of being wronged], but unless you do something with that…its just going to be you screaming and f**king up your own neighborhood.

Sean Bell reignited the outrage and people in their mid to late twenties and the people that saw Amadou Diallo, there is that resurgence of anger. I also run into some people that see the differences in the way this administration is handling [Bell’s case]. While it may be [more understanding] on the outside, the policy that the police have is going to stay the same, the way they engage people is going to stay the same, and the way they feel they can do Black and Brown people isn’t going to change. I haven’t yet to see them try [this sort of conduct] in a rich White community. It’s still gonna continue.

There’s me and a few other [rappers] that remain political. I would like to say that it’s good to have people like Papoose that access to that commercial market [through mainstream radio and personalities like DJ Kay Slay]. But people don’t see money in [politically-minded Hip-Hop]. If they could pimp that, they would. I look at it from my perspective. I did it when it wasn’t popular. I questioned 9/11 before anybody in the underground mentioned the [World Trade Center] fall. People were like, “Yo man, you shouldn’t talk about that s**t. They will put a hole in you.” The audience is more cautious about what they will accept out of a Hip-Hop artist. They expect your commitment to be life-long. If you committed to us, you’re committed to us.