Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Q+A :: Immortal Technique Breaks Down The American Empire

Immortal Technique is a steadfastly independent voice—from his music to his politics. The Lima-born, Harlem-raised rhymer broke through at the turn of the millennium after emerging from prison and the east coast battle-rap scene. He made his name with “Revolutionary, Volumes 1 and 2”, showcasing his fierce intellect and broad knowledge of history in hardcore skills.

For the past 7 years, he’s practiced what the politics he preaches, setting up an orphanage in Afghanistan, raising funds for children’s hospitals overseas, and working closely with youths and prisoners’ rights and immigrant rights groups.

He took some time out to talk about the elections with us while out touring his new Viper Records album, The 3rd World.

How do you feel about these elections?

None of these people will change the dynamic of the way America is set up. I think that at the end of the day that there are a lot of people that are looking for Barack Obama to change things and I think that there are things he will be able to change, but not things he’ll be able to stop. Like people will say, “Stop the war.” But I think he’ll be able to change the war but I don’t think he’ll be able to stop the war. I think that he can do great amount of stuff for the social programs that exist in this country but it’s a whole other story when it comes to the amount of stuff that has to be done in terms of our interests overseas.

Are folks focusing too much on electoral politics when they’re trying to get change in this country?

It sounds horrible but people really only really respect harsh and tough change, you know what I mean?

What do you mean?

Every ounce of being we’ve ever had came from people fighting over it. For example, what made the fact that Greece was a part of the Roman Empire legitimate? Or that Egypt was part of it, or the southern part of England part of it. Was it some divine right or right of conquest? What makes the northern part of Mexico now California, New Mexico, Arizona? And the Roman Empire existed 6 or 700 years, Byzantine Empire even longer. So really when we think about it, in the span of things we as a nation barely got our feet wet in terms of what we have accomplished in terms of manipulating the form of government in bettering it.

I think as our democracy evolves, it’s going evolve in one way or another. It’s going to have to become even more of respectful of civil liberties because that’s what democracy is all about. It’s about creating these institutions that protect the civil liberties of the people. Otherwise all we’re really doing is voting 25 times every century and we feel more secure.

If you want to get to the deeper question of it, I think it’s all about control. If we really believe in God, then the mind of God must contain every possibility for every single outcome based on the smallest random choice we make in life that increases exponentially throughout our lives. So really did we have a choice in making our destiny? And I think that’s the issue with man—the control we don’t have. We overcompensate by trying to conquer other people and our women. Try to overcompensate for the inescapable fact that we can’t conquer ourselves.

So I think that plays about a microcosm in local politics and presidential politics too. People want a candidate that is going to see things from their religious point of view, their economical point of view. It was your choice to not to get an abortion, but you want to have control so no other person gets an abortion. You forget you were an immigrant once upon a time in America.

When you talk about person being a “redneck”—a lot of people that came to this country were white were slaves. They didn’t call them slaves they called them indentured servants. But they were indentured 7 years to their masters. They were even cross bred with African slaves to create, quote-unquote “mulattoes” because those were more expensive to sell and you’d get more profit. But if you think about it, these white people toiled in the fields all day and since white people don’t tan too well when they took of their shirt, what did they have? A “red neck.” And that meant you were a poor, white sharecropping farmer. These insults are based upon your social status in society.

So that’s what we dealing with right now, the inability for us to go back in time and look at what creates the image of what we are today as Americans, as whatever race we choose to identify with, and as people with a particular political agenda in the upcoming election.

You call your new album, ‘The 3rd World.’ The new census projections just came out. They were predicting that the US would turn majority-minority in 2050. They had to lower that projection to 2042, by 8 years. What do you think will happen with questions of racial justice in this country?

We always talk about building unity among the races but a lot of the times there’s not unity within the races themselves. I think the people who are most racist against one another are the people who look kind of like one another. I know when you’re uneducated to another culture, it’s kind of hard to see the difference between an Indian and a Pakistani person. Or Korean and Japanese. And at the same time, these are individuals that when you go back in their recent history they had the most drama. They do not like one another. 50 years ago Peruvians and Ecuadorians hated each other, but at the same time, they’re the same people and that’s the craziest part.

I don’t think it’s something that’s going to happen overnight because unfortunately the curriculum that we are taught in school doesn’t go back that far, it doesn’t want to deal with those specific issues. And those workshops are not being replicated on the street level to those individuals who need to be brought into the discussion. This doesn’t just need to be a discussion that just happens in some elite intellectual arena but it needs to be public domain. You know, education shouldn’t be a privilege but it should be a right.

Do you expect to vote this election?


Who are you going to vote for?

I’m not going to vote for John McCain. I’ll put it like that, so that’s pretty much my answer. Some of the issues I wanted to put in the perspective of individuals who put immigration back on the perspective, people who are going to help repair the economy. Individuals that are looking to be not just respectful of our cultures but other people’s cultures and have open dialogue with other parts of the world.

You’re voting Obama?

I don’t think that man is Black Jesus. I think he’s Black Caesar.

For the latest on the 2008 election, including voter registration deadlines, check Vibe.com’s Politics page. Check Immortal Technique and many more speaking on the elections in the November issue, on newsstands soon.

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