Immortal Technique – The Message And The Music (Part 2)

Originally posted at The Well Versed

In the second part of our sit down with Immortal Technique, we discuss the music business, Tech’s disappointment with black and Latino executives in the game and why keeping it real fake backfires on emcees.

The Well Versed: Can you talk about the status of the next album?

Immortal Technique: We’re about halfway through “The Middle Passage.” I’ve gotten a chance to block everything else out of my life. It’s hard because I’ll get phone calls from family and loved ones—“You’re hard to reach, you don’t pick up your phone.” It’s not easy.

TWV: Will there be any releases before the album?

IT: Definitely.

TWV: And what can we expect?

IT: It’s a very gritty, aggressive album. A lot of concepts on it.

TWV: On “Revolutionary Vol. 2,” you talked about the majors trying to get at you. How do you feel about the state of the game today?

IT: Major labels understand the only way to stay relevant is to find young talent. They’re caught between satisfying their old talent and a new generation of people coming in—there’s just not enough space.

I think what’s sad about the current industry for black and Latino people is that we who invented agriculture and civilization and every aspect of how we managed to survive as a human species  is finding a young artist and draining the life out of them. Taking their masters and publishing and moving on to the next. That’s the best we can do. That’s what I mean by lacking imagination and ingenuity. We should have the ingenuity to invent something to say “This system has a way of functioning, what if I alter this?”

TWV: Do you feel like you were ahead of the game?

IT: I feel like I was ahead of the game by going independent from the jump. But you have to be willing to be independent. Some people are and some people aren’t.

TWV: Are some people more concerned with being famous than being financially set?

IT: Unfortunately, I think people feel like they need to be in the limelight to overcome whatever insecurity they have. Once they get there, they realize fame isn’t what they thought it was, they use drugs, become media whores, become introverted, whatever your coping mechanism is. Without understanding that you will be someone else’s idea at a major label is something that overshadows all of us. You’re not really yourself and the sad part is you don’t realize it. You’ll say, “What the fuck is this nigga Technique talking about? I ain’t changed, I ain’t different.” If you don’t have the same people around you that you had around when you were coming up or you lost site of the original goals and aren’t contributing to your community. If you have not invented anything new or done anything radically different than what you were doing before, you are stagnant.

Any money that you might make is useless unless you put it to something constructive and most people spend it on liabilities. Cars that are worth half as soon as they’re rolled off the lot. Jewelry, that boat that is firewood as soon as a hurricane comes.

TWV: When I listen to a lot of stuff available commercially right now, as catchy as the beat or hook might be, it feels like we’re regressing. We’re seeing a resurgence of drug use in rap. Do you feel like a lot of this is counterproductive?

IT: People do live that life; a lot of people who rhyme don’t live that life. You can make slick metaphors about shooting people or kilos but that doesn’t describe what it is to be a hustler. I’m not going to act like I was a drug dealer, but my exposure to that side of the world let me understand the differences to know what it’s like when one of my people says I can’t do this. I sold crack to a pregnant woman. My man was hurt about that. Why? Because he’s a fucking human being. At the end of the day, let’s stop pretending we’re not human beings; you want to be a big scary individual? You want to see a man cry like a baby, call him up and tell him you’ve got his kid hostage and you’re going to cut his fingers off every minute you don’t get your money.

People want to be so in character that the moment they have to be so out of character, their psychology is shattered. People need to realize that when Al Pacino plays a role, it’s different for our people. Nobody believes Al Pacino is Scarface. The police aren’t running up in his crib looking for M-16’s and grenade launchers. People think that what  these rappers say is what they really live and some of you are so stupid that you are saying shit that you’re really doing.

That’s not OG behavior, OG’s are saying “I don’t know nothing about that, I don’t know who got shot, that’s got nothing to do with me.”

TWV: But we’ve got guys that are literally 30 and 40 years old rapping about this, whereas back in the day, rappers were literally kids. I can’t help but look around and say, “What the fuck are we doing?”

IT: The music industry acts like a surrogate parent that spoils a child. They’ll give you all the wrong things and won’t tell you what’s right. Where’s the health care, where’s the financial planning. The NBA, just six or seven years ago started financial planning for their players. They should’ve been doing that from the beginning. Why don’t you teach this guy how to balance a budget? You’ve got guys that get signed for $100 million over seven years…you’re going to have to divide that by seven. You can’t go out and spend $50 million like it’s nothing because the interest on borrowing against that  is going to be high and it’ll chew up 65 or 70 percent of your money, what the fuck is wrong with you?

It’s not a music issue, but I think it reflects on how early in hip hop and even in society how people aren’t educated on what to do with their money.

I went and spoke to some kids in prison. And I told them; let’s say you are successful as a hustler. Nobody gets bagged. You get about $200,000. Now what? What are you going to do with the money? They just stay there. You can’t buy a house; people want to know where you got the money. How you going to answer that one to theIRS? How do you have a birth certificate and a high school diploma with no other paper trail driving a Bentley? You think the authorities are stupid?

Honestly, nobody’s scared of you no more. You’re making money for them. They want you to wild out. Go snatch a purse nigga. White boy steals $20 million from Wall Street; he’s doing two years in a country club prison. You? You’re going to gladiator school for ten years. You’re going to rape academy and you’re going to see what it really is.

TWV: Do you feel that with the commercialization of the game, hip hop still has the potential to push forward with some social changes?

IT: Hip hop is a part of it, but won’t be the catalyst for all change. I think it can inspire people. We’re always looking for this one thing. It’s going to be human rights, or Islam, socialism, communism. The Bible is the answer. Hip hop is the answer. There’s no one thing that’s the answer. If hip hop can help in the reflection of that, I think that’s a good thing.

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