Immortal Technique Remains Hip-Hop's Loudest Militant Rapper. But for How Long?
Cary Stuart Immortal Technique in Kabul, Afghanistan
Few militant, socially conscious rappers embody their message as well as Immortal Technique. After the release of 2008's The 3rd World, the Harlem-based MC born Felipe Coronel took the proceeds from it and traveled to occupied Afghanistan to help Omeid International fund and build an orphanage. Then, in 2011, he released the mixtape The Martyr, and he is now readying his much anticipated third album, The Middle Passage. Though he rarely gives interviews for fear of being misquoted, he agreed to talk to us if we'd print it as a Q&A. So in advance of his show at the Observatory, here are the words of Immortal Technique, who spoke to us on the phone from London.
OC Weekly (Gabriel San Roman): What brought you to London, and what do you think about U.K. leftist rapper Lowkey's decision to retire from the game? Could you imagine yourself ever retiring from rap?
Immortal Technique: Although the primary reason for my coming here was to reconnect with old friends and such, I always take an opportunity to get work done, so I'm here working on music, writing some things for a book I have and taking a few business meetings. As for Lowkey, he took a hiatus from the game to focus on studies and to do an in-depth cultural study of several things. I have often thought about that, finishing my education. I only got two years of college in before I was incarcerated, and even though I went part-time when I got out, I never finished. I can't tell you how far away from what I thought I would be doing this is. Perhaps one day, I will go back and finish; hopefully, I'll find a school that wants me there. [Laughs.]
You mentioned a book. Is that something you're releasing in the near future?
I have always written short stories, essays and pieces of a novel here and there. I have rarely ever shared any of these with people. They are part of my life and the lives I have seen around me. I'm not ready to make a formal announcement yet, but yes, there is a book in the works, and when we have a title and release date, I'll be sure to let you know, my brother. Just know this: I have several works in the process, so it's really just a question of which comes out first.
The last major tour you did was "War & Peace" with Brother Ali. What was the experience like pairing up with Brother Ali for those set of shows?
Ali and I spoke for some length about this. I did my first major tour opening up for him a long time ago, and we wanted to recreate that crazy energy which I think we did. We addressed a variety of social issues on the tour. I got to connect with his supporters and he with mine. It was a win/win situation. What's really insane is that just about everything went wrong on that tour, minus the shows. We were absolutely blindsided with problems and obstacles left and right. The shows though, most sold out or were at 90% capacity and it was great energy. I think we might do a few more shows together. Ali is family to me.
What can you tell us about the focus of the forthcoming album The Middle Passage?
It's a lyrically heavy album, but also a very brutal look at reality. It is the official follow-up to [his second album, 2003's] Revolutionary Vol. 2, and yet it continues where The Martyr left off. It just might be my last album, though. I don't expect they'll let me live much longer after that. However, I plan on making my escape from that destiny. I am not afraid of what people will think or say. I am confident in my ability to argue and debate my ideas and the subject matter of my music. That is what will resonate the most; not just complaints, but ideas for solutions and, of course, the stories that you people love so much.