Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/537/6140
Immortal Technique at the Coronet, London 4 June 2008
Today's music is often accused of lacking the integrity, provocative thought and political anger of 'the good old days', with hip-hop being first in the firing line.
Indeed, on the surface, the slide from Public Enemy's sharply political 1989 track Fight the Power to Fifty Cent's somewhat less political Get Rich or Die Trying in less than 20 years would seem a huge degeneration of consciousness. But, as with anything, the truth is more complex.
While the commercial success of the genre has inevitably led to a watered-down version flooding the charts, the spirit of Chuck D and Public Enemy has not been completely lost. Beneath the mainstream lies a whole range of artists who still believe hip-hop can be the soundtrack to political activism, led by the likes of The Coup, Dead Prez, and Immortal Technique.
The Peruvian-born, Harlem-bred Immortal Technique calls himself a socialist, and backs this up, not just in his lyrics, but also his actions. He has consistently refused to sign a deal with a major record label, not just because they would edit his explicitly revolutionary ideas, but also so he doesn't become, what he sees as, an exploited employee of a record company who see art purely as profit.
The fact that 2,000 people, mostly youth (black and white, male and female), have come to see him in London flies in the face of the accepted idea of an apolitical generation.
As soon as he walks on stage, with the stars-and-stripes turned upside down on his t-shirt, it's clear that he has something to say and won't be stopped from saying it.
Without an introduction he immediately starts an a cappella freestyle, taking in everything from an attack on the racist science of eugenics, a call of solidarity for the international anti-imperialist resistance, the lies of the war on terror, and his unique, previously stated interpretation of the record industry, all in less than two minutes.
It's a highlight of the gig that he performs a number of these a cappella freestyles throughout the night. One is full of the inevitable Bush-baiting, but also makes it clear Technique has no expectations in Barack Obama, and understands that the whole system needs to be changed. Another explains the profit system and calls for nationalisation of all industries, right down to the music industry. In yet another he turns his wrath to the dictatorships around the world who rule under the false title of communism.
The majority of the full tracks he performs are taken from his forthcoming album The 3rd World. He explains the title as his way of calling for increased solidarity of the working classes in the US and Europe with the poor masses of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia.
With the focus on new songs, he only performs a few older ones, but when he does they raise the roof. Introducing the horrific drug addiction, rape and murder-referencing Dance with the Devil, Technique tells a truth that few in hip-hop would; "for people who talk about the hood because they think it means you're hard, it doesn't. It just means your parents are poor."
Perhaps the biggest cheer is reserved for his post-9/11 classic Tell the Truth, with its chorus shouts of "Bin Laden didn't blow up the projects, it was you" and "Bush knocked down the towers". This isn't the rantings of a conspiracy theorist who thinks George Bush was actually involved in the acts of 9/11, but it is Immortal Technique recognising that the neo-con policies of the US administration are what led to the terrorist acts, and also the huge attacks they've inflicted on the working population of the US.
Immortal Technique is clearly aware that his gigs are a rarity in having so many young people singing along to songs from the perspective of a socialist revolutionary. He tells the audience that coming to his show does not make them a revolutionary, and asks them to carry on the struggle in their lives.
The show ends with the truly unique sight of 2,000 people facing the exit door, their right hand raised high in a fist, being led by Technique in a chant of "Viva la revolucion! Viva la revolucion!"
Socialist Party members leafleted at the gig for the 'Love Music Hate Racism' demonstration on 21 June and for the London Youth Against Racism gig on Saturday 14 June. Most people thanked us for doing this and a number signed up to get involved in anti-racist campaigning.
In The Socialist 11 June 2008:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party campaigns
Defend Tommy Sheridan
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news