The 3rd World, by Immortal Technique and DJ Green Lantern (Viper Records 2008)

The 3rd World, by Immortal Technique and DJ Green Lantern (Viper Records 2008)

The new release from Immortal Technique, hip-hop’s most implacable class warrior, thoroughly links local and global struggles. Tom Jennings nods his head enthusiastically

Globalising Ghettocentricity. Music review – Tom Jennings
Harlem-raised after his family fled Peruvian civil war, Immortal Technique’s misspent youth included incarceration for violent offences, wherein he honed his hip-hop flow before redirecting rage onto rivals, winning open-mic contests across New York and further afield. So far, so classic ‘boy from the ’hood done good’ – except for the parallel awakening of revolutionary class-consciousness translated into the most explicitly political rap recordings yet. From the get-go favouring precarious autonomy over commercial straitjackets – McJobs paying for studio time, handling distribution personally – Revolutionary, Vol. 1 (2001) heralded his agenda in the ‘Poverty of Philosophy’:
“My revolution is born out of love for my people, not hatred for others ... As different as we have been taught to look at each other by colonial society, we are in the same struggle and until we realize that, we’ll be fighting for scraps from the table of a system that has kept us subservient ... I have more in common with most working and middle-class white people than I do with most rich black and Latino people. As much as racism bleeds America, we need to understand that classism is the real issue. Many of us are in the same boat and it’s sinking, while these bougie motherfuckers ride on a luxury liner, and as long as we keep fighting over kicking people out of the little boat we’re all in, we’re gonna miss an opportunity to gain a better standard of living as a whole ... You cannot change the past but you can make the future ...”
The debut’s burgeoning buzz prompted distro collaboration with independent labels for 2003’s Revolutionary, Vol. 2. Also far exceeding sales expectations, this was swiftly followed by Viper Records’ establishment to regain self-control. Apart from legendary single ‘Bin Laden’ (with refrain: “Bush knocked down the towers ...”), Immortal Technique concentrated on consolidating talent like producer Southpaw and MC Akir, whose Legacy is the best hip-hop album in years.* At long last, then, a new album – The 3rd World, produced in mixtape fashion by Green Lantern (formerly house DJ for Eminem’s Shady Records) – continues Tech’s maturation, adding contemporary hip-hop styles to raucous minimalism. His vocals too have greater texture and engaging thoughtfulness than prior default tenors juggling psychotically omnipotent bragging and sneering hectoring when dropping political science. Both doubtless suit MC-battling but can become soporifically monotonous – militating against appreciating his prodigious lyrical dexterity astutely condensing contrasting levels of analysis into each theme with ferocious wit and insurrectionary wisdom.
The 3rd World’s concept relates “the streets here in the US to those around the world”. Moreover, in terms of cultural production, “the struggles of developing countries ... are mirrored within the rap industry. In the same way that First World superpowers have continuously exploited the Third World for its natural resources, land, labor and industry, the major label superpowers have done the same” (Immortal Technique, www.viperrecords.com). So the into, ‘Death March’, emphasises that “We are now in a state of guerrilla warfare ... through the streets of your psychology”. And if the equation of commercial rap to chattel slavery stretches credulity, the multiple analogy in ‘Harlem Renaissance’ powerfully links US urban political-economics to world-system wars and cultural recuperations past and present:
“Harlem was once was red-light district-rated / Designated ghetto like the yellow star of David ... / Until after the invasion of gentrification / Eminent domain, intimidation – that's not negotiation ... / Ivy league real estate firms are corrupt / They lay siege to your castle like the wars in Europe / They treat street vendors like criminal riff-raff / while politicians get the corporate kickback ...
“When I speak about Harlem I speak to the world / The little Afghan boy and the Bosnian girl / The African in Sudan, the people of Kurdistan / The third world American, indigenous man / Palestinians, Washington Heights Dominicans / Displaced New Orleans citizens / Beach-front Brazilians, favelas that you living in / The ’hood is prime real estate, they want back in again ...
“I didn’t write this to talk shit, I say it because / Some of ya’ll forgot what the Harlem Renaissance was / We had revolution, music, and artisans / But the movement was still fucked up like Parkinson’s / ’Cause while we were giving birth to the culture we love / Prejudice kept our own people out of the club / Only coloured celebrities in the party / And left us a legacy of false superiority / W.E.B. DuBois versus Marcus Garvey / And we ended up selling out to everybody / The Dutch Schultzes and the John Gottis / Banksters, modern day gangsters, immobilari ... / Harlem Renaissance, a revolution betrayed / Modern day slaves thinking that the ghetto is saved / So they start deporting people off the property / Ethnically cleansing the ’hood economically / They want to kill the real Harlem Renaissance / Trying to put the virgin Mary through an early menopause / The saviour is a metaphor for how we set it off / Guerrilla war against the lease-owning predators”.
Other tracks and guest appearances flesh out the grass-roots revolutionary stance with more depth than even Paris, The Coup and Dead Prez can manage – from the Spanish-language ‘Golpe De Estado’ (=Smash the State) through rabble-rousing anthems full of insight and intelligence. Meanwhile, several reflective cuts leave self-righteous preachiness decisively behind, including ‘Mistakes’ pondering wrong turns taken: “Some people learn from mistakes and don’t repeat them / Others try to block the memories and just delete them / But I keep them as a reminder they not killing me / And I thank God for teaching me humility / Son, remember when you fight to be free / To see things how they are, and not how you’d like ’em to be / ’Cause even when the world is falling on top of me / Pessimism is an emotion, not a philosophy / Knowing what’s wrong, doesn’t imply that you right / And it’s another when you suffer, to apply it in life”. So, even as a stopgap while The Middle Passage and Revolutionary, Vol. 3 incubate, this superb album has a compelling sound and vision all its own.
* see my review of recent radical rap in ‘Rebel Poets Reloaded’, Variant 30, 2007 (www.variant.org.uk).
Film review published in Freedom, Vol. 69, No. 15, August 2008.
For other reviews and essays by Tom Jennings, see:
www.variant.org.uk
www.tomjennings.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

Posted By

Tom Jennings
Nov 28 2008 21:43

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Caiman del Barrio
Dec 25 2008 12:33

Golpe de Estado actually better translates as coup d'etat.

I saw Immortal Technique live in 2006 and he talked a load of shite, managing to throw homophobia and sexism into his act before some pro-Palestine sentiments that always serve to mystify and confuse any sort of "revolutionary class consciousness" which is of course internationalist. Also, the clip I saw of him in that film about the RNC (in which he's cruising in an SUV complete with chauffeur, only to deliver a "scathing" attack on two FBI men who stop them) completely delegitimised him in my eyes.

That said, I'm not too bothered about the violent aspect of his lyrics, like you say, he's coming from a battler background and imagine how dull it'd be if he was just some sorta leftwing squeaky clean ambassador.

I'll download this record for reference purposes...

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 25 2008 17:10

You idiot, the gang rape song is an attack on gangsta culture and the line "Bush knocked down the towers" is in reference to US foreign policy.

Stay away from serious discussions, it's largely over your (massive) head.

MT
Dec 25 2008 20:21

I know all the records of IT but listening to him gets pretty annoying because of the trash macho lyrics and the style he raps them. I also have a bad taste about what seems to me as pro-leninist tendencies. But it is always hard to find some artists that are "fine" (Dead Prez, Public Enemy, KRS One, NAS, The Coup... they all have many shitty many lyrics and attitudes)

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 25 2008 21:07

Weeler you're too much of a clown to really be taken seriously but even you in your weird online persona must really know what Dance with the Devil is really about. And doesn't Bin Laden have about a million guest rappers on it?

Sides, we all know he's a bit politically sketch, that was kinda the point of my original post on here but when you throw around your Jack-in-2003-on-crack ridiculous hyperbole about X being so and so and Y being that you serve to confuse more than enlighten.

Mind you, I guess you are a hack so tabloid sensationalism must seem pretty everyday...

jef costello
Dec 25 2008 21:31

Last I heard he was misogynistic, nationalistic and not much of a rapper.

Choccy
Dec 25 2008 21:34

Immortal Technique is some of the worst shit I've ever heard.

Choccy
Dec 25 2008 21:36

In fairness The Coup are lyrically a lot less sketchy than DeadPrez/IT.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 25 2008 21:46

Weeler in sudden shrinking violet shock. Guess I'm not the only one "throwing strops" eh? I do think it's valid that you work as a journalist since all you do on here - other than aping Jack about 5 years ago in your ridiculous black/white view of the world - is use sensationalism to attract attention to you yourself, whatever the issue. It gets quite nauseating, and if I've had a few shots of whisky (it is Christmas Day after all) I might say something a bit close to the bone.

And you originally "denounced" him for having "a song about gang rape", as if somehow he was condoning it when obviously the song is hugely condemnatory of the rape. In short, you're either coming a position of complete ignorance (in which, if you venture your opinion, it shouldn't be in such absolutist terms...it is OK to listen and learn every once in a while y'know, noone will tell anyone and you can go back to your macho bravado act afterwards) or you're being deliberately obtuse

Choccy
Dec 25 2008 21:58

I would like to say Merry Christmas

Steven.
Dec 26 2008 14:50

I think he's generally not that great, some stuff is alright though - Peruvian cocaine for example is a great track.

As for the conspiracy theory stuff, I'm not sure how deep that goes.

If you are trying to be generous, then Bin Laden is about US foreign policy, and how that caused the twin towers to be destroyed - by terrorists that were initially funded and trained by the CIA (the mujahideen in Afghanistan were funded to fight the Soviets). Or maybe he is a conspiracy nut, I'm not sure.

However, criticising him for having a song about gang rape is completely unfair. The lyrics Weeler quotes are correct, but are meaningless devoid of context. Weeler seems to be trying to imply that he thought this was a good thing.

In fact that track is the story of a boy who seeks money and status, and who finds the easiest way of getting some of that is by getting involved in gang culture and the drug trade. This leads to him carrying out this horrific act which appals him so much he kills himself.

I actually think it's pretty corny, but it's basically saying that this acquisition of power and money is not worth the negative effect it has on you, doing terrible things you have to do to acquire them.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 26 2008 18:17

Yeah that was what I was referring to, only Steven clearly has more energy to deal with Weeler than I do. Weeler's original post could even imply that there shouldn't be a discourse about gang rape?

Oh yeah and btw Steven, doesn't it turn out that the rape victim's the guy's Mum or something? It's a pretty harrowing song really...

Choccy
Dec 26 2008 19:25

I just listened to that track there.
Harrowing isn't even the word.

I'm not sure I've seen anyone be more wrong than Weeler on this thread.

Steven.
Dec 28 2008 19:47

Alan, yes in the end it is his own mum, and he's not from Cornwall.

Weeler, like I've said before people that know you all know that those kind of "ironic" vaguely racist statements aren't serious, but many of the tens of thousands of casual visitors we get won't, so please cut it out (or at least give a disclaimer)

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 28 2008 21:17

Someone should really buy him a proper phone so he can answer them calls from Jack in 2003 about the theft of his sense of humour.

jef costello
Dec 28 2008 21:19
Quote:
stepped up to selling mothers and brothers the crack rock

So who is it ok to sell crack to?
Reading this is the same as a lot of Immortal Technique's stuff he fetishises the violence, it's far more about people not being 'made for it' or tough enough to do it. Like there's some class of criminals and the problem is people trying to be like them who are hard enough rather than selling drugs, gang banging and the rest.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 28 2008 23:25
Quote:
Also I kinda like him and it's embarrassing when he has to run to me to protect him from you. :(

Bullshit, it makes your fuckin day!

EDIT: and I ain't no Christian so I don't see why I should treat Weeler how he treats me, especially when you consider how pretty much every post he makes is really annoying.

Steven.
Dec 29 2008 01:11

Children, please.

Ed
Jan 22 2009 22:21

Not wanting to add fuel to Weeler's fire but I'm listening to Revolutionary Vol. 2 and just sat through this corker..

Immortal Technique wrote:
And I know a lot of people find it hard to swallow this
Because subliminal bigotry makes you hate my politics
But you act like America wouldn't destroy two buildings
In a country that was sponsoring bombs dropped on our children
I was watching the Towers, and though I wasn't the closest
I saw them crumble to the Earth like they was full of explosives
And they thought nobody noticed the news report that they did
About the bombs planted on the George Washington bridge
Four Non-Arabs arrested during the emergency
And then it disappeared from the news permanently
They dubbed a tape of Osama, and they said it was proof
"Jealous of our freedom," I can't believe you bought that excuse
Rockin a motherfucking flag don't make you a hero
Word to Ground Zero
The Devil crept into Heaven, God overslept on the 7th
The New World Order was born on September 11