There is political hiphop, and then there is Immortal Technique. Born Felipe Coronel in a South American military hospital, Immortal Technique has been waging war via a mic since the late '90s. Never one to mince words ("Fuck your chain/My people'll kill you for water"), or images (the cover of 2003's Revolutionary Vol. 2 is a gory illustration of Technique gunning down the Bush cabinet, the president himself, and Bin Laden, all inside the Oval Office), Technique is gearing up for a slew of upcoming releases, and takes some time to talk about them, plus some other pressing issues as well.
It's been years since your last full-length. Will this new record be a natural evolution of the previous releases or something entirely different?
Before the release of The Middle Passage and Revolutionary Vol. 3, I have prepared a machine gun entrance from my four-year hiatus. It's called The 3rd World, a project that I did with DJ Green Lantern scheduled for release early this summer. It's a violent but lyrically and conceptually powerful album/mixtape meant to parallel the issues we face in the Third World [and] the streets.
Recently Neil Young said that he no longer thinks a song can change anything politically. As a socially aware artist, does it ever get frustrating to see the direction this country is headed? Does it ever feel helpless to be fighting a system so powerful and large?
I can understand being frustrated. I'm sure by the time you reach a certain age that anger ferments into cynicism and pessimism that people just see as being realistic. But I don't consider myself an "activist" or just the average "conscious rapper." I think the title "conscious" is incomplete when it comes to what myself and others are involved in. That word just implies knowledge; it doesn't mean you're actually going to do anything with it. I busy myself working with incarcerated youth, funding hospitals, schools and, very soon, orphanages as well. We fight racism with education and occupation with a fierce countenance. We train physically, mentally, and spiritually. To me this is more than music. A message alone cannot change anything, the action behind it has to be there. After all without God, his prophets, and angels, the Bible would be just another book.
Do you think any of the current crop of presidential candidates can change anything? Or do you think it will be more of the same?
I think the status quo will remain the same on a lot of issues, no matter what. The president's power is dwarfed compared to those who run the economic oligarchy and use the government to legitimize their actions. I vote every election, but the structure of a democracy is much more than just voting. The institutions that compose it go beyond the right to cast a ballot every four years. I focus and rely on what I can do for me and my people and what we can collectively work on first, and then I consider the promises of others.
Immortal Technique plays at the Wonder Ballroom on Thursday, March 13.