Immortal Technique at The New Parish, Oakland, April 3, 2011
In early January 2010, longtime Oakland jazz music scene establishment “Sweet Jimmy’s,” was reincarnated as The New Parish, and in the last year has not only solidified its place in the East Bay music scene but become a beacon in Bay Area nightlife, easily rivaling any major venue in San Francisco.
Maybe its because San Francisco Mission hipsters haven’t quite caught on yet, or they are too scared to cross the Bay, but the intimate setting of the New Parish is easily a favorite among performers—making any good show that much more epic.
The sold-out Immortal Technique show this Sunday was no exception. First of all, performers have to walk through the crowd to get to the stage, and Immortal Technique and his crew not only didn’t have a problem with that, they embraced it, accepting hugs and handshakes from any fan who approached them. Additionally, they posted near the door at the end of the show to hang out with fans.
Circulating in the crowd were pamphlets for the Fresno Brown Berets, a newly established chapter of the Chicano movement community organizers, The Brown Berets, founded in the late 1960s to fight police brutality and support educational equality, arguably akin to the Black Panther’s, formed in Oakland around the same time.
Of course, the crowd wasn’t all well-educated, socially conscious “revolutionaries,” there was still the girl on ecstasy in the bathroom introducing herself as “Hello Officer,” to everyone taking a pee, and Cal Trustafarians clearly looking intimidated in their surroundings.
And, you have to question whether hype or solidarity brought this crowd together.
The show itself was a 4-hour seminar of politically active hip-hop artists with keynote speaker, Immortal Technique, a younger, modern Howard Zinn, unafraid to not only grasp the facts of the socioeconomic complexities that have created the modern condition but to present them bluntly, yet eloquently.
Raw-G, a female rapper from Guadalajara City, Mexico, a cute unsuspecting woman with dreads and glasses opened the show along with other artists fresh off the UC Berkeley International hip-hop showcase the previous night (also appearing Deejay Jalisco, Kensho Kumar and Vomito Lyriko). Her set included fast-paced hip-hop in three different languages (Spanish, Japanese and English). Her energy is undeniable and she is definitely an artist to watch.
“This track is dedicated to the people in Egypt who made shit happen… we can do that here,” she said before starting in on the track “Mi Mundo,” (My World).
After Raw-G left the stage, anxious smoke signals went up and the room became so hotboxed you couldn’t breathe without getting high.
A succession of Viper Records artists took the stage, including Akir, Mohammed Dangerfield, Diabolic, DJ Static, Rebel Armz, Chino XL and the Harlem Underground.
“I got my diploma at Columbine and my degree at Virginia Tech,” Harlem Underground rapped, with light professor-glasses resting on the end of his nose.
Each performance leading up to Immortal Technique was increasingly captivating, the highlight being Chino XL– a man whose muscles are twice the size of my head– resting lightly against a stool and free-styling to light piano chords. He is magnetic, and had the crowd hanging on his every flawless word.
“Do you think America invaded Libya because they give a fuck about brown people?” he asked.
Immortal Technique took the stage after Chino XL, adding to the commentary on Libya, “If America was run by a Libyan puppet, the rebels would be called terrorists,” he said before launching into “Industrial Revolution.”
If you have never seen him, Technique is an incredible live artist. Not only does he make eye contact with every person in the audience, seemingly all at once, he never misses a line and never gets off point. The tracks themselves are even just musical intermissions in one long seminar which is delivered with such passion to a diverse yet solidified family of an audience that he could make even Glenn Beck wonder if socialism really is such a dirty word.
A series of commentary on everything from the War on Drugs, American corporate culture and racial inequality was intertwined with the tracks Napalm, Mistake, the 3rd World and Peruvian Coke. But the biggest cheer from the crowd came from commentary about Oscar Grant, the 23-year-old man who was fatally shot, execution style on camera on the Fruitvale BART platform on New Year’s Day 2010.
Instead of prompting the crowd in the typical “Hip-Hop,” chant, Technique led the crowd in “Fuck Cops,” before acknowledging that there were probably cops in the crowd that night, “it’s a shame you are spying on a fucking hip hop show while someone is at your home fucking your wife right now,” he concluded.
But unlike many other hip-hop artists that could draw a following like this, Techniques revolutionary lyrics go beyond the music. Last summer New York natives Technique, Rebel Armz and Chino XL visited a youth-oriented community organization in East Oakland to empower local children to be the change they seek.
Along with community visits, Technique owns a community-invested farm in Peru, where he was born, and works directly with and raises money for Omeid International, a 501(c)(3) that shelters, feeds and educates children on the ground in Afghanistan.
“Don’t show me what you value, show me what you spend your time and money on and I will show you what you value,” he said onstage at The New Parish.
Tracks to Embed (sorry new computer and they aren’t on this one… is it presumptuous to assume you have them on yours?):
Industrial revolution (revolution volume 2)
3rd World (The 3rd World)