Originally publiushed at TheSFCritic.
If you aren’t familiar with Harlem, NY based Immortal Technique, it is likely because he has never signed to a major label and his following has been personally cultivated through independent album sales. Following Revolutionary Volumes 1 and 2 and the Third World, Tech released The Martyr for free online October 27. It has already been downloaded almost 300,000 times in just a few short days.
The album opens with a spoken track requesting the free album continue to be dispersed, similar to his Twitter appeals for the same (You can click here or at the end of the article to download it.)
The opening track “Rich Man’s World (1%),” is nothing short of phenomenal. Tech gives a face to and puts words in the mouth of the faceless 1% the #Occupy movement is protesting against. Fans of Technique already know how sharply poetic and insightful he is (ie: Dance with the Devil) but through embodying an elite one percenter he somehow touches on every single fucked up thing the Occupy protests are protesting and with an eloquent grace that has come to define him. The words are both harsh and refreshing. In true hip-hop style he opens the track reppin’ all the “real gangstas that run this world… Shout out to the homies/ Carnegie, OG Willie Randolph Hearst, Jack Abromoff… Let’s get this money!” One of my favorite lines: “You got grills in your mouth?/ I ‘aint mad at ya/ I own every gold mine in South Africa.”
Immortal Technique has been rapping about global socioeconomic inequality and governmental corruption for years, and it seems that Tech’s revolution is now. He has been a regular presence at the #Occupy protests in New York City. The timing of this album could never have been so appropriate. As the protests have gained steam over the last month cities around the country have been cracking down on them just as quickly.
Last Tuesday, I went downtown to #OccupyOakland to photograph the situation as police attempted to clear the camp. Let me take this opportunity to discuss the media for a minute also. I continue to hear that the protests are not organized, that they want socialism, that there is no clear desire of these protestors but to have drum circles, douse themselves in patchouli, smoke pot, shoot drugs, beat each other up and sleep in tents downtown. Not true. Yes, there are elements of those things there but they are not the core. These protestors want democracy, they are organized, and you should not rely on major media to report the situation accurately. Remember that, globally, six corporations own all mainstream media outlets, some of which didn’t even pay taxes on their $5 billion profit last year—looking at you GE!
Before they started tear-gassing and firing rubber bullets at the crowd, Oakland Police told the mainstream media to turn off their cameras and leave. It was almost as if they were saying “We are going to beat some kids up, do you mind turning off your cameras?” The media complied and opted for helicopter coverage of the protests. It is a sad day in a democracy when the media complies with the wishes of police.
Those that continue to tell you these protests are disorganized are either too connected to the source of the injustice, incredibly out of touch with reality, or suffering amnesia like Oakland Mayor Jean Quan who sanctioned and ordered the attacks on peaceful protestors when she herself protested for Civil Rights in the 1960s.
But things are different in a 21st century protest. Of the 500 or so people who were there when I went down, about 40% of them had cameras around their necks or smart phones in their hands and thanks to that independent coverage the truth was able to be told and the next evening almost 3,000 citizens of Oakland and surrounding areas peacefully assembled in Frank Ogawa Plaza, now dubbed Oscar Grant Plaza.
In “Ultimas Palabras” (Last Words) Tech does not rap but instead speaks preacher-style over soft church music and the sounds of an audience applauding his words. “A new American revolution has begun, not against the forces of a colonial kingdom but a rebellion against a repressor that has risen among us. It is not a foreign invasion we have to fear rather than the threat of a force within our nation that has usurped what was once a dream of having the greatest democracy ever known to man.” The track ends with Tech stating that he will give the names of those that truly control the country which have never been revealed, before a gunshot is heard followed by frantic screams. The track intentionally brings to mind images of Martin Luther King Jr. and although you may have already known everything he said, no one has ever stated it in such clear unadulterated terms.
“Sign of the Times,” is quickly becoming my favorite track on The Martyr. The track features Cornel West, Lockjaw Nakai and Cetan Wanbli. “They can only conquer you after they murder your mind/ So rise up motherfucker like a sign of the times.” The music itself is beautiful and follows the words in perfect synch, and one of my favorite lines on the album is on this track “Live for revolution/ instead of always dying for it.”
Following the release last week of The Martyr Immortal Technique is on tour and will be playing The Fillmore in San Francisco November 23rd (and I would assume to be visiting #OccupySF and #OccupyOakland). Burn this album, pass it around, and share the links!