There was one panelist that caught my attention at the Rock The Bells press conference AND when I watched his interview in Ice T’s directing debut documentary, The Art of Rap, which makes it debut in theaters tomorrow, June 15. The panelist and artist I’m referring to is Immortal Technique! He is famous for not only his rhymes, but also for his community outreach and activism. I caught up with him a few minutes before he left the venue as he was handing out his free anthology album of unreleased tracks and new material, The Martyr, to fellow fans and media pushers. I wanted to talk to him about a statement he made in The Art of Rap, the creative technique he uses to get inspired, upcoming collaborations with figures such as Cornell West, and much more! Check it out!!!
Parlé Magazine: How did the whole thing with Rock the Bells come about? Like who hit you up? What was that process?
Immortal Technique: I had already sold out a bunch of shows in L.A. on my own, like I had sold out this [venue] called the Knitting Factory that they had out there at the time… And then I did a couple of other small festivals, where we were able to get gang members to show up and not have drama with one another, you know?! And I think it was interesting to see the impact of Hip-Hop in a place like the middle of Watts, which is where we did the show. And after that I got a call from a bunch of different people who wanted to do different festivals with me because they knew that I could draw a huge crowd of people. So Chang [Weisberg] had first called me and I told him, I was like ‘Yo, I can’t because I have a conflicting date’. And then all of a sudden I called him back ‘cause that date cancelled on me and said ‘Yo, I can do it if you wannna fly me out there… and I’ll just do a couple of songs… And he was like ‘Yo, I’ll lace you with a little something and I’ll pay for the plane for you and a couple of other people to come out here’. And ever since then he’s been a man of his word and he always told me what his vision was. He said ‘I wanna develop [Rock the Bells} to where we have more elements of Hip-Hop. Now they have [freestyle] battling there, DJ contests, they got Bboy Contests, so I think it’s more inclusive of the culture as opposed to just rap because rap is just… you know… rhyme. Funny, in The Art of Rap they were talking about if you rhyme Cat in the Hat, you a rapper, you know what I mean….
Parlé: Yeah, and speaking of The Art of Rap I actually have a direct quote from the movie. You said that when you’re in the studio or you’re trying to write a rhyme you make yourself physically hungry??
ImmTech: Not at the studio, but at the crib or wherever I am. I also mentioned that sometimes I workout, or I’ll take a long walk. There are several different things I do, that was just the one thing that [Ice T] was like ‘Wow, you’ll stop eating for the whole day?’ And you’ll feel like that passion and that hunger. And I think on one end, yes, ya know, the hungry mind races, but at the same time I think it’s also metaphorical for me. If you’re not hungry, f*ck are you doin this for?? You know what I mean? If you’re not hungry then all you’re doing here is collecting a check every day and for that you might as well be working on Wall Street.
Parlé: Mmm, but what actually inspired you to use that technique? I’ve never heard of someone making themselves physically hungry and I applaud you on that, especially with the metaphorical aspect. So what inspired that???
ImmTech: I mean, I could sit here and I could say Ghandi and Bobby Sands, but it wouldn’t be true. Lol. There are so many people that have used hunger strikes to show the evils of society. And I think this is just a very different thing, know what I mean? I just realized that if I eat too much in this country; portions are too big, everything got high fructose corn syrup and cancer causin’ a** food that we all eatin’; it’s kinda disgusting. But what I thought was very very powerful and interesting was the fact that so many people had so many different methods of their inspiration that for me that one single [method] I guess is so shocking because if you take that to the extreme, you could probably hurt yourself. But I’m not put in the position where I hurt myself, like I know that if I eat food, like I said portions too big, high in fructose corn syrup, Imma feel slow and sluggish. I’mma be in there writin’, listening to the beat, not pacing around the room, not working things out ‘cause rhymes… Funny, [Eminem] said [in the Art of Rap] that rhymes are like a puzzle. Sometimes I feel that way too, to construct lyrics and to put’em together. But I thought that to me that aspect of Hip hop was just one of many that I definitely can use to fuel the creative process.
Parlé: That’s what’s up and speaking of the creative process, I remember one of the panelists talked about authenticity that you just gotta be real, so what inspires your realness and who keeps you real? And who keeps you being yourself and not trying to conform just to make money or just to have a hit??
ImmTech: Well look, I tell everybody, listen, if this was about just making money, then if you smart enough, I think anybody in that [press conference] could’ve been a CEO, ya know what I mean? It’s not that they want to make money, they wanna make money doin’ what they love to do and there’s so few people [who do that]. That’s what my father told me. He said ‘listen yo, the majority of people in this world, 99% of people, they usually do some shit they really don’t like for a living’. If you got something to do that you love for a living, you are one of the most blessed people in the world…
Parlé: That’s actually a really, really great point! I remember you talked about getting gangs and things of that nature into your concerts and you do a lot of outreach so what inspired that outreach?
ImmTech: You know, I put it this way; I definitely had a very, very violent experience when I was a kid, like I thought I could solve everything [by] fighting all the time and I ended up being incarcerated over that, ya know, and I remember that when I really thought about it, I said to myself that we as a people have such a glorious history that we don’t need to look back all the way to Egypt because there is a big gap in human history. [I’m] not talking about Black History, that’s human history. I think there’s a big gap between Egypt and the bottom of the boat in the 1600’s! And I think if we don’t observe that and we don’t understand that than we run the risk of becoming a caricature of ourselves in this country. And I’m tired of seeing that. Because if you don’t have Black or Latino people around you right, and the only thing that you had was TV and movies, then you would just think we’re a whole bunch of bastards with no father, with a mother who’s a whore, with no intelligence, who only know how to rob and steal. And if that’s what we we are than that room (press conference) couldn’t have been filled with that many people because they are lyrists. They are thinking men. They are people that created something from nothing, you know? So I think that’s what keeps me motivated, you know to look in the eyes of a child who people say, ‘this little ni**a is just a graffiti artist’. I’m like, no, that’s the next picasso right there. That’s what I see, know what I mean? [Or when people say] ‘this little ni**a just makes noise in class all the time’, that’s because he constantly has music playing in his head. That’s a form of genius! Everybody has a different style of genius so appreciate [those different styles]…
Parlé: Yeah, that’s what’s up. Okay, so last comments, you know you kinda touched on it a little bit just now with what you just said, but what is something you would want to tell someone who is trying to be on the come up, whether it is as an artist, a CEO, whether it’s just in general, [someone] who wants to pursue their dreams and do what they love, what is it that you want to tell them straight from your mouth?
ImmTech: I would tell them to invest in themselves, learn the business, [and] to be wary about being in business with your own family because that has a lot of complications. It’s harder to fire your brother than it is to fire a ni**a you don’t know. But at the same time, you know you gotta do business with people you trust. You know? And usually you can only trust somebody to be themselves. [For example] If you invite somebody who’s a thief over to your house, don’t be mad if they steal something from you. Be mad at you, don’t be mad at them. You invitin’ them ni**az over. You knew that n**a was a thief! F*ck outta here! So I think the personal responsibility factor has to be there too, you know? I look at rap in general and I think that the corporate influences created a very very very stagnant environment for a lot of artists. And now the artists are taking back the control of their business and being like ‘na, I wanna be the one that executive produces the TV Show, I wanna be the one that executive produces the album, I wanna be the one that has the label, I wanna be the one that has his own company. I wanna be the one that has his own distribution deal instead of being somebody that takes a tiny percentage of the proceeds’. That traditional way of doing business is gone, and I’m glad that it’s gone. And I think that we need to continue to express the fact that we are an entrepreneurial people. You know what I mean? We’re not just a musical people, you know, our job isn’t just to dance and sing. After all we are the capital for capitalism. We built America, our bones are in this f*cking country… It’s all about the perspective that you have. As long as you keep an open mind and a wide perspective then you’re always going to be able to get a message across to a wider demographic of people, which is what Hip-Hop should be![This is] Immortal Technique! Harlem all day!! I love y’all!
Parlé: Thanks so much for your time!
ImmTech: No problem my sistah!
WHOA!!!!! WE’RE NOT DONE YET!!!
Just as Immortal Technique was grinding, handing out his album, The Martyr, after the Rock the Bells Press Conference, he is grinding on some new projects as well!
He’s on tour and he has an album coming out soon called The Middle Passage produced by people such as SouthPaw, Green Lantern and DJ Premier. He is also coming out with a movie of his own called The Revolution of Immortal Technique! The movie drops on July 10th and features Ice T, KRS ONE, Chuck D, Woody Harrison, Cornell West and many others! It’s a movie about his journey in the music industry, self awakening and artistic freedom. It also talks about his life and upbringing. Here’s a sneak peek:
“[The movie] starts out with me. I was born in a military hospital in South America and it was in the middle of a war zone, a guerrilla war, like you know when ni**az talk about a shoot out on the block, that’s different than somebody strappin a car with C4,and rollin up in a bank with six ni**az with AK’s and shooting everybody, and then being like ‘take that’, like ‘go handle that ni**a’ and the government then coming back and doing the same thing… like it was getting to that point. So my father, you know a very very smart man, but it was just ironic that the decision he made was to leave that looking for peace and moved [us] to Harlem in the 80’s… Lol… [The movie also] tells a story of how I’m trying to be as independent as possible, you know what I mean? So I think it tells a story about artistic freedom and me not wanting to sign to a label. You know, why do that? Why take a loan with interest rates and you don’t even get to keep the property??! You know, if we talk about business here, then let’s talk business, let’s talk dollas, let’s talk cents, ya know? It’s a loan.. with TERRIBLE interest rates!! You buy a house and you gotta take a loan from the bank and after you done payin’ that sh** you get to keep your fu**king house. When you’re done paying the label off you don’t necessarily get to keep your masters or your publishing. And there’s something wrong with that. So to me, you know, that’s part of the story too in Hip Hop. That’s part of all of it, so I wanted that story to be told.”
If you liked what you read and interested in any of his upcoming projects, you can follow Immortal Technique on twitter @immortaltech. If you ask him something constructive or intelligent he will answer you. He’s not going to respond to bs, so if you don’t come correct he will “find [your] IP address and throw you in a trashcan!” Lol.
DON’T FORGET TO BUY YOUR TICKET FOR ROCK THE BELLS!!!!! THIS YEAR IS GOING TO BE LIIVVEEE SO YOU DON’T WANNA MISS IT!!!!!!!!!!!