Rock The Boat (Part I)
With all due respect to Mista Chuck, “political rappers” usually get the Jehovah’s Witness treatment in hip-hop; we hear them ringing the door bell—and sure, they probably mean well—but we’ll be damned if we’re not gonna hide under the kitchen table so they don’t see that we’re home. Immortal Technique is the rare exception. His forceful presence, biting intelligence and personal confessions have set him apart from the set of preachy MCs. His two albums, Revolutionary, Vol. 1 and Revolutionary Vol. 2, have revealed an artist committed to showing the bigger picture behind ghetto realities.
It also seems that Tech’s own picture is getting a lot bigger these days. He’s now the president of his own independent label, Viper Records, where he just executive produced his new artist Akir’s album Legacy. With his own third album, The Middle Passage, on the way through Babygrande/Koch, a DVD documentary called Urban Warfare and a “mixtape/album” with Green Lantern on the way, it’s amazing that he has time to focus on running a label.
After we listened to Green Lantern’s new mixtape and heard Tech spit the line, “Al Queda and America been doing business well/They tighter than Interscope and XXL,” [Listen to the song HERE] we thought this Peruvian was trying to do us in. So, just before he left for the West Coast to begin his 2006 Invasion tour, we had to catch up with Tech to make sure it was all good. Shoot, after this, maybe Tech and XXL will be tighter than Interscope and, well…us.
First of all, thanks for the shout-out on “Impeach the President.” How tight are Interscope and XXL exactly?
I’m sure that’s a question that the people at accounting over there could answer a lot better than I could. Not to imply that y’all take money for covers or articles or for reviews, but when you do that much business with someone, you must come to form some sort of bond. It was just a rhyme, it wasn’t a shot out of disrespect. Come on now, you’ve heard my music, fam, that’s nowhere near being disrespectful for a nigga like me. I think I just pointed something out that wasn’t news to anyone in the game, or someone looking at it from the outside. I’ve always appreciated XXL’s support of the shit that I do. Shout to the Chairman, Bonsu, Leah and all the staff that works hard.
What do you think about hip-hop’s current love of all things “Stop Snitching”?
I hear a lot of criticism about it; [that] it destroys the community, that is creates distrust and prevents crimes from being solved. People lead by example, though. If the police want people to start speaking to authorities, maybe they should start speaking to authorities. They want people to take the stand? Maybe they should walk around the blue wall of silence and take the stand themselves. They want Latinos and Blacks to snitch on each other? They want the ’hood to snitch on itself? I’ve never seen an officer take the stand against another one and be like, Yeah, your honor, I saw my partner bash that kid’s head in ’cause he was Black and had an attitude. I’ve never heard one of them say, No, we had no reason to stop them. We just do that all the time on the highway in Jersey and hope we get lucky. And what about the government? You [ever] heard the FEDs snitch on each other with it resulting in shit? What about the CIA? They kill snitches. Who ever heard Col. Oliver North—who was funneling drug money and weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua—snitch on Reagan? Fuck outta here, nigga. You never heard of anything like that. You want us to snitch? You snitch, muthafucka. You want crimes solved? So do we. You want truth? Guess what? We do too. Malcolm X. Martin Luther King Jr. Tupac. Biggie. Agent 800. Gulf War Syndrome. Cancer clusters in the ’hood. JFK. 9/11. Anthrax. The circumstances behind the War in Iraq. The funding of the Taliban by America up to five months before Sept. 11, 2001. Start there. We as a people need to start policing ourselves. We need to confront child molesters and rapists, as well as the Church that—without any disrespect to Jesus Christ—could easily fall under that category too. We should start a “Start Snitching” campaign for the government to come to terms with what they’ve done to us before we point the finger at another brother. I spent an extra six months locked up and a month in the hole over saying nothing to the police, even after my co-defendant sang like a fuckin’ canary. I didn’t do that for street cred or ’cause I thought it was cool. I am a man of commitment and principle. I lost everything, in terms of money and my family, but I walked out of that cage and came home to NYC a man in every sense. I take that snitching shit personally because they didn’t break me or make me talk. I wasn’t for sale. And I don’t think that our loyalty as a people should be either.
Is signing with a major label something you’ve considered?
They keep trying to sign me as an artist and throw money at me without realizing that this isn’t about just paper for me. It’s about principle and about my success rate as the president of my own label. As the VP and then the president of Viper, I sold 80,000 copies of Vol.2 and I sold about 35,000 of Vol.1. SoundScan might give you some numbers that are lower, but the first 30,000 of Vol.2 I moved on my own and through a series of smaller distributors. I mean, before I even had distribution I moved about 10,000 on my own for $8 to $10. I don’t need to pretend to be paid for anyone. Even though I’m from Harlem, I’m not really flashy. I got a Third World country work ethic, like the Haitians, Jamaicans, Cubans, Colombians. I’m mostly Peruvian, so I put my money into investments. I own three apartments and a house I bought for my grandmother in South America. I own over 50 acres of farmland in Peru. I’m putting my sister through school and now medical school. I get as much as many major label artists for shows. I mean, my agent won’t call me unless we’re talking $5,000 to $15,000. I’m not starving and broke and willing to sell my soul to them along with the rights to my masters and publishing. I’m not looking for the big advance. I’m looking for what a record deal—or rather, a P&D deal—should be. A deal, not some piece of paper written in legalese that makes me a slave.
50 Cent seems to be signing everybody these days. What would he have to come at you with to get you to sign a major label deal with G-Unit?
You’re trying to be funny, but I’ll humor you. As a Latino with an overwhelmingly strong fan base of Latino people and someone who has plenty of White fans as well as Muslims and Blacks, I have a diversity wherever I move. I tour the world. But in terms of a deal, I would need something similar to what Roc-A-Fella got from Def Jam; they give 25% and have a large distribution outlet with support from a major. But I need to hold on to those masters since I mix it down and have it mastered myself out my own pocket. I have no A&R. I do it all myself. It’s no one’s vision but mine. I always put up the dough for production and pressing my own records. I don’t think that fits with just about anyone’s formula. People aren’t getting signed nowadays by someone who doesn’t wanna own them 100%, and labels don’t really break artists anymore. They want someone self-made but don’t pay them like they’re self-made.
Do you think being labeled a “political rapper” helps you or hurts you?
I’ve heard “Revolutionary Rapper,” “Street Politician,” “Political Rapper,” “Activist MC,” all that shit. I pay it no mind. They used to call me a “Battle MC” because I won all the major battles in New York. I know what I’m capable of. I know what it is to be pigeonholed in the game, so I don’t worry about what people say. The hardest albums, even the birth of gangsta rap, was all revolutionary: Amerikkkaz Most Wanted, The Chronic, Ice-T’s O.G. How can someone listen to these albums and not hear a revolutionary message encoded in them? I represent the streets here in America and I represent the people from other countries that come here as a result of what has been done to their homeland. Every aspect of this rap game is political, any veteran will tell you that. If you don’t like politics, stay the fuck outta the music business. Politics is the most gangsta shit in the world. Third World countries are rich in resources—Africa, South and Central America, all of Asia. The reason they’re sources for cheap labor, the reason they’re so poor and wretched and starving is that all their resources are owned by countries like America and Europe, countries that used to own them as colonies and keep the people as slaves. That’s politics, nigga. That’s more gangsta than you, your block, your set or anyone you know will ever be. I just tell it like it is, like it was and how it could be, [instead of] like it’s not, like wasn’t and how it should be.
Check back later this week for Part II of XXLMAG.COM’s interview with Immortal Technique, where he speaks on Down South hip-hop and what he admires about the Diplomats.