I had the opportunity to chop it up with Peruvian born, Harlem, NY raised lyrical overlord and activist, Immortal Technique, about his upcoming record, MCs - Chino XL & Poison Pen, Canadian shows, death threats and government surveillance, as well as his association with former Black Panther member, political activist and death-row inmate, Mumia Abu Jamal.
The new record, The Middle Passage, is just about in the can, isn't it? The title itself carries heavy significance, and I can imagine that the lyrics on the album communicate meaningful and important subject matter. In a recent post you said, "These songs span years of my life and the subject matter is incredibly diverse." Can you elaborate on this statement?
Some of the songs are stuff that I began writing years ago and for whatever reason I never finished, so they lay dormant, but the subject matter is ever present in our society. I think it's been difficult to quantify exactly how many songs I have like this, but I will say that their significance as time has progressed, hasn't been nullified. As a matter of fact, it's been enhanced as time has progressed. Take a song like G.O.B.; it was written over 5 years and yet it is no less a subject matter then, than it is now. I try to make what I do timeless.
I remember The Middle Passage being discussed in interviews dating all the way back to 2010. Why did you decide to hold back with the official release? Can we expect it to drop before the end of 2019, and in what formats will the record be available?
The record will be available in all formats. I will even make cassette tapes for incarcerated people like I used to make before. It will drop when it's ready, but it will be on point and we will definitely tour the globe.
The subject matter in your lyrics have always planted a seed for me, and the lyrical substance on your track, The Cause of Death, really sparked my interest back in 2003—I definitely had never heard stuff like that talked about so explicitly in a song. That track came out soon after 9/11, and I'm wondering what kind of extreme critical feedback you got on that joint after it was released?
I got death threats, I've had government agents of all types come knocking. It's just a shame that when they come these people usually send a worker to do the bosses job. None of the people they sent were ideologues. Eventually when I spoke to them, many left disillusioned with the job they had and the mission they were sent to do. I think the government realized that I just wasn't going to be triggered and play their stupid little game.
Speaking of The Cause of Death, Revolutionary Vol. 2 is approaching its 16th year anniversary, and there's definitely no less corruption and injustice in the world today to speak on in your lyrics. What's the most important thing that you've learned over the years about crafting lyrics and the delivery of such dynamic material?
I think it's that classic records stand the test of time. And whether it is a loosely based ideology or a structured religion, that as soon as it leaves the hands of the maker or the prophet or the messiah, it has always fallen into the hands of lesser men. It also makes me grateful beyond words for the people that continue to listen to my music and pass down the knowledge I shared. A lot of things I wrote, and the way I structured my albums was supposed to reflect not just what was going on at the time of their conception, but rather what I thought or imagined the world would be years later.
You've been out on tour now for just over a month in the United states, supported by two heavyweight MCs - Chino XL and Poison Pen. Talk about your relationship with these cats, and why you chose them for The Middle Passage tour?
I always say that you have two families in life; the one you are born into and the one that you choose. I've known Poison Pen for a long time. He was basically one of the pioneers of the battle scene in the late 90's, early 2000's. He put on a lot of battlers who are at the top of the game now, and he invented pay-per-view battle rap. When I was on parole, he was hosting a series of battles at a club called Wetlands and I defeated a few friends of his. He gave me a shot on his platforms and I showed and proved ruthlessly. We developed a mutual respect and a strong brotherhood grew out of that when I was voted into a crew called "Stronghold." Chino XL and I met much later when I was working on the West Coast, and was already tearing up shows. He was always an inspiration to me, lyrically. I always tell people, when I was incarcerated I had his Hip Hop quotable on my cell wall. To be able to hang with him lyrically, and to learn from his expertise has been invaluable.
You've always aligned yourself and collaborated with artists who have a compelling voice and something to say about injustice in the world. You even had former Black Panther member and political activist, Mumia Abu Jamal, speaking on your 2nd record, Revolutionary Vol.2. Can you talk about how you connected with Mumia, and if you are still in contact with him and involved in Free Mumia organizations these days?
I met the Free Mumia Organization and have networked with them for many events. I know better than to give any random personal information about how that connection was made and who I spoke to, or who my contacts are (Laughs). Needless to say I still support Mumia and the Organization. When they call, and if I can make it, I will.
I heard that you've received clearance to do shows up here in Canada! Will this be your first time in the country, and can you reveal any date, city and support act details?
Not yet, unfortunately things had to be pushed back because of some family issues, but I fully plan on being out there in 2020. It will definitely be a great experience and I look forward to trying to put together a massive tour of all of Canada, not just the 3 major cities that people go to. I look forward to meeting the support base I've had out there for all these years, and those people that travel over the border from America to see my shows when I get close to Canada. I love you guys and I'm gonna come out there and see you soon.
Immortal Technique, Chino XL, Poison Pen & DJ Static are currently on tour in the United States. Remaining tour dates listed below:
11/24 - Greensboro, North Carolina - Blind Tiger
11/26 - Virginia Beach, Virginia - Elevation 27
11/27 - Asbury Park, New Jersey - Asbury Lanes
11/29 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Theatre of Living Arts
11/30 - New York, New York - Playstation Theatre