Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Revolutionary Music: A Review of The Martyr From Immortal Technique

2 Novemeber 2011
By Der Kosmonaut

2011 has turned out to be one of the most critical years in human history. It is the year of revolutionary upheavals and counter-revolution. The euphoria that billions around the world put in Obama's hope and change rhetoric has evaporated. This year followed the same trend. The euphoria over the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have led to horror and repulsion of counter-revolution. The gang rape of Libya which culminated in the gruesome lynching of Muammar Gaddafi has caused to widespread disgust. As this blog has reiterated all year, we are living in deadly serious and gruesome times.

On the other hand, 2011 is turning out to be one the best years in music since 2003. Immortal Technique has arguably made one of the best albums of the year. His new album The Martyr is the most politically revolutionary albums ever recorded. The Colombian born but Harlem, New York reared rapper first made his mark musically with his track Bin Laden, which demolished the official story of 9/11/01 and laid bare the predatory aims of American capitalism. Most recently, Immortal Technique made an early appearance at Occupy Wall Street during the first days. The Martyr is the most timely album to be released during the present era of mass resistance against totalitarian capitalism.

The Martyr is infinitely better than Dead Prez' Revolutionary But Gangta Grillz from last year. Immortal Technique is the one of the best political rappers in the United States presently. He is following the path made by Public Enemy and Sistah Souljah. The United States has degenerated politically, culturally, socially and morally since the rap musicians listed above made dire warnings about the coming totalitarian racist state that is taken hold of the country. With that said, there are still many limitations to the album both musically and politically. These will be covered shortly.

True to his political convictions, The Martyr is available for free. On the first track "Burn This", he implores the listener to burn the album and give it to as many people as possible. The first music track "Rich Man's World" is told from the perspective of the capitalistically degenerated parasitic capitalist. One recalls Dave Chappelle's comedy sketch “Black Bush”. Immortal Technique speaks the language of Harlem as if he were a member of the 1%. He pulls no punches about the criminal gangster nature of America's degenerated capitalist class.

"Toast to the Dead" is dedicated to political prisoners all over the world both presently and in the past, as well as those killed by the government through the police and FBI. He asks rhetorically: “I wonder how many Presidents are burning in Hell.” He goes on to deplore Black on Black crime and murder. Keeping his gaze to the past, he toasts rap legends and pioneers who created hip hop and rap music. Turning to the future and his own immortality, he toasts himself. He says that his words are encrypted for future generations so his memory lives forever. His body will die but his words and thoughts will not.

"Running Nowhere" is one of the strongest tracks musically on The Martyr. The 55 second song features a woman, who is anonymous singing the same stanza. “People are running/Where are they going?” One recalls "Road to Nowhere" by Talking Heads.

The title track, "The Martyr" employs a remixed and remastered sample of “Eleanor Rigby" from The Beatles. Immortal Technique warns of the return of the military draft in order to suppress “the insurgents” in Central Asia and the Middle East. He states that he would “die for a cause than live a life that's worthless.” He gives a brief history of the murders of Ghandi, Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X and JFK who were all killed by capitalist forces who saw them as a threat. “I'm in the heart of war/That's where a Martyr is born.”

"Ultimas Palabras" is a spoken word track of Immortal Technique giving a political speech. He explains how solutions for human existence have been eliminated on purpose. He elaborates on the legacy of slavery and racism which “rather than issues of class, they made issues of race and religion” in order to distract the masses from the real issues of inequality. Referring to the masses he correctly notes: “We may not run America but we make America run” Following the philosophical line of thinking of Duci Simonovic he remarks: “We have taken our souls out of ourselves and put them in machines.” The revolutionary rhetoric rises to a crescendo with the line: “As the government has implanted their spies among us, we have planted our spies within them.” Within seconds a gunshot is fired. The audience gasps in horror and dismay. The track ends with Immortal Technique getting assassinated.

"Mark of The Beast" features Akir and Beast 1333. It's one of the weakest tracks musically on the album but one gem of a line saves it. “I've got the mind of a genius stuck in a body with cerebral palsy.”

"Sign of The Times" features Cornel West, Cetan Wanbli and Lockjaw Nakai with Native American chanting, singing rhythms and flutes. The song lays out the genocide and ongoing oppression of the indigenous peoples in North America. “Live for revolution rather than die for it.” That line should be the official slogan of any mass struggle against capitalism. Cornel West whispers at the end without music. “Immortal Technique, rise up young brother. It's not your time to die.”

"Angels and Demons" features Dead Prez and Bazaar Royale. This track explains the use of the military to kill the Black Liberation movement in the early 1970s. Always conscious of history Immortal Technique commemorates the 40th anniversary of the murder of George Jackson.
“Military aren't there for people's protection/just to protect the investments.” Though he seems to state the obvious, it's certain that many people remain unaware and ignorant of this fact. Referring to the ongoing military debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan he reflects that “Occupation is not victory”

"Goonies Never Die" features Diabolic, Swave Sevah and Gomez. A child child asks his uncle if he was ever in a gang and did bad things. The uncle explains the existential situation of his youth and how he was never in a gang but rather with friends. Goonies Never Die is the most interesting track musically with an epic classical music sample mixed with a hip hop beat.

"Young Lords" features Joell Ortiz, CF and Pumpkinhead. It's a manifesto of the Young Lords (PR and Latino version of Black Panther Party for Self Defence) as well as a call for Latinos in the US to organise themselves into a revolutionary force.

"Conquerors" features a lecture by the radical Black historian John Henrik Clarke. In this well known lecture Clark explains how throughout history, religion has always been imposed by conquerors and
religion imposed by conquerors “used as the framework to control minds.... When you accept another people's religion then you become a spiritual prisoner of that other culture”

"Civil War" features Killer Mike, Brother Ali and Chuck D and starts with Martin Luther King's “Mountain Top” speech. It was Dr. King's last speech in Memphis the night before he was assassinated. The music follows with some interesting lines. For example the “ghetto is a prison with invisible bars” Referring the the American Civil War, the rappers state their political opposition against the “Cracker” culture of the American South. Elaborating on the nature of contemporary oppression and repression it's more than just race but “more than racism it's keep in your placism”
The civil war is between field niggers and house niggers or put in layman terms, between the black masses and the black elite such as Obama and other Black corporate elite. Stating that the purpose of the civil war is the “fight for the future of civilisation.”

"Natural Beauty" features Mela Machinko and uses a sample from 1970s Soul music. It's a rant against the beauty and fashion industry which does nothing else except to promote “eurocentric vanity” He raps against the white female as the ideal of physical beauty and argues that what's missing in society is soul beauty.

"Eyes in the Sky" features Mojo of Dujeous. This is by far the most outstanding song on The Martyr. It has excellent rapping, good songwriting and exceptional production. If only more hip hop music was like this today.

The album concludes with "Black Vikings" and features Styles P, Vinnie Paz and Poison Pen. The Ascension of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope compels the rappers to mention the connection between the Nazis and the Catholic Church. It was my personal favourite track as it employs Industrial music and beats. The song is perhaps the one album that will make many listeners most apprehensive. Black Vikings is a warning that Blacks worldwide will revolt and take revenge against white civilisation. The threats of mass rape and pillaging. It's a deliberate provocation to ignite the deepest psychic fears of white civilisation. The mortal fear that Blacks will overthrow the white man and rape his women and daughters.

This leads to the most salient criticisms I have of The Martyr. The album is not Politically Correct at all, which in itself is not a bad thing and a welcome development. However, there is too much self-hating racist language and misyongist language. Too much use of “nigger(s)” and “bitch(es)”. This isn't necessary and in fact undermines the political content. It's discouraging how someone with such clear political and social clarity and insight can reproduce and replicate the oppressive structures and ideas over and over again. No doubt, this is how those Blacks and Latinos still left in Harlem really speak and interact. Immortal Technique has much “street creditbility” and feels that he must use this language in order to keep himself “legit” in the eyes of his colleagues in Harlem.

What is also problematic about The Martyr is that it is hard to appeal to people that either don't listen or don't like hip hop. The production and music is trapped within the genre of hip hop. While The Martyr is far from being a bad album musically, the music lacks an universal appeal to all ears, tastes and audiences. While the texts are the most relevant and politically poignant today, the insistence of being “real” hip hop will turn away many people. Those that do appreciate and understand the political significance of the lyrics will be repelled by the misyongist language.

All in all, The Martyr remains an excellent and powerful album which truly reflects the revolutionary zeitgeist today. It is certainly an album for which Immortal Technique will be remembered for. The most important thing is that Immortal Technique is following the true artists imperative which is to produce life, affirm life and to ruthlessly attack all forces and trends of reaction and social injustice. In this regard, Immortal Technique will go down as one of the most revolutionary artists of the 21st Century.

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