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Issue #1533      1 February 2012

Speaking out for the disenfranchised

January 2012 saw the arrival of Immortal Technique for his first ever Australia and New Zealand tour. Immortal Technique is a Harlem based Hip Hop artist of African-Peruvian descent. He is well known for his political lyrics and activism that are deeply critical of, for example, US imperialism.

Immortal Technique.

I attended the show in my hometown, Adelaide. There was an interesting mix of the usual Hip Hop crowd and people interested in an alternative in music and-or-society more broadly. Supported in Adelaide by Social Change and Dialect & Despair and nationally by AKIR and Poison Pen, Immortal Technique played tunes from all four of his releases (Revolutionary Vol.s 1 & 2, The Third World and The Martyr). It was great to see a supportive, enthusiastic and peaceful crowd joining in with chants of “Free Palestine” etc.

Technique told the story of when he was seeking a deal to distribute his second album “Revolutionary Vol. 2”. An executive advised him to remove politically “sensitive” songs from the album in order to get a distribution deal (songs such as The Cause of Death, “the United States sponsored the rise of the 3rd Reich/ Just like the CIA trained terrorists to the fight/ Build bombs and sneak box cutters onto a flight”, for example).

For artists working in any genre this kind of censorship is at best disturbing and totally undermines both their integrity and the driving force behind their art. The issue raises interesting questions about the music industry and how it works with the media to misrepresent Hip Hop in particular. Hip Hop culture has at its heart the interests of young black people, people who are institutionally marginalised and disenfranchised by society: it was always going to be a target for the establishment.

The controllers of music and the media don’t want a strong and united urban culture that advocates for black power or people power. It is my belief that the promotion of the so-called Gangster Rap of the 1990s comes from the need of the establishment to prevent the audience, whether black, white young or old, from listening to anything that challenges the status quo. Labelling music in this way not only switches off the audiences’ minds to challenging the system but also denigrates the makers of such music, mostly young working-class black men. What better way to manipulate a culture than to label it as violent, overtly sexual, misogynist and purely concerned with crime?

Artists like Immortal Technique have become successful in spite of this through sheer hard work and determination. No doubt the Internet era has helped artists stay independent through direct downloads from their own websites and social media sites. It will be interesting to see what develops from here.

At the end of the night, Technique urged the audience to support independent and underground Hip Hop artists on the local scene. I have no doubt that the culture in Australia is strong and so long as artists commit to keeping their integrity and refusing to “sell out”, the culture will remain strong.  

The Martyr is available for free download from the Viper records website:

There is also a mixtape featuring AKIR and Immortal Technique available for free download at:

Next article – Back to the bad old days for Abbott

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