Following the announcement of the release date of the upcoming Immortal Technique album (June 24th), us media types were treated to a few tracks to introduce us to what could be the most anticipated independent album in years. And when I say independent, I’m not talking about a rapper on an underground label. I’m talking about a rapper who sold his CDs on the street and now refuses to sign with a label that could provide more exposure as it might infringe on his message and mission. However, with the announcement that a large amount of production for the album was completed by Jay-Z’s DJ Green Lantern, it had yet to be seen if Immortal Technique could stick to his guns amid production that on previous albums had been handled by far more independent names like Southpaw and 44 Caliber.
The press release was accompanied by a quote from “The Payback,” “I make rap about lyrics not beats and marketing.” And after listening to this track, “The 3rd World,” and “Reverse Pimpology,” there is no question that regardless of the beat behind him, Immortal Technique will not change his message or the power in his lyrics.
On the first listen, I liked the songs, but was concerned. These didn’t sound like Immortal Technique songs I had heard off the first two albums. The beats are more accessible, and even in an unmastered format, are a bit more polished than some of the more basic tracks off the two Revolutionary albums. On previous releases, while there are numerous tracks that grab musically from the first beat (“Caught in the Hustle,” “No Me Importa, “Obnoxious,” and “Harlem Streets” to name a few), one of the staples of the style is that the beats are more of a backdrop for Tech’s lyrics than anything else, and appreciation for them is derived mainly from how he sounds over them.
So when “The Payback” comes on with a vintage hook that could have come out of a Kanye song and laid back horns, the initial auditory reaction is to think the lyrics are going to follow those pop sensible lines. But when he opens in typical Tech fashion, “I want to run for President and the focal point when I’m campaignin’/is to put FEMA to work on plantation at Camp David,” it becomes clear that nothing has changed but the background, and even that difference is then altered by Tech’s forceful delivery and unmistakable style. By the end of the cut, as much as you could imagine hearing the beat on a radio station, Tech has made it completely his own, and you can’t imagine someone rapping about women, money or any of the other surface level topics popular in the genre today. The song is all the stronger for it.
The first beats of “The 3rd World,” while retaining the ragga-street melody style of tracks like “Peruvian Cocaine,” employs a thump and kick beat that’s harder and more fleshed out than Tech listeners are used to hearing. His mastery of lyrics, both in how he fuses lines and words together while never losing sight of his content, is again in full display here with lines like, “from where the bombs that they used to drop on Vietnam/Still has children born deformed 8 months before they’re born.”
When the initial reaction is to the first few measures of music, it’s easy to forget why you’re listening. So much of hip-hop today is based on listenable production that masks otherwise impotent lyrics. For a second you think you’ve stumbled into one of these before you remember that you’re listening because it’s an Immortal Technique track. And when you remember that fact, you start listening and realizing that not only is he the same rapper from the previous two albums, but he’s better because his message and delivery is truly incredible regardless of the beat he chooses. In short, these songs take an already potent lyricism and delivery and drive them home with an increased versatility derived from new musical landscapes behind them.
While Revolutionary Vol. 1 and 2 were perfect for his style and his message, they are largely an extension of each other. With these first three tracks from The 3rd World, Tech demonstrates an ability to adapt over any beat, and when he spits that he “makes rap about lyrics not beats and marketing,” the idea behind the new album and his collaboration with Green Lantern becomes more clear. He doesn’t care what he raps over, as long as his words are heard, and he doesn’t care who sells his album because he knows it will get out there if his message remains strong. While on a first listen these songs might shock Immortal Technique fans, the second and third listen reveal lyrics that are just as potent as the previous releases, packaged in beats that will change the way you listen to him. The elements of government conspiracy, poverty and disrespect to the major labels all show flashes here, and any concern that Tech would get soft in his lyrics or his delivery is washed away instantly.
With production coming from Green Lantern, Southpaw and Buckwild, and every indication that Immortal Technique’s strength as a lyricist and ideas as a revolutionary have not waned in the years since Revolutionary Vol. 2, I can tell you already that these three tracks make an excellent starting point for what is shaping up to be a forceful album. June 24th, Viper records, Immortal Technique, The 3rd World. Just to be fair, I’ve also heard bits of the tracks “Mistakes,” “Death March,” “Lick Shots,” and “Golpe de Estado,” but I’m not going to ruin the entire anticipation for the album here!
For a review of the full album, click here.