Political and social Hip Hop lives on (with Immortal Technique interview)

Political and social Hip Hop lives on (with Immortal Technique interview)

Social/political activism and Hip Hop music don’t get affiliated as one very often. It is especially surprising since everything from Zulu Nation to even Hip Hop ‘beefing’ all found roots in the poorer areas and initially functioned as a route for giving a voice to those without a voice. When it became evident that Hip Hop music is here to stay, as everything else in this country, it was turned into a revenue-making stream. Basically Hip Hop became a business. From artists going Platinum based on their beats and themes of partying in music to clothing lines and even video games becoming a part of the everyday Hip Hop routine, it became a revenue-generating entertaining and succeeding machine.

What is it about making money that does not agree with being honest or conscious or addressing social and political shortcomings? It’s rather simple. Those mistreated by the system tend to be the less privileged, living in the poorer areas, subsidized housing, receiving government assistance in the form of Food Stamps or Medicaid or welfare or all of the above. Those people are not overly concerned with politics. They are focused more on paying rent, buying groceries and hoping that the younger generation does not experience the same economic troubles as their parents. All those concerns take them away from being an active participant in the political or social agendas. Poor people don’t generally vote. They are too busy struggling to improve their lives and get proper education and better jobs. Those are the people who do not impact the economic present or future to a great extend. Hence those are the people who are ignored by the government and revenue-focused businesses. Can’t even blame those businesses for it. Start doing too much charity and next thing you know your business fails to exist. Successful business approach is one of the primary reasons for Hip Hop’s accomplishments. Your album has to sell well. Your concert has to pack a venue. Hence comes marketing and advertisement. Hence comes distribution. Hence comes business. Hence there is no room for being too conscious or fighting the very system that feeds you.

It is not a race thing. In New York there may be more African-Americans struggling financially although only 25% of people are blacks in this city. However in many parts of the country there are starving and homeless white people. Mostly white people live in trailer parks, etc. and receive government subsidies. However the rest of the country has a 12.5% of African-American population. It is doubled in New York. Issues are different in the city where a studio apartment goes for up to $6-7,000 per month and getting a two bedroom apartment even in the worst area of Queens for less than $1,000 is pretty much impossible. At the same time the minimum wage here makes it impossible for McDonalds workers to eat where they work. As Jay-Zsays ‘And It’s Much Bigger Issues In The World, I Know, But I First Had To Take Care Of The World I Know. So we go back to New York and our Hip Hop music.

One of the most socially prolific rappers in the game is Immortal Technique. Brought up in Harlem he’s seen quite a diverse life himself. As a teenager he went to Hunter College High School. This school is well known for gifted kids. Not too long after graduation he caught a 3.5 year bit in jail. Being imprisoned affects different people differently. Tek studied there, beefing up on politics, social issues, religion and began to write lyrics. Years later he is a known force in Hip Hop music as a fighter for the rights of people, addressing various social and political issues in his music. Unwilling to sign to a music label he is in complete control of his music. He says what he feels needs to be said in his lyrics, executive produces his music and does what he can to positively affect the music industry overall. He is the founder of Grassroots Artists MovEment (G.A.ME). G.A.ME offers health coverage for various underground artists serving as the only organization of its kind. Calling himself a socialist gorilla he is fighting against any form of oppression. Sharing a lot of views with Karl Marx, he does not affiliate himself with any political or social parties. And just like Karl Marx he is fighting for the rights of all oppressed. Marx may have been a Utopian philosopher/politician, yet he was without a doubt the most influential one of all time. Unfortunately being a Utopian socialist his ideas did not work well implemented into real life. Just like Ross Perotloosing his attempt to become a President but proving many problems in this country, Karl Marx should have been an idealist. John Locke’s theories were implemented almost literally in the French Revolution of 18th Century and it resulted in Napoleon Bonaparte trying to take over the world. However Locke’s ideas were used by Thomas Jefferson to write the US Constitution and it is the most viable constitution in the world, allowing more freedoms than any other. When Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was implemented literally in Russia it resulted in potentially the worst tyranny of XX Century when it materialized into U.S.S.R.

Why so much talk of politics and world history when it comes to Hip Hop? First of knowing history is key to understanding the present. Secondly, Immortal Technique is a Hip Hop artist, but he is a political and social activist also. Uncommon combination when it comes to the more commercial tendencies in Hip Hop, Tek does not attempt to reinvent mainstream music. He tries to free your mind and show you that not all rappers are just rappers. He reminds of the time when Hip Hop music was there to say something important. When artists did not sell out ‘cause noone was buying. When Hip Hop music was in its purest form. When it was art with a mission.

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