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The Immersion: Dancing With the Devil & Immortal TechniquePosted by Dharmic X on 08/09/12 | Filed under Opinion, The Immersion
2 AM on a weeknight. I’m sitting in front of a computer in my room with the lights off, trying to convince my parents that I’m actually asleep, getting ready for another day of tenth grade. In reality, I’m listening to a song a friend sent me. It begins with a piano loop, a sample from a piece of classical music. From the minute the vocals kick in, I’m left mesmerized, listening to a story unfold.
“I once knew a n... whose name was William.” The first verse set a scene that I was very familiar with, a young kid growing up with nothing but ambition that eventually transforms itself into greed, a reckless desire to make money now and deal with the consequences later. “He built a reputation, ‘cause he could hustle and steal but got caught once and didn’t hesitate to squeal.” Under the lines of the narrative, something deeper was being said. There is a code of ethics that runs deeper than just the legal system, a code that affected respect and how it is given out. Much like myself, William thought that earning money quickly was more important than building a long-term investment, but his story took it to a deeper level, dropping out of school, “dancing with the devil smoking until his eyes would bleed.”
Already I could see the mistake in the boy’s ways, the boy representing me. But in the second verse, I started to see just how destructive this path could potentially become. Billy started to devolve, selling crack cocaine, trying to rebuild a reputation of being a thug. However, in the eyes of the real gangsters, it took more than hustling to achieve validation. (After all, “Even Puffy smoked a mothafucka up in the club.”) As they put it, “Only a real thug could stab someone ‘til they die, standing in front of them, staring straight into their eyes.” This was the type of crime that was too blatant and destructive for me, but it could never repulse someone who was so blinded with greed that he had the Devil locked in his embrace.
Billy’s story continued, of course, into its tragically ironic conclusion: on the night of his initiation, he kidnapped, beat up, and raped a woman who turned out to be his own mother. “His whole world stopped, he couldn’t even contemplate: his corruption had successfully changed his fate.” In the end, Billy Jacobs kills himself, his mother killed off by the same thugs he’d tried to link with. And as much as this in itself made me “cringe,” the part where the narrator claims that “he was there” and was an accomplice to the crime was the most repulsive part of the whole ordeal. The life of crime was sickening, and its toll was too severe. I wanted out.
Obviously, there are deeper levels of imagery and symbolism involved with this story. Beyond the base moral (“a dance with the devil might last you forever”), the story is a metaphor for the type of general debauchery that pervades the inner-cities and even the Third World. By getting trapped into a cycle of violence and poverty, we are raping ourselves. Furthermore, by taking the example that has been laid down through European colonialism and exploitation, the governments in Africa, South America, and Asia were now raping their own motherlands. But of course, like any song, I was rooted to the message for its personal significance.
Luckily for me, I hadn’t stepped in deep enough to face the type of repercussions Immortal Technique spoke of in “Dance with the Devil.” But this song was only my first exposure to the Harlem MC who would go on to change and shape my way of thinking repeatedly throughout his catalogue of classics.
(DJ Dharmic X is the host of This Culture Never Dies, 11PM-1AM Saturday on wnyu.org. Fans and haters, can follow him on Twitter and check him out on Facebook.)
See Also: The Immersion: Lupe Fiasco’s “Gotta Eat”, & So Do I