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The Immersion: Going on a Death March With Immortal TechniquePosted by Dharmic X on 08/30/12 | Filed under Opinion, The Immersion
These are the words on the introductory song on my favorite album of 2008 (and arguably one of my favorite albums of all-time). “Death March” instantly builds an anticipation for a very intense and very vibrant album: with the booming instrumental from DJ Green Lantern and Tech’s bold statements and cogent analysis, we can expect nothing but a thorough breakdown of how the global society’s “Third World” relates to hip-hop’s emerging underground scene. For the next sixteen songs, the Harlem lyricist does not disappoint, refusing to back down from addressing serious issues on both the global and domestic front while simultaneously refusing to come across as “corny” or “preachy.”
The reason for this stems from Tech’s willingness to inject his own humanity into his music. “Used to run around getting my fight in the streets on, back in the day before Harlem had a Green Zone,” he confesses in the second track, “That’s What it Is.” The question of “what good is a good education with no direction?” resonated with me, a tenth grader with no vision of where his high school education was taking him (despite supposedly being a part of “one of the best schools of the nation”). Just like Tech, “it took time for my mind to put together a perspective.” But for me, it involved me listening to this album, hearing calls to find a metaphorical enemy to rally against. (“You got beef with n..., I got beef with Aryans”).
The theme of personal accountability continued throughout "The Third World", through thematic songs like “Mistakes” and “Parole.” But the content of the album went beyond that. On “Harlem Renaissance”, Technique recasts the famous historical time period to focus on the financial realities of the celebrities and others, before highlighting the perils of current gentrification in Harlem. “Payback” features Tech, Ras Kass, and Diabolic boldly announce their revenge against those who deserved it. On “Lick Shots,” Tech trades bars with Crooked I and Chino XL, two incredible lyricists I had sadly never heard prior to this record, to bring the heat to crooked politicians, hypocritical media types, and fake revolutionaries. As much as Crook’s questions (“If I merked the racist Rush Limbaugh I wonder would God forgive me?”) and polished flow astounded me, it was Chino who stole the show with his brutal punchlines. “These pigs wanna see us dead inside a jail cell, turned us from Shawn Carter to Sean Combs to Sean Bell.”
I’ve already detailed in great length just how important the title song was to me; not only is it still my favorite song, it was one of the first songs of his I got introduced to. (It was only after this album, in 2008, that I was able to go further into the rest of Technique’s catalogue and I started to appreciate his entire body of work as my favorite in the rap game). But another standout on “The Third World” album is the last song, “Crimes of the Heart.”
The song is about love, something I imagine many people wouldn’t consider a part of an Immortal Technique album or even an Immortal Technique concert. I think many people really undermine the diversity of Tech’s records, and “Crimes of the Heart” is a classic example of that. Tech’s rhymes don’t include clever wordplay and innuendos. Instead he says “Love doesn’t need a complicated metaphor, and sometimes nothing needs to be said at all.” He is talking about love in an ideal sense, outside the confines of the marriages that sometime take place for necessity’s sake. But more importantly, he is talking about self-love. “Cause the heart that betrays itself willingly is like a nation that trades freedom for stability,” he warns. And of course, his final words of the song--his closing words of the album--resonate the most: “Take it from a criminal searching for his redemption, cursing at God desperately trying to get his attention.”
To talk of “Crimes of the Heart” without alluding to the brilliant vocal work of Maya Azucena would be a grave error. Her ethereal voice cuts through the gravity of Tech’s voice, the density of his lyrics, and pierces the song straight through the heart. Every time I hear this song in the midst of the night, her bridge at the end soothes my soul, gives me hope that one day I will attain redemption for every sin I’ve committed in my reckless youth, a time in my life that really hasn’t ended no matter how much I’ve matured in the last five years. And of course, the beat by Southpaw is perfect, rising and falling to match the voices on the record, minimalistic when it has to be and reaching its crescendo towards the powerful grand finale.
"The Carter III" was music for that time period, a solid album with hit records, some of which did have powerful and serious subject matter. But the Third World was music to cleanse my mind and offer me a shining example in the power of music to empower and instruct. Tech’s clarity, word choice, and subject matter stuck out to me in ways that no other musical artist had come close to replicating in my mind, and so with this body of work, he had officially become not just my favorite MC, but also a man I held in high-esteem, a man that I looked up to. And it is this album, namely songs like “Crimes of the Heart,” that I return to over-and-over again in need of guidance. This is what I turn to when I need to remind myself just how far I’ve come, and just how far I have to go on this journey of the mind, body, and soul.
(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: The Rise of Lil Wayne & Tha Carter