The Immersion: Immortal Technique Raises a Fist for “The Third World”Posted by Dharmic X on 08/16/12 | Filed under Opinion, The Immersion, Immortal Technique
For me, the newest release from Brother Ali and Jake One, “Mourning in America,” is a perfect example of this type of song. The beat provides an instant head-nod reaction and provides a haunting soundscape for Ali to dig deep into the serious social issues: highlighting the failures of America’s foreign policy, pointing out the hypocrisy of the nation’s propaganda-filled “War on Terror,” and connecting it all with America’s own ongoing issues of class warfare. But keeping true to the opening sample of the song (“I don’t usually deal with big words because I don’t usually deal with big people.”), the MC never comes across as preachy in his delivery or in his message. The flow is simple yet powerful, resonating with the listener while simultaneously inspiring awe, for the courage it takes to challenge a more-powerful authority through open expression is truly a force to be reckoned with.
“Mourning in America” reminds me of a song that was released when I was in 10th grade, a song which subsequently became my favorite. But how does one song out of the billions upon billions of 3-4 minute audio files earn the distinction of being “favorite?”
Ultimately, music is subjective. There is no formula to determine what makes a song a favorite. There is no checklist or rulebook that a listener consults when picking his or her favorite song. There is no roadmap available for aspiring artists trying to create a fan base. Yes, in every genre of music, there’s an established collection of music that purists and enthusiasts have labelled as “classics.” And while this designation holds true and is well-deserved, each person is entitled to pick their own favorite song or favorite artist, irrespective of expert opinion.
For me, my favorite song came out in 2010, at a formative time in my discovery of hip-hop and more importantly, in my life itself. While I enjoy older records from the legends that came in the 80s and 90s, I am not capable of connecting with that material the same way I am with my favorite song.
To discuss hip-hop is to discuss race, and there is never a way to extricate the two topics. And even though I connected on a lot of levels with the friends I had associated with throughout high school, even though I was inherently “not white” (and never could be), I wasn’t black, and that made a substantial difference. As much as there is a lot to appreciate about hip-hop in terms of the power of the beats, the mesmerizing cadences and deliveries, the substance in the lyrical content and the wit and humor of the wordplay, the culture’s origins--from the streets of New York City, influenced by the teachings of the Nation of Islam and the Five-Percenters--created a level of separation for me.
At least until I discovered “The Third World.”
“I’m from where the gold and diamonds are ripped from the Earth.” With this introduction, Technique begins to paint a picture of a world that has gone through generation after generation of abuse and exploitation, victims of direct colonialism and modern-day indirect imperialism. Having seen and protested against the propaganda-laced graphic films Southern Baptist missionaries play in Indian villages for children, here were lyrics I could personally relate too. “I’m from where the [Catholic] Church was some racist shit.”
This was music that matched an ideology I had begun to inculcate through a deeper reading of history, to the point that my tenth grade World History class left me incensed with the bias and omissions of “official” textbooks. This was a song that spoke directly to not just those in the ghettos of America, but those whose origins came from the poverty that runs rampant worldwide on a much-larger scale.
This wasn’t a lecture or a book, however; this was hip-hop. This was a gritty beat from DJ Green Lantern, complete with ominous flute riffs in the intro. This was content squeezed into a brutal and direct delivery, a poetic flow with a bite to it. This was how I began to understand just how much we are all connected. Listening to “The Third World” was the moment that marked my full-fledged conversion into this culture that I’m a proud participant of now.
Every single week I run my show on WNYU, I play “The Third World” to start things off. I do that because if there is one track that encapsulates why “This Culture Never Dies” to me, it is this one. After all, without it, I wouldn’t feel this beholden to an artform that has given me so much. I wouldn’t feel like I could be a part of it. All my life, I had been on a quest for inclusion. Immortal Technique had finally offered that to me.
(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: Dancing With the Devil & Immortal Technique