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Immortal Technique pulled over to the side of the road to have this Zoom conversation. He has his signature beret on his head, gas mask draped over what looks like a black military jacket. He’s in New York City, heading to pick up groceries for one of the 150 families he assists as part of his weekly food drive.
“I load this whole car, this little SUV filled to the f**king brim with supplies that I happened to get because someone used their power to pass as white to go into the wholesaler and get them,” he tells REVOLT.
“I found a Dominican girl who was wild light skinned and I was like, ‘Go in there. Pretend to be white and we can get discount groceries.’ I can’t go into a regular grocery store anymore because I realized that bread don’t cost that. I go to the wholesaler now and get s**t for the people because that’s what they need, man. That’s what they need right now. So be what the people need.”
For an hour or so, the rapper/activist discussed uprisings going down across America in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the victim of a gruesome police killing caught on camera. Fires rage in cities nationwide as protesters clash with authorities, agents of chaos, and opportunists trying to come up while everything burns down.
Immortal Technique was on the frontlines of the protests in New York City, just like he’s been on the frontlines fighting for justice worldwide for years. In 2008, he partnered with non-profit human rights organization Omeid International to build an orphanage in Kabul for children who lost their parents due to war in Afghanistan. In 2003, he released seminal offering Revolutionary Vol. 2 an explosive concoction of music to rebel to.
In this conversation with REVOLT, Immortal Technique offers his perspective on what’s happening on the ground, what brought the country to this point, and most importantly, what each of us can do while America is rocked by unrest. Read below.
THE POLICE ARE THE FRONT LINE. THEY ARE NOT SOLELY TO BLAME.
It’s great to see you. Is everything well with you and your family?
Yeah. It’s pretty hectic out here, but my family is good. My people are good. I checked in with a lot of young people that I know yesterday that were just out and about, and [with] all the drama and everything. Just making sure everybody’s families are good. Listening to people is something that I think a lot of people from the community don’t do. A lot of celebrities or artists — sometimes they mean well — but when you go to a community, you gotta listen and say, “What do you need?” I went to Ferguson, [Missouri]. I went to Houston at the invite of Trae Tha Truth. I went to Standing Rock at the invite of indigenous people. When I showed up there, I didn’t say, “This is what y’all are going to do.” I said, “What do you need? Do you need for me to be a taxi for people in Ferguson, help them go from here to there? No problem. Do you need me to do supply runs at Standing Rock? No problem. I think that is the true spirit of participating with people.
When you see somebody, you feel like, “OK, y’all are destroying some s**t that ain’t got anything to do with this. You’ve gotta pull back and have a targeted solution.” There’s something called “kettling.” Kettling is related to a war tactic used by the Vikings. They give away the center [of the battlefield]. They allow people to come in, then flank them from all sides. That’s what [the police] have been doing with a lot of the protesters. And a lot of the protesters — the young kids — they’ve got heart. They’ve got determination. And they’re the people that have been abused by the most by this system.
I want to remind y’all of some really terrible s**t that argues against the type of race war the media is trying to set up right now. I was born in 1978, so I’m 42 years old. When I was a kid, the NYPD was abusive, racist, violent towards us and it was mostly white officers. Now we have a police force that has a lot more black and brown officers. But, they’re still violent. They’re still ruthless. They still push people around. They still f**k people up and get away with it. And I feel like the community is culminating.
All of these things that have happened — from an immigrant baby getting run over by the sister of an NYPD sergeant and them threatening her immigration status. From a mother in Washington Heights getting killed by a drunk driver seven years ago and it killed three out of her four children, and it was an off duty cop, and he only does one year [in prison]. See, this is why all these things are coming up. It’s not just George Floyd. So, when people say, “They’re not honoring George Floyd.” You’re right. It’s not just about him. It’s about all the other hundreds of people that have had things happen to them.
I’ve been in situations where the police put a gun to my head for doing nothing. Nothing! Literally, I’m walking down the street going to Twin Donut to get food, and it breaks my mom and dad’s heart when I have to tell them this stuff. Any father who’s got a daughter, you think she’s going to go home and tell you every single time n**gas say some disgusting s**t to her in the street? No! But imagine that: Every man who got a little girl, someone has said something disgusting to her and she doesn’t want to tell you because she’s afraid. And I don’t want to compare myself in any way, shape, or form to the struggle of a woman. The only thing I’m going to say is this: As latino and black men, we don’t often go to mommy and daddy and tell them, “Hey mom, dad, I was harassed by cops today.” We get out of that when we’re like 14 or 15 [years old].
I feel like a lot of the youth need to understand that the blame don’t lie with the police solely. They are the front line. They are the pawn in the chess game. You gotta talk about the district attorneys. You gotta talk about the people that are in charge. And in many of these places, you can’t just blame, for example, racist Republicans. Sure, you can put them in their place for the s**t that they’ve done and the kind of tone-deaf attitude that they have on racism. But, in a lot of these places, we have to understand that these are Democratic mayors, Democratic governors who have taken Black and Latino people for granted for years. Both of those criticisms can be right at the same time.
What’s it like on the ground in New York? I know you’ve been out there this week.
A lot of people are nervous. I want to remind people that half the businesses you see that are closed are not because of riots. They’re because of the economic failure of what’s going on. When people are out in the streets, the one under reported thing is people stole every f**king piece of food out of that Target [in Minnesota]. They showed people with TVs. That’s convenient. How about you show people who can’t eat? Show me the people that have no food.
If an Antifa guy went to a MAGA rally with a bow and arrow, and shot at the MAGA people, I wouldn’t think that he was brave. I would think that n**ga’s crazy. Why would you go around these people, take a bow and arrow out, and get swarmed? Am I supposed to feel sympathy for the opposite version of that? A random MAGA dude that runs into a group of people who aren’t Antifa, just random angry kids and you’re going to pull a bow and arrow, and shoot at them? Be smart. If you don’t agree with the protests, you’re not brave for running into 50 people with a sword. You have a mental illness. That’s what you’re doing. You’re hurting yourself. Now if you want to be a martyr for your right wing movement, there are a lot better things to do.
And on the ground people are nervous. They’re scared. The moms and dads, they’re scared. They don’t want their kids to go outside. They’re scared because they think the police are going to have retribution. In The Bronx, I report this is 100 percent true, they track down protesters’ phones and made arrests at home. They will come find you in your home. That’s why they tell you to turn your phone off. Turn it to airplane mode, especially if you got one of these Apple [iPhones]. A lot of these companies are cooperating with authorities. They’re sharing pictures. That’s why you should airdrop stuff more than anything else for cell phone interactions.
Now, they’re going to ask me if I condone this or if I condone that. Let’s remember how this s**t started. Let’s not lose that perspective. It started because they murdered a man in broad daylight. I’m tired of people having to be the perfect candidate. It’s murder. Stop that. Don’t be highlighting weed somebody smoked in 10th grade. I don’t care who this dude f**ked. That’s not the point. Stop it. That’s disgusting.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Not all the people Hitler killed in the Holocaust were bad people”? I’m sure that some of them did something wrong. Why would they never say that? Why would they never take that kind of energy but they’ll say Native Americans are all savages, or Black people in Africa had no religion and they were cannibals? Why would you do that? Why would you take some small example of some offshoot tribe and use it to paint us all like that? Is it because you’re using it as an excuse for colonization? So, don’t tell me I’m spreading division. No, I’m spreading facts. You n**gas are spreading division because you can’t accept the f**king truth. That’s why Anonymous had to blow you n**gas up today.
HAVE WE REACHED A TIPPING POINT?
When I see these kids run up in a police station and take their skateboards and break windows right after the death of George Floyd, it feels different to me than many of the protests we’ve seen this century. What do you suggest that people do from this point forward to spark the change that so many want to see?
If you’re gonna wild out like that, y’all better do some Robin Hood, Little John s**t. That’s what I’m gonna tell the kids. There’s a lot of elders, a lot of families, a lot of little babies. I’m going to tell the young people like this: There’s 7 or 8-year-old little kids that look up to you like a god. I’m not s**t to them. I was born in 1978. My n**ga, that might as well be 1878. They’ll look at you and say, “Man, he’s cool. He’s down. He’s out here doing the s**t.” Show them an example of a real man. Don’t use any type of situation in the street to touch a woman. Don’t do no f**k s**t. Give those resources that you’re getting [and do something positive]. Don’t just take some flat screen and take it back to your house. If y’all are gonna take something from out there, give it to a hardworking family. There’s people that have been out of work for over a month.
I started doing some s**t where we do food drives. We feed 150 families a week. One hundred and fifty families a week, that’s not a small number. I load this whole car, this little SUV filled to the f**king brim with supplies that I happened to get because someone used their power to pass as white to go into the wholesaler and get them. I found a Dominican girl who was wild light skinned and I was like, “Go in there. Pretend to be white and we can get discount groceries.” I can’t go into a regular grocery store anymore because I realized, man, that bread don’t cost that. I go to the wholesaler now and get s**t for the people because that’s what they need, man. So, be what the people need.
There’s certain places that have been black-owned businesses that have supported the community. Help those out. Make sure that there’s some left in your area. Make sure you realize there are places that you do want to protect. And also, don’t travel alone. Like I said, there’s retribution going on and police are a gang. So, don’t forget that if you f**k one of them up, they’re gonna take pictures. They’re gonna find you and they’re gonna f**k you up.
You asked me what it’s like on the ground. After 9/11, the Bush administration, that s**t broke my heart because a lot of those [anti-war] movements, after Obama was elected, went away like the war was over. And the war never ended. I saw a black, white, and Mexican kid on top on CNN, and they had a sign that said, “We’re not trying to start a race war. We’re trying to end one.” And I think that’s what people don’t understand. We’re trying to end a race war.
I think it is a tipping point. I think people are fed up and they want some kind of substantive change. And I know I just got loud, and aggressive, and boisterous, but that’s just me speaking for what I see on the street. I’ve seen people get brutally beat down this week. I’ve seen people wilding out and nothing happened to them. I’ve seen people protesting quietly and peacefully. [I’ve seen] a young black couple, Morehouse dude in Atlanta, yanked out of their car and sprayed in the face for what? They weren’t doing nothing. There’s no proof that they had anything to do with this.
And we’re in the middle of a pandemic, too. All of a sudden we forgot about Corona[virus].
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
That’s part of the reason why I feel that this is a tipping point. You take 40 million people that no longer have work, no longer have resources…
And that’s the ones you can count! There’s probably another 10 million people out there!
When I look at what’s happening, I’m seeing mostly young people. These are Zoomers. Millennials, some of us at least had a chance to join the workforce before the 2009 economic crash. And just as we started to get worked up, we got Obama, so we got hope, then we got lazy. These kids didn’t have that in the same way. They had Ferguson, school shooting drills, climate change issues, and Trump. Zoomers organize and mobilize in a different way than Millennials.
The kids pointed out something to me a lot of other people didn’t. The kids and the older activists agreed on this point: The time that Obama got in was very deceptive for people because it was like a wood cutter walking into the forest and the trees were saying, “Don’t be worried, the handle is one of us.” But, the axe is made out of metal and they’re coming to chop you down. They don’t care about that.
Representation is great. Representation without power or doing anything for the community means absolutely nothing. That means you’re simply a figure head for a neoliberal organization. That’s been the problem. I get it. People had nothing and they saw that as symbolic. I’m from Harlem, son. Everybody was dancing. We were dancing in the streets when Obama got elected only because they thought it was a change.
But, I feel like America was such at a tipping point post-9/11 era — they were protesting war again and again — I feel like they wanted McCain to be president, but were like, “Hey man, you’re gonna have to take this L. You’re going to have to because we need somebody who makes the community calm down and get relaxed.” They realize we’re the basic workforce that runs everything for the country — all the essential workers.
I’m telling everybody out there, be mindful and take care of each other. That’s what we need to do. The old ladies in your neighborhood, real gangsters make sure people in their neighborhoods are taken care of. All of them mafioso n**gas, the first thing they did was make sure the neighborhood was taken care of. Anybody who’s in a gang, you can’t just run up in their neighborhood and cause a problem, can you? You can’t go up in no Blood hood and smash the corner store. Fifty people will come out on the corner wilding. Take care of that. Take care of your neighborhood.
Also understand that you have to have some interaction with these businesses, and they have to know the people in the community and support them. You can no longer use the Black and Latino community as a f**king leech to get your f**king s**t from. You gotta care about us. If you sell food to us, you gotta care about us. Your food is sustaining the children that are living right there.
Do The Right Thing is a great movie. That n**ga Sal said, “Look at these kids. I don’t know why you hate them. These kids grew up on my pizza.” Now mind you, the end of the movie is crazy because it shows you, this is what happens with violence. This is the result. Everything is going to burn down. Everyone is going to go. Now, is that the plan? Is that what they want? Maybe. So, we have to organize against that. Now remember what those kids said: “We’re not trying to start a race war. We’re trying to end a race war that’s been going on for 200 f**king years. And finally we’ve got young people and n**gas are mad because people are protesting. We tried to protest peacefully, tried to take a knee. That was not good enough for people.
So now, we know that conservatives didn’t care how you protested. They just wanted to criticize any protest, and that’s been their achilles heel. They don’t want to deal with the problem. Like a fourth-rate lawyer, they want to attack the person talking about the problem. You don’t want to give single moms money. You want to be in front of abortion clinics screaming because you don’t believe in God. You love yourself. You worship man as God. If you were really out there, you’d be doing the work of Jesus. You’d be walking in his footsteps.
Oh, by the way, I was raised a Christian. I actually read that book. It’s a great book. The guy comes back at the end. It’s a beautiful story. But, do you know what’s interesting about Jesus Christ? He was a f**king rioter. If that guy was alive, that n**ga would’ve gone into Chase Bank and flipped that s**t over. He flipped over the money changers in the temple. He told people a rich man could pass through the eye of a needle before he could enter the kingdom of heaven because you have to let go of all your worldly possessions.
They say Christ had 12 apostles, but I read in the Bible that he would’ve had 13. There was a rich man that was always in Gallilei that came and followed him. He said what could I do to follow you, Jesus? I tell you what, you can be one of my apostles if you sell everything you have and come with me. That n**ga did not sell everything he had. He couldn’t get rid of it. He kept his target. Where’s his f**king target now? He should’ve rolled with Jesus. You can’t talk about Jesus if you’re not walking in his footsteps.