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August 21, 2008
The road to fortune and fame in the hip-hop business is littered with degraded carcasses and declarations of appeasement. To get the groupies and the condos, you need to shake some pretty greasy hands, but it's necessary if you want to prove to yourself that you've finally become a rock star.

What's wonderful and inspiring is that Immortal Technique could not possibly care less about the traditional definition of success. Instead, the man invests his profits in the cultivation of farm land in Latin America, financed his debut album solely on money earned from winning rap battles in New York City, and, on his latest incendiary street LP, has a message for the mainstream radio hip-hop industry:

"Fuck your chain, my people will kill you for water."

The 3rd World arrives four years after Immortal Technique, born in Peru as Felipe Coronel before relocating to Harlem as a child, released the critically acclaimed Revolutionary Vol. 2. Proving himself on that album to be an indispensable voice of intelligent rebellion in a jaded and overly comfortable culture, Revolutionary Vol. 2 represented a splinter of true independence and defiance, albeit delivered with a couple of shortcomings. The production was criticized as elementary, and the rapper himself seemed to inhabit a fleeting fascination with saying offensive phrases purely for the pleasure of making listeners squirm without any grander purpose. With the forthcoming Revolutionary Vol. 3 still hotly anticipated, The 3rd World acts as a declaration of continued relevance despite the several years of relative quiet that have passed since his last official release.



For all of the speculation on the promise of Revolutionary Vol. 3, however, Coronel will have a tough time topping the brilliance and vivacity of The 3rd World. The passion and artistic growth shown on this release, a tightrope walk between a street mixtape and a formal album, elevates Immortal Technique from a rising independent force to one of today's most important and enigmatic artists, and cements his status as an underground legend. The 3rd World forces you to reconsider the way in which you've seen and interpreted global affairs and serves as a not-so-subtle reminder of what music is supposed to be in the first place - a tool to communicate and enlighten. Through his explorations of global justice, corrupt economic policies, and the effects of incarceration - all delivered with an honesty and fire that's been unseen since the glory days of Public Enemy - Coronel makes the vast majority of commercial hip-hop artists look like fools, finally rising and asking them directly when they traded their content for swagger and self-mockery. I've heard theories that MTV's brand of hip-hop is nothing more than a modern minstrel show in disguise, and after the directness and power of The 3rd World, I'm closer to believing them.

On a tightly coherent and consistently powerful record, there are, by definition, generally few cuts that rise significantly above the rest. The 3rd World is nothing if not tightly coherent and consistently powerful, but the album's third track, "Golpe de Estado," stands out as the sonic equivalent to Peruvian cannon fire, delivered entirely in Spanish and with true ferocity. Behind the soundboards, DJ Green Lantern and Toure "Southpaw" Harris' production is a marked improvement over Revolutionary Vol. 2's largely elementary beats -- hungry and muscular while still allowing Coronel to occupy the spotlight. The album's production is tight all around, but whenever he is present Coronel undeniably elevates The 3rd World into the stratosphere. He's straightforward, unapologetic, and groundbreaking; even dispensing with most of the flashes of self-righteousness that were scattered throughout Revolutionary Vol. 2, showing instead a more mature, more determined Immortal Technique.

Coronel (right) and his longtime DJ, GI JOE.


Coronel blazes through his verses on The 3rd World, but in the album's guest appearances, however, the fury intermittently and mildly lets up. On the staccato militancy of "Lick Shots," Crooked.I and ChinoXL sound tame and cautious next to Immortal Technique, and when coupled with the song's slightly forced hook (Coronel has never been one for killer choruses,) the result is the only cut on the record that approaches being a clunker. Diabolic, in contrast, sounds confident on "Payback," while PsychoRealm and Sick Symponies fail to emerge from the main attraction's shadow on "Hollywood Driveby".

It should come as no surprise that the album's strongest moment is the hidden "Watchout" remix, tucked between "Hollywood Driveby" and the proactive "Reverse Pimpology". Lasting just over two and a half minutes, without a hook or a guest spot, "Watchout" is a brilliantly concentrated dose of lyrical venom. The title track accomplishes much of the same feat, while the album's closing fifteen minutes provide a more personal snapshot of Immortal Technique as a human being, rather than a revolutionary, documenting past errors ("Mistakes"), jail experience ("Parole"), and scars of love ("Crimes of the Heart").

"This is my life and my passion, fuck trying to cash in, I need more than advancements and a rented mansion," Coronel declares on the "Watchout" remix, and in the end, after the haze of seventy minutes of lyrical war disappears, The 3rd World is not just a great album - it's a creative peak and a battle cry.

VIDEO: "Tell the Truth" feat. Mos Def and Eminem

SEE ALSO: www.immortal-technique.com
SEE ALSO: www.viperrecords.com

--
Dave Toropov
Introduced to music in the womb with a pair of headphones on his mother's stomach, Dave Toropov has yet to recover the experience. A writer based in Boston and New York, he has also written for Prefix Magazine and What Was It Anyway, and is the maintainer of the "Middleclass Haunt" blog.

See other articles by Dave Toropov.

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