After three hours of opening acts, Peruvian-born, Harlem-based rapper Immortal Technique graced the stage at the Upstate Concert Hall on Friday. His most recent tour is promoting the documentary The (R)evolution of Immortal Technique, which premiered in September 2011. The film follows him through a journey of inward reflection aided by hip-hop after being released from jail. He is also promoting his latest album The Martyr. The majority of Immortal Technique’s political activism revolves around hemp and prison reform, fueled by an anti-government-corruption mindset. Politics aside, the crowd seemed to be slaves to the beat. Immortal Technique sensed the urgency and dove in with “Industrial Revolution” off of the popular Revolutionary Vol. 2.
He set up the transition to his next track with a short speech about hip-hop transcending the boundaries of race and religion. He followed it up with a Spanish rap, which most of the audience enjoyed even though many didn’t understand the lyrics. After a splash of the exotic, he reverted back to familiarity with “Harlem Streets.” The crowd took the hook like a fish; they chanted, “Homicide Harlem, BLAOW! What’s the problem?” This mentality carried into the next track, “Bin Laden,” when the room reverberated with the words “Bush knocked down the towers.”
When Immortal Technique spoke, his voice carried the same intensity as his rapping. He bellowed shout-outs to different New York areas and to Canada, which brought up his supportive stance on the issue of public health care. He followed it up with performances of “Point of No Return” and “Peruvian Cocaine,” with intermingling messages about legalizing marijuana. His claim was that the “smoke that gives you cancer is legal and the smoke that cures cancer is illegal.”
Once he cooled down the crowd with “Caught in a Hustle” from the BAADASSSSS! soundtrack, he had DJ G.I. Joe heat things back up. The DJ broke it down with heavy basslines and extreme scratching that made the crowd go wild. “And that,” Immortal Technique exclaimed, “is the difference between someone who sits in a radio station and pushes a button and a DJ.”
After a few promotional plugs, Immortal Technique was back to the music with “Angels and Demons” off of The Martyr. The crowd was still just as loud as when he first entered the room. “Upstate is mad loud! I want to come back here!” he shouted.
Next, he brought the energy down, while still maintaining his intensity with “Toast to the Dead.” The crowd whipped out lighters and cellphones to sway to his penetrating lyrics. The end of the set remained more serious with “Natural Beauty” and “Dance With the Devil,” a rap that tells the story of a street thug who ends up in a gang rape of his mother.
Although Immortal Technique wrapped up on an extremely heavy note, it was clear that he wanted to continue performing but was cut off. Before his finale, he looked down at the ground and said, “Man, this is my last one?” I think it’s safe to say that this won’t be the last Upstate New York sees of this underground political rapper.