Check out the latest track from Rebel Diaz, a tribute to the recently-deceased Venezuelan President, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, perhaps the most important political leader of our generation.
In a very difficult period of history, where US domination was near-universal, and where the IMF and World Bank were holding much of the so-called Third World to ransom, Chávez and his comrades were able to forge a different path: the path of socialism. As a result, the poor of Venezuela have seen a dramatic improvement in their living standards over the last 14 years: poverty has been massively reduced, education levels are much higher, healthcare is much more widely spread, and young people have greater access to cultural facilities than ever before. Furthermore, a solid start has been made on attacking the deep-rooted racism and sexism that have formed part of the dominant narrative in Venezuela for so long.
On the international level, Chávez was a true internationalist and anti-imperialist, inspiring a wave of positive change across Latin America, and giving loud, practical support to other countries under attack from the west.
The man is dead, but his legacy is the living, breathing, Venezuelan Revolution. We honour him by continuing his work with ever-greater dedication. Work Like Chávez!
[The intro sample is from legendary Venezuelan musician and activist, Alí Primera. The words translate as "Those who die for life can not be called dead. From this moment on, mourning is prohibited". The sample in the main beat is from Simón Díaz, one of the most important figures in Venezuelan folk music.]
This October we get hit with a dose of some real underground Hip Hop! With only a matter of weeks left until the highly anticipated Immortal Technique ‘Return Of The Rebels’ tour, I was lucky to catch up with the man himself for an exclusive interview to find out what we can expect!
Finally you return to the U.K with a strong line-up of artists supporting you, Tell us a bit about what we can expect from the Return Of The Rebels Tour?
Me, Poison Pen, Dj Static, Swave Sevah are all coming to represent for the Hardcore Underground Hip Hop fans, already about half these shows are sold out so I’m just hoping that there is enough room in some of these places so that people won’t be left out in the cold. Get your tickets now, you were warned.
What material are you looking to perform at the show? Any new tracks that touch on any current issues?
I’m going to hopefully have a chance to perform songs from the last album I put out for free “The Martyr” that coincidentally had over a million downloads. The 3rd World, Revolutionary Vol.2 and Revolutionary Vol.1. I think it’ll be a big mix of what people know me and love me for. As far as whether it touches on current issues, all the music I have does that.
What do you love about coming to the UK? Are there any spots that you love visiting when you are here?
London is a very wild city that reminds me of New York City about 10-15 years ago the way they show so much love for Underground Hip Hop. It’s actually bigger in many places than regular mainstream music. I have always had such love shown to me from the people of England. I actually studied a great deal of middle age and early British history as I have an ancient Norman ancestor, I love to visit historical sites and also to see some of the Reggae clubs that I always have a good time in. And even though mutton is disgusting they actually have delicious food from around the word, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, etc.
With the elections coming up in the USA how do you respond to people who push for re-electing Obama especially when much of the world sees him as a war president? And is the negativity and the danger of a Romney president make pushing for Obama legitimate?
The two party system has become so corrupt people are losing faith in Obama, yes very much so, his drone strikes, unwavering support for the IDF military action. But then again he’s really an impossible position. In the United States of America, it is political suicide to say anything critical about the foreign and domestic policy of Israel. And this lack of debate is perhaps some of the most dangerous methods of silencing real criticism. Because there are real idiots out there, who are Holocaust deniers and frauds, but labelling anything that’s critical that will put the world community in a position where you will not be able to tell the difference one day and that is not only alienating it’s defeating the purpose of defensive mechanism that Jewish people technically have to determine who is a real Anti-Semite. When it comes to Romney, there are so many people on the Right wing (not even the left) who despise him; they don’t see him as a real Christian, since in his Mormon Faith they believe that Jesus Christ was not the last prophet but that a man named Joseph Smith from the 1800′s was a prophet from God. The conservative elements of the society here are very religious and they are barely warming up to the premise of him as president, but I think that ultimately it will be decided in swing states. But fundamentally this process of choosing a candidate has hurt Romney by giving Obama a head start but his debate stumbling has closed a little bit of the gap.
How are your other projects outside of music coming along?
The orphanage in Afghanistan is doing great. The scholarship program is almost complete. The (R)evolution of Immortal Technique did great and like I said The Martyr had over a million downloads and The Middle Passage is coming along.
What are you currently working on?
Being happy. I heard that it’s a lifelong struggle. haha
Rebel Diaz and Agent of Change celebrate what would have been Victor Jara’s 80th birthday with a firing new tribute track.
Victor Jara was one of the leaders of the Nueva Canción (spanish for ‘New Song’) movement – a movement based around “socially committed” music; music that takes a clear stand for freedom, against poverty, against imperialism and against human rights abuses. Nueva Canción gave voice to the millions of peasants, workers and indigenous peoples of Latin America who were being crushed under the weight of US economic and political dominance.
The date 11 September causes most westerners nowadays to think of the World Trade Centre attacks. However, for many, it will forever be remembered as the date on which, in 1973, the Chilean military overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende in a bloody coup. That coup, which brought the fascist Augusto Pinochet to power, was in large part planned and 100% supported by the United States (Henry Kissinger is on record as saying: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”)
On 12 September 1973, Jara, along with several thousands of Allende supporters, was taken hostage by the military and taken to Chile Stadium (now known as Estadio Víctor Jara). Along with many others, he was beaten and tortured; his hands were broken, but his resolve was not. When soldiers taunted him and told him to play something on his guitar (in spite of his broken hands), he played Venceremos (We Will Win). On 15 September, he was murdered.
Across the world, Victor Jara is remembered as a hero and a martyr; an exemplary musician who put his skill and his passion entirely at the service of the struggle for a better life for humanity. In commemorating his death and celebrating his life, we should remember the principal lesson he teaches us: that culture is a weapon, one which must be wielded effectively in these times where oppression and repression are so prevalent. As Paul Robeson said, “The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery”.
“Misogyny is a huge problem in hip-hop,” says radical rapper Marcel Cartier. “Even ‘progressive’ artists often fall victim to being perpetrators of sexist lyrics.”
The empathetic emcee hits chauvinists where it hurts on his new album, History Will Absolve Us. On the plaintive, piano-driven “Never The Answer” he raps:
One in four women face domestic violence
It’s a shame that so many feel the need to stay silent
And worse even still many blame themselves
Like whatever they did justifies this hell
But there’s never an excuse for this sick abuse
It can be physical or it’s verbal too.
“All men in this backward capitalist society have sexism within them,” Cartier tells Green Left. “But the goal must be to transform ourselves as much as possible in the process of trying to transform the world.”
Carlos Martinez, the multi-instrumentalist who wrote the music on Cartier’s album, is equally outspoken on the issue. “Misogyny is a major problem within hip-hop, as it is in society in general,” he tells Green Left.
“I think that the misogynistic language that is so socially acceptable today is an awful lot like the ‘scientific racism’ that was widely acceptable 50 years ago.”
Musician and activist Martinez, who is better known by his musical moniker, Agent Of Change, is unequivocal about what has to be done.
“We have to move above this bullshit,” he says. “Hip-hop is often very tuned into race issues while ignoring other dimensions of oppression. We have to unite around a platform of opposition to ALL forms of oppression.”
History Will Absolve Us tackles many forms oppression head-on, from war and empire to inequality and globalisation, with spine-tingling results. Both artists have benefited from being raised with a more worldly outlook than most.
“My dad’s from north India – the Punjab – and mum was born in England, but of Spanish descent,” says the 34-year-old Martinez. “I grew up in west London with my mum and grandmother. I was lucky to go to school with a lot of people from different national and ethnic backgrounds – especially African-Caribbean and South Asian – so I was absorbing a lot of different cultural influences from a young age.”
Cartier’s upbringing was perhaps even more eye-opening. “I was born in 1984 in Heidelberg, West Germany, to a Finnish mother and American father, who was at that time working for the US Army,” he says.
“Because of this, my childhood was spent on US military bases both in Germany and England. My French name comes from my father’s side of the family, as my great-grandfather had moved from Canada to the US.”
Cartier says he began writing songs in England at the age of 14, influenced by highbrow hip hoppers such as Dead Prez, KRS-One and Talib Kweli. “These rappers helped me to challenge the ideology that I had thus far been instilled with,” he says.
“I began to challenge the narrative about the ‘greatness’ of the United States. My art began to reflect this change in worldview more and more through the years. In 2008, I completely broke with my military background by moving to New York City, to not only further pursue my hip-hop career, but to become a part of the revolutionary movement.”
It was a move that also eventuated in Cartier’s arrest. “’99 to 1′ on the album is a song that was influenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement,” he says. “I directly participated in this in New York City, including the October 1 mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge – I was detained for 12 hours. The song paints a very optimistic picture of the protest movement in the US.”
His move to New York also saw him team up with revolutionary rappers and activists Rebel Diaz, who are no strangers to arrest themselves. The children of Chilean activists, Rebel Diaz appear on one of the album’s many goosebump-garnering moments, “Start The Revolution”.
The song delivers one of Cartier’s copious killer lines: “I’m about as American as you can get, I rep the people, you rep the one per cent.” But just how patriotic is he seen by his military father?
“We obviously have diametrically opposed points of view,” says the rapper. “But there was never really any pressure from my father to follow in his footsteps, so I don’t think he was necessarily disappointed when I chose not to join the military.”
Cartier also emphatically urges others not to join up, putting the forces firmly in the crosshairs of his lethal lines and rapid-fire delivery in “Be All You Can Be”.
“‘Be All You Can Be’ was the slogan of the US Army until 2006,” he says. “Instead of being a pawn for corporate interests, I am encouraging young people to ‘be all they can be’ by rebelling against the system of degradation.”
But the song also expresses empathy with those who sign up to the services – a rare insight no doubt influenced by Cartier’s upbringing. Guest emcee Intikana raps:
I’ve spoken to policemen
Had a heart to heart with them
By a seat aside spoke without the harsh venom
And all they really want is bread to feed their family
The force wasn’t their first choice but to be secure financially
It’s tempting when you’ve never had a plan B
To retire with a pension at the age of 50.
But despite Cartier’s concessions, Martinez is probably seen as far less of an errant child. The producer, whose mother and father were college teachers, says: “Both my parents were – and still are – traditional Marxist-Leninists, so the political influence has always been there.
“Although I don’t have quite the same politics as my parents, I appreciate the fact that I was brought up to question the dominant narrative.”
There were also “a lot of books around”, which made Martinez the public speaker and talented writer with a lot to say, as can be seen on his blog, Beat Knowledge. So why doesn’t he rap?
“I’ve never really tried it,” he says. “I’d probably sound stupid – you need a cool voice. Also, I can write articles and stuff easily enough, but the abstraction of poetry doesn’t come naturally to me.”
Cartier not only has the voice and poetry, he also has melodies that can mould themselves into listeners’ minds. “Never Be A Slave”, a curse on colonialism that name-checks Aboriginal Australians, shackles itself to the subconscious like a pair of unbreakable manacles.
Unlike most emcees, Cartier also recognises the chain that links racism and sexism. “While sexism is truly a problem in hip-hop, I would identify the primary problem as being hip-hop’s hijacking by the white power structure,” he says.
“It is that structure that aims to further perpetuate misogyny.”
Support the artists by buying the album or listen to it and download it for free below…
MARCEL CARTIER TELLS GREEN LEFT ABOUT SOME OF THE KEY SONGS ON THE ALBUM…
“Get Your Hands Off Africa”
“This song speaks to the exploitation of Africa, both in colonial times and today under neo-colonialism. It points to the fact that the development of Europe came as a consequence of the pillage and rape of Africa. It addresses the role of AFRICOM in the US agenda to assert dominance over the continent through puppet regimes, and the demonisation campaign against governments that dare to be independent, such as ZANU in Zimbabwe.”
“Unoccupy the World”
“This song touches on the US wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Libya, and the propaganda war that has long been waged against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The final verse from guest artist Rodstarz of Rebel Diaz addresses the war being waged against the black and brown community INSIDE of the US. By tying together domestic and international issues, we strive to make the connections between the lack of basic necessities in our communities and the aggressive posture of the US ruling class toward the oppressed peoples of the planet.”
“Hands off Syria”
“This song has been quite controversial. It was never written to be a ‘Pro-Assad’ song, but rather to present a message of anti-imperialism without exception, and to present a more balanced picture of the situation on the ground in Syria. The ‘balance of forces’ that I speak to aims to ask the question: if the current government falls, what will fill the vacuum? Will it be progressive? Or will it be a neo-colonial proxy regime?”
“History Will Absolve Us”
“This song is completely unapologetic for standing up for one’s convictions and principles, regardless of whether or not that view is particularly popular at the moment, even WITHIN the left. The second verse calls out segments of the left who have been complicit in the re-colonisation of Libya by siding with a reactionary proxy army.”
AGENT OF CHANGE TELLS GREEN LEFT ABOUT HIS FAVOURITE HIP HOP BOOKS…
“I’m a book person – I generally read for a couple of hours a day, so I get through ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop – a brilliant history of hip-hop; MK Asante Jr’s ‘It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop’ – dealing with the social, political and cultural issues connected with the hip-hop generation; and, perhaps, Billy Wimsatt’s ‘No More Prisons’, which is a fascinating, old and opinionated book about organising around the hip-hop generation. Bakari Kitwana and Michael Dyson have written some very interesting stuff too. Believe it or not, I also thought Jay Z’s ‘Decoded’, which he wrote in collaboration with the brilliant Dream Hampton, was really insightful.”
Carlos Martinez, also known as Agent of Change, speaks in London this year.
A personal song about the racism and discrimination Caper has experienced in society throughout his life.
Caper was born in Whyalla in the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Raised by a single Mother with his brother and sister (he has never met his father). A lifetime spent facing adversity, Caper grew up less fortunate as a kid and lost his Brother and Mother to heart disease. Remaining strong he rose a powerful and compelling storyteller rapping about the highs and lows in life capturing raw emotion through poetic rhymes.
Caper has a unique and inspiring sound to deliver to the music scene rapping with insightful lyricism, drawn from the inspiration of his own and other people’s experiences. Caper made national & international headlines in June 2011 when his anti racist video ‘How Would You Like To Be Me’ was banned from Facebook after just one complaint, labeling it as being ‘too offensive’. The video sparked much debate but was re-instated with the help of his loyal fans. How Would You Like To Be Me Debut on Channel 10′s ‘Landed Music’ late 2011.
Caper’s life story was captured in the documentary ‘Chasing SHADOWS’ (airing Australia wide on ABC 1 Art Scape) gaining him exposure to a national TV audience. Caper’s stirring lyrical messages is now reaching a world-wide audience as his popularity and message spreads.
A genuinely interesting, thought-provoking hip-hop track about misogyny and the ‘b’ word. Big shout to Lupe for dealing with these issues (the sad tendency of a lot of hip-hop is to reinforce rather than question sexism). Great that he’s using his position to provoke a discussion of this nature, using a beat and flow that will appeal to a broader base than just the ‘conscious hip-hop’ heads.
We need more music like this, and especially we need to promote more female voices discussing these issues.
Big Frizzle drops one of the biggest tracks of the year so far! You might be more accustomed to hearing him singing choruses, but don’t forget Frizz is a dope rapper too. With All Black Everything, he brings the black consciousness vibe very effectively over a bouncing beat from Anno Domini, with Global Faction supplying the visuals.