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The first time I saw Immortal Technique was in 2008 at the Jazz Reggae Festival at UCLA. It was arguably the best time to see Immortal Technique as he was at the top of his career.  He’d been buzzing hard in the independent rap circuits after dropping Revolutionary Vol. 1 (2001) and Revolutionary Vol. 2 (2003). His last album to date, The Third World (2008), was set to release about a month after.  With a populist message, he took on the establishment in all forms – from the greedy record executives to the weapons lobbyists who walked the halls of Washington DC.  Whether you were a fan of his or were one of those people who heard “Dance With The Devil” in its entirety just once, Immortal Technique definitely left a lasting impression on you in the 2000s.  While still touring and spottily releasing singles, Immortal Technique has since taken a step back from releasing full length projects… until now.

Over a decade later, there are increasing rumblings that the next album, The Middle Passage, is finally almost here.  Immortal Technique's most recent Prelude To The Middle Passage Tour overtly advertises [Performing New Music] on the flyer.  The Middle Passage is the underground’s Detox.  We’ve been waiting forever.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see him perform new music and relive some moments from Revolutionary Vol. 1, Revolutionary Vol. 2, and The Third World.  I made my way over to The Glass House in Pomona for what would be an eventful night.  Let’s jump into the three main acts of night.

Poison Pen was the first of the three main acts to grace the stage.  The battle rap pioneer from Bed Stuy, Brooklyn put on a hard-hitting performance that set the tone for what would be a fulfilling night of lyrically hard hip hop.  As Poison Pen wrapped up his set, all eyes were on the stage entrance as the crowd eagerly awaited the arrival of Chino XL.

The music started.  You heard Chino XL start rapping.  But Chino XL was nowhere to be found.  The lights in the venue were dim.  A sense of confusion overcame the crowd.  In WWE fashion, venue spotlights located Chino XL as he moved through the crowd as aggressively as he rapped.  Luckily, I was still next to the stage trying to grab security’s attention to let me into the photo pit.  I yelled “nevermind!” and jumped into the crowd. Camera in hand, I pushed and clawed my way to Chino XL.  The center of the venue opened up in pit fashion as Chino XL performed.  The Bronx rapper spent a few songs performing on the venue floor with fans before finally being helped on stage.  He spent a few songs on stage but ended his set back in the crowd again where it seemed he felt at home.  There’s something electrifying about the 6’2’’ rapper stomping around screaming a high energy set in the middle of the venue floor.

The main act requires no introduction.  Immortal Technique took to the stage and brought Poison Pen, Chino XL, and others with him.  With assistance from the homies, he exhilarated the crowd as he dropped verses from songs such as “Point Of No Return”, “The Cause Of Death”, and “Peruvian Cocaine”.  In between songs, Technique assumed the role as orator in chief as he preached conscious messaging to the crowd.  He touched on a range of topics – from the early economic foundations of our country all the way to how a real gangster should never tolerate any sort of harm done to women.

My favorite monologue was when he asked everyone to look around at each other.  Everyone in the room, Technique preached, no matter their religion, no matter their tax bracket, and no matter their walk of life, all shared in one thing.  They all rejected the programming.  They all rejected mainstream media and rejected normalcy.  Instead, they all adopted free thinking and intellectual independence.  They all made a conscious choice to embrace his messaging, far out of the cultural norm.  Or… they got high one night, and their one of their friends asked them, “Do you want to hear a fucked up a story?”  DJ Static immediately dropped the infamous “Dance With The Devil” instrumental and Immortal Technique performed the most spine chilling live song I’ve ever witnessed.  If you haven’t heard “Dance With The Devil,” I’m not going to ruin it for you.  I just urge you to listen to it yourself, before someone else blows what is arguably top 10 hip hop storytelling songs of all time. 

Special kudos to DJ Static for rocking the ones and twos all night.  Poison Pen, Chino XL, and Immortal Technique certainly did not disappoint.  They also graciously met with fans for a quick meet and greet at the end of the show.  After so long, it was great to hear Technique play some unreleased material.  I’m now more than eagerly awaiting The Middle Passage.  I started this review by reminding you what I felt about Immortal Technique back in 2008.  I did this because it’s how I feel about his upcoming material now.  He’s back in rare form with an album on the way.  If you’re somewhere in his tour path for the remainder of this Prelude To The Middle Passage Tour, I highly suggest you grab some tickets asap and head down when these guys are in your town.  It isn’t anything you’ll hear on Billboard or MTV, but it’s something you’ll cherish for a long time.

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Kris Kuganathan

Photojournalist - Orange County

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