In the world of hip hop, far too many artists spend as much time as possible trying to get noticed by record labels for their big break. The problem with this is that labels and managers take away from the profit that a hip hop artist with true talent stands to make. One such artist who has gone decidedly against the grain is Felipe Andres Coronel, who is commonly known in the music world as Immortal Technique. Born in February of 1978 in Lima, Peru, Immortal Technique moved through the music world with every intention of keeping control of his productions. It was certainly no easy task getting there.
At the age of two, Immortal Technique’s family moved to Harlem in 1980. He often grew up with troubled times, as he was arrested on several occasions for what he claimed was childish behavior. Much of his behavior was often attributed to the 80’s lifestyle that was Harlem, which would often make people of Immortal Technique’s race the subject of intense racism. After graduating from Hunter College High School in the Upper East Side, he enrolled to be a student at Pennsylvania State University. Unfortunately, his time there was short-lived as he was arrested on assault charges after an altercation with other students. He was inevitably sentenced to one year in prison. This would be a blessing in disguise, as Immortal Technique used this time to refine his rapping skills.
While in jail, Immortal Technique began to write down the ideas that eventually got stuck in his head throughout his life. Everything from his South American roots to the racism and disrespect that was often served towards Latinos in New York was about to become music to other people’s ears. Prison had the now famous hip hop artist doing only three things, working out, intensively writing down his lyrics, and creating new songs. Immortal Technique often found himself in verbal battles outside of the occasional prison fight, which led him to compile even more lyrics before he was paroled in 1999.
It was in prison that Immortal Technique realized he had a talent for verbal battling, and that would pave the way for his career as he returned the streets of New York. His aggressive style and highly disrespectful words were the first of their kind, and he quickly became a familiar face in the world of underground rapping. Not only could he destroy his competition in clubs, but was able to stand up to even the hardest rap battles that came along on the streets. His work was featured on Rocksteady Anniversary, Braggin’ Rites and other underground DVD’s, which gave him an even bigger claim to fame in the underground world. Unfortunately, like several other underground artists, Immortal Technique’s career was ultimately going nowhere, and he quickly realized that he need to take some of the songs that he had written back in prison and begin to actually produce them if he ever expected to see his career move forward.
In 2001, Immortal Technique finally pushed out his own album called Revolutionary Volume 1. Using the money he earned from constantly battling on the streets of New York, he would do this on his own without the help of distribution or record labels. Initial figures indicate that his first album sold 3,000 copies originally, but that number has steadily increased to 12,000 since that time.
The “success” of his first album garnered immediate attention from hip hop magazines and TV stations in the area. The Source magazine listed him in their “Unsigned Hype” column in November of 2002, and less than a year later, he received the “Hip Hop Quotable” award, and remains the only unsigned rapper to receive the award from The Source. His success with Volume 1 led him to release Revolutionary Volume 2 in 2003. The song “Point of No Return” was used by Rashad Evans during UFC 88 as entry music when he fought Chuck Lidell. Shortly following the larger success of Volume 2, and with the help of Babygrande Records, he re-released Revolutionary Volume 1 to a bigger audience shortly thereafter.
Though Immortal Technique had been looked at by record labels, they often considered his lyrics too crude to generate sales or hit charts. However, this wouldn’t phase the rapper, as his lyrics were his beliefs and words of his life experiences. He wasn’t willing to change for the music labels, and would continue on his own towards his next release.
It would take three years, but perfection doesn’t come overnight. In 2007, Immortal Technique released two albums, called The Middle Passage and The Third World (commonly referred to as Revolutionary Volume 3. This follow up to his previously released albums not only landed him spots on movie soundtracks and video games, but afforded him the chance to tour the country spreading his words and thoughts that he had gathered after so many years. Greed wouldn’t get the best of Immortal Technique though, as he spread the love where he could.
When he wasn’t performing, the rapper took his words to prisons to speak to juveniles about life on the streets, trying to convince them not to follow the same path he did. He would soon begin working with immigrant rights activists in an effort to end racism on the streets of New York. Furthermore, he worked to raise money for both children’s hospitals oversees as well as investing in farmland in Latin America in the hopes of offering people a better life than he had growing up.
With his career shining, Immortal Technique found it more important to spread his words rather than collect people’s money, and in 2011 he released The Martyr. This album was a collection of some of his most popular unreleased tracks and was free to anyone who wanted it.
The story of Immortal Techniques lives on in his appropriately titled self-documentary, The Revolution. The movie premiered in 2011 at the Harlem Film Festival and was met with such great reviews that the film was later released to DVD in July of 2012.
Immortal technique would finally sign a distribution deal with Babygrande Records and E1 Entertainment, with tight restrictions that allow him to live by the words that he grew up on.