At first, I didn’t notice him. Decked out in a worn-in Yankees jacket and black beanie, he looked like just another guy chilling backstage grabbing a smoke at the Galaxy Theatre. It wasn’t until one of our writers nudged me and motioned in the rapper’s direction that I realized Immortal Technique was making his way past us. Of course, my friend, a die-hard Boston fan, couldn’t help but heckle him about his Yankee pride. I bit my lip nervously and waited for his reaction. To our surprise, Technique grinned and joined our group, countering with a jab at the recent Boston loss and noting how much Canadian beer sucked. While I fruitlessly tried to defend Canadian breweries (I hail from Toronto), I couldn’t help but feel a newfound respect for the guy.
As a writer I’ve covered enough rap concerts to know that the main act always arrives with an overwhelming amount of security, an intimidating posse and the expectation that “on time” means two hours later than scheduled. Except that it was only 9 pm and Technique wasn’t scheduled to go on until 11:30 pm. Yet here he was, kicking it and laughing with everyone backstage about sports and bad beer. A fan of his music ever since my girlfriend blasted his classic hit “Dance with the Devil” on the car radio with the windows rolled down in the heat of summer, I was relieved that his personality actually reflected the music he wrote about. It was refreshing; it was real.
Even more, Immortal Technique took to the stage at 10:30, an hour earlier than anyone expected him to. Chino XL, who was opening for him, bellowed out to the crowd: “CALIFORNIA ARE YOU READY?!!…My brother from another mother…IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE!” The crowd nearly split the theatre with their screams as Technique strolled the edge of the stage, announcing how they had come “all the way from Harlem, New York to be with you motherfuckers today” and calling the West Coast a “second home.” Then, in perfect Technique nonchalance, he asked the crew to turn off the smog machines, “no more fake smoke, just that real smoke.” What followed after was one of the most inspiring and gripping performances I’ve seen to date. As he launched into heart-pounding numbers like “Peruvian Cocaine” and “Obnoxious,” the passion, the anger and the sheer relentlessness of his words were gravitating and the energy of the crowd was feverish.
A huge supporter of embracing indigenous cultures, Technique occasionally addressed his fans in Spanish, speaking about Simon Bolivar – a revolutionary figure in South America during the independence movement against the Spanish monarchy. He urged the crowd to follow Bolivar’s lead in his battle against oppression of the country’s peoples, pointing to how many universities are removing Latin American studies from their curriculum. As we watched him on stage moving everyone with his words, my friend mentioned something striking. He remembered that the rapper was a prominent activist against the influence of corporations and the 1%, mentioning that Technique was present at the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. Then, towards the end of the night, a fan reached out from the crowd and handed him her sobriety chip. Immortal Technique’s message and the impact he had on his fans made me realize that here was a modern day renegade speaking for the minority through the power of music.
More photos by Michael Ng from the show at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana:
( Photography by Michael Ng)
( Translation and contribution by Marco Cortez )