Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique celebrate 10 years of JH Snowboarder Mag

By on March 11, 2015
Talib Kweli has crafted an inimitable sound that continues to evolve. (Photo credit: Talib Kweli)

Talib Kweli has crafted an inimitable sound that continues to evolve.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – From Brother Ali to The Beatnuts, Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine parties have sown a legacy for hosting exemplary names in hip-hop. Last year, for the magazine’s ninth anniversary, De La Soul delivered what many concertgoers dubbed the standout hip-hop performance of the year. (Full disclosure: I happen to be the magazine’s editor and a crazed hip-hop fan.)

This year, two iconic emcees redefining a hip-hop artist’s role in society make their Jackson Hole debuts (as I write, they are both at a Madison, WI, rally protesting the killing of Tony Robinson, an unarmed black youth shot dead there by a police officer last week).

Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique have sharply contrasting styles yet they coalesce in their efforts as activists, channeling lyrical prowess to dissect social injustice, government corruption and the media monopoly, among other insidious topics.

“Human beings that are knowledgeable and aware of their surroundings absolutely have a responsibility to spread that knowledge and awareness,” Talib told The Planet.

Cementing his place in the hip-hop sphere as one half of Black Star in 1997, Talib’s reach has stretched exponentially over the years. But unlike other underground artists who swam laps in the mainstream, Talib has yet to sacrifice his lyrical content. The Brooklyn emcee’s latest album, Gravitas (2013), released on his newfangled label Javotti Media, displays tight production chops from the likes of OhNo and the late J Dilla and a patchwork of stories and perspectives a la Talib, Black Thought, Raekwon and others. Check the gem “State of Grace,” a cogitating track on the sexism and inequity embroiled in the rap industry.

Outside the music milieu, Talib garnered headlines for his participation and interest in the Ferguson, MO, protests. During the rallies there, Talib was on the frontlines, marching with protesters and spearheading efforts to raise money. The Brooklyn emcee launched the Ferguson Defense Fund, a crowdfunding project through Indiegogo that provides financial and legal help to peaceful demonstrators who became victims of police brutality while protesting the death of black teen Michael Brown, murdered by a Ferguson police officer.

“I went to Ferguson because I couldn’t trust the information I was getting from mainstream media,” Talib said. “The information from those on the ground using social media was drastically different, and I wanted to see for myself … What I saw was a beautiful example of community, people doing their patriotic duty to protest and push back against grave injustices. I had police force me on the ground and put their guns in my chest just for being there. I was with women and children, peaceful women and children, who were going through the same thing.”

Raising more than $100,000 dollars, Talib’s Ferguson Defense Fund also is doling out money to tireless activists there who continue working to protect civil rights.

During the media frenzy to capture all things Ferguson, CNN got word that Talib was on the ground and invited him to do a live interview with anchor Don Lemon, but it didn’t turn out how producers anticipated. In less than 10 minutes, Talib effectively called out the mainstream media, including CNN and Lemon, for its slanted coverage of the protests.

“Because of the corporate money that funds mainstream media, [it] will always side with the narrative of the police, or the corporate structure,” Talib explained. “There are individual journalists that do not personally operate this way, just like there are individual police officers that have respect for all life and are not racist … I pay attention to the stories that are covered in the mainstream, but I prefer to get the facts from alternative news sources.”

Peru-born, Harlem-raised Immortal Technique also doesn’t shy away from calling out the corporate media machine, or its entanglement with the government. On the album Revolutionary 2, he raps:

The fourth branch of the government, want us to settle/A bandana full of glittering, generality/Fighting for freedom and fighting terror, but what’s reality?/Read about the history of the place that we live in/And stop letting corporate news tell lies to your children


Immortal Technique ignites fire in his listeners with poignant storytelling and revolutionary ideas. (Photo credit: Talib Kweli)

Immortal Technique ignites fire in his listeners with poignant storytelling and revolutionary ideas.


Immortal’s highly anticipated new album, slated for release this year, will delve into the squalid depths of America’s past. The Middle Passage revisits a time often glazed-over in history books when African slaves were forcibly brought on ships to the “New World.” And when Immortal raps about pungent topics (which is just aboout all the time), like America’s exploitation of developing countries or its past propensity to enslave people, the Brooklyn lyricist does so with poetic flair and arresting delivery.

“Writing is a compilation of imagination, facts and ingenuity,” Immortal told The Planet. “It isn’t enough to say it well, or to even say it right. It has to be said in a way that critically affects the thought process of a person. You are essentially trying to get people to think, not just to listen.”

When asked about his thoughts on ISIS, Immortal, who spent time in the Middle East in 2009 when he traveled to Afghanistan to build an orphanage, couldn’t help but draw a parallel: “Forcible conversions, stealing people’s land, forming an illegitimate state – if we leave ISIS alone will they become another America?” he asked. “I love this country but the indigenous people didn’t become Christians because of bleeding heart-Little House on the Prairie missionaries.”

Amassing a reputation for his freestyling – in both English and Portuguese – is Brazil-born Niko Paiva, a.k.a. NIKO IS, who rounds out the People’s Champions Tour. (No hip-hop show is complete without a good bout of freestyling.) Talib, who discovered the 26-year-old lyricist when Niko handed him a CD at a club in Florida, signed the young emcee to his label and released his album Brutus, dosed with Niko’s distinct phrasing and heavy Brazilian funk, in February.

JH Snowboarder Magazine 10th anniversary party featuring The People’s Champions: Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, NIKO IS, CF, Hasan Salaam and Poison Pen

When: Doors at 8 p.m., Saturday

Where: Pink Garter Theatre

Wallet: $50 to $60

Info: www.pinkgartertheatre.com

About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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