Gig review: Immortal Technique at Southbank Centre

Originally published on The Upcoming on 18th June 2013

Born in a military hospital in Peru before his parents fled the internal struggles of their homeland and settled in Harlem, New York, Immortal Technique was kicked out of university and sent to prison where he worked on his lyricism because there was little else to do.

Upon parole, he conquered almost every rap battle competition he came across in New York, before being catapulted to international hip-hop superstardom with his first two albums Revolutionary Volume 1 and Revolutionary Volume 2. All of this he achieved with no commercial backing, no record label and in spite of his consistent and virulent subversion of not only mainstream hip-hop, but the wider status quo of consumer capitalism.

The artist’s life sounds like the plot of a movie, though not of the type you would find in Hollywood; fitting then, that his latest tour is to promote a new documentary entitled The [R]evolution of Immortal Technique. This particular date was part of Yoko Ono’s Meltdown at the Southbank Centre – an unusual setting for explosive hip-hop, better suited to an orchestral concert than a revolutionary rapper.

But if fans were trepidatious about the venue, their fears instantly evaporated when the man himself appeared. From the second he entered the stage, Immortal Technique illuminated the considerable space of the Royal Festival Hall with his larger than life personality and uncompromising lyricism.

The audience was treated to a rollercoaster journey, with Technique serenading them with all the classics from his back catalogue spanning four releases, via ruminations on current geo-political issues and a hip-hop history lesson (expertly demonstrated by DJ Static’s mind-boggling beat-juggling extravaganza). Technique delivered his lyrics with all the passion, fury, love and conviction that has cemented his place in the hip-hop pantheon.

Often stripping back the beats mid-song to deliver his words a capella for full effect, and candidly talking to the audience with a mixture of supreme confidence and touching humility, this was a performance with real maturity. Legends often disappoint in the flesh, but Immortal Technique was true to his reputation, taking time to offer his backing for the campaign to save the Southbank’s infamous skate park, and even inviting each of the thousands-strong audience to come and meet him after the show.

When your words are so revolutionary, so inspirational, so powerful, being a man of your word is no easy feat. Immortal Technique manages it without even trying.

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