Verse Of The Week: Immortal Technique
It’s time for another Verse Of The Week, and this time we’re headed to Harlem! This emcee has one of the purest flows I have ever heard, so find out which powerful verse is spotlighted after the jump.
Immortal Technique – born Felipe Coronel in Lima, Peru – first entertained the thought of making hip hop his career after being incarcerated. His skills, honed and sharpened in prison, were evident as he peddled his music on the streets of New York. He also gained notoriety by winning freestyle battles hosted throughout the city.
The extremely gifted rapper has been offered many major label deals by the likes of Sony and Def Jam, but has refused to take any. He most likely made this decision in order to remain in total control of his message and sound, thus avoiding the “boxes,” image coaching, and censorship which plague the music industry.
The song we will focus on for this week needs absolutely no introduction. When I first heard it, my reaction was complete shock (I’m sure the people next door thought I was crazy).
“Dance With The Devil” was released in 2001 on Immortal Technique’s first album, Revolutionary Vol. 1. The song is a haunting narrative which exemplifies what can happen when we allow greed to override morality. I’m choosing the last (fourth) verse of this record to review, so here’s a summary of the story up to that point:
William “Billy” Jacobs is a thirteen year old with street dreams of the “glitz and glamour” of being a big-time hustler. He commits small crimes, and sells marijuana in attempts to develop a rep. With time, he gets more violent and desperate to prove himself and begins selling crack cocaine (his ultimate dream is to move up to pure cocaine like his idol, Tony Montana).
He approaches the “major criminals” that he so desperately wants to be accepted by, and they tell him that he must do something truly violent and brutal to prove himself to them. They suggest raping a woman, to which William agrees.
The crime ensues, with Billy and all of his superior cohorts participating in the unmerciful violation. Billy must now kill the woman to reach his dream, which brings us to verse four.
“Right before he pulled the trigger, and ended her life
He thought about the cocaine with the platinum and ice
And he felt strong standing along with his new brothers
Cocked the gat to her head, and pulled back the shirt cover
But what he saw made him start to cringe and stutter
’cause he was starring into the eyes of his own mother
She looked back at him and cried, ’cause he had forsaken her
She cried more painfully, than when they were raping her
His whole world stopped, he couldn’t even contemplate
His corruption had successfully changed his fate
And he remembered how his mom used to come home late
Working hard for nothing, ’cause now what was he worth?
He turned away from the woman that had once given him birth
And cried out to the sky ’cause he was lonely and scared
But only the devil responded, ’cause God wasn’t there
And right then he knew what it was to be empty and cold
And so he jumped off the roof and died with no soul
They say death take you to a better place but I doubt it
After that they killed his mother, and never spoke about it
And listen cause the story that I’m telling is true
’cause I was there with Billy Jacobs and I raped his mom too
And now the devil follows me everywhere that I go
In fact I’m sure he’s standing among one of you at my shows
And every street cipher listening to little thugs flow
He could be standing right next to you, and you wouldn’t know
The devil grows inside the hearts of the selfish and wicked
White, brown, yellow and black – color is not restricted
You have a self-destructive destiny when you’re inflicted
And you’ll be one of God’s children who fell from the top
There’s no diversity because we’re burning in the melting pot
So when the devil wants to dance with you, you better say never
Because the dance with the devil might last you forever”
At the beginning of Verse Four, Billy has a gun to the head of his victim and feels proud that he is moving closer to his dream of ill-gotten prosperity. He’s ready to put an end to the life of the woman he has already so viciously attacked, and pulls away a shirt they had used to muffle her screams. When he pulls the shirt away, however, he realizes that his victim is his own mother.
Billy’s mother looks at him and weeps. She feels more pain than she felt during the attack now that she knows that her son was responsible. Billy’s “corruption had successfully changed his fate.” The image he had completely given in to was merely an illusion created to lead him to destruction, and it successfully did just that.
Meanwhile, Billy remembers that his mother has always worked late hours. Our narrator says, “working hard for nothing, ’cause now what was he worth?” I find that statement profound because any well-meaning parent works hard to provide their children with better lives, opportunities, and the potential for greatness. Billy’s horrific actions caused his mother to feel both sorrow and failure (which well-meaning parents have a tendency to feel whether or not they are actually to blame).
Billy feels despair as well and turns away from his mother, crying out. Our narrator says that the devil responded, because God wasn’t there. This is because Billy had chosen to “dance with the devil” – or to be governed completely by his own greed – a long time ago. Billy consequently feels that he has nothing left to live for (thus feeling empty and cold) and he jumps off the rooftop, committing suicide. He “died with no soul” as his soul became the property of the devil as soon as he became willing to do anything to reach his dreams of material gain.
Immortal Technique questions the notion that people go to a better place when they die (especially the person whose death he just told of, considering). He goes on to say that the hardened men Billy had left behind on the rooftop killed Billy’s mother and decided never to speak on what happened that night again…
That is, except for one person. The narrator reveals that he was there and also participated in the rape and murder of Billy Jacobs’s mother. He says that the devil now follows him wherever he goes and that he most likely attends his shows as well as neighborhood freestyle battles. He notes that the devil is both ubiquitous and unrecognizable, because he lives within the hearts of all those willing to fulfill their greedy and corrupt desires at any cost.
Immortal Technique goes on to say that the devil does not discriminate, dwelling within any person who meets the above criteria regardless of race or ethnicity. The devil’s purpose is to cause such people to destroy themselves. In the next line, Immortal Technique makes a passing biblical reference. He says, “You’ll be one of God’s children who fell from the top.” In other words, you’ll follow the unholy trajectory of Lucifer, once an angel, who was cast down from heaven for trying to forcefully take the throne of God.
The very next line is, “There’s no diversity because we’re burning in the melting pot.” The line seems to suggest that there is no true diversity – although America boasts its many different races and cultures (see melting pot) – because we all subscribe and assimilate ourselves to a common materialistic culture in which we promote greed over morality; a culture which causes us to suffer.
He closes the verse by advising the listener never to dance with the devil because the consequences may be of a long-lasting – or even eternal – nature.
As is always the case, my somewhat-brief review of this verse cannot come close to doing the greatness of this song justice. Thus, I am resolved to post the video below.
Main Image: NowPublic