Review Summary: A poor attempt to satsify an increasingly impatient fanbase.
Immortal Technique's first two full-length efforts, Revolutionary Vol. 1
and Revolutionary Vol. 2
, are about as direct as music gets as far as emotional impact goes - they're all about anger. Even Dead Prez, Lost Children of Babylon, and Public Enemy (the three acts Tech gets compared to most) temper their anger regularly with resignation, rationale, or even humour, but Tech's records are almost entirely one-dimensional on an emotional level - it's just anger, anger, and more anger with just one collapse into outright desolation ("Dance With The Devil", "You Never Know") by way of variation. In a lot of ways, then, The 3rd World
is a step into unknown territory for the guy, because this release speaks of a new emotion entirely - fear.
Let me clarify. The 3rd World
is a mixtape rather than an actual album in any real sense - it even ends with a plug for Revolutionary Vol. 3
. And yet, it's being marketed, promoted, and hyped as a real release. As far as Tech goes, this is a win-win situation - if people react well, then it'll improve his reputation, and if they don't, then he has a ready-made excuse for why it sucks. In the case of the latter, it can even be stricken from the record books as his third album proper. In releasing a record like this, particularly five years after Revolutionary Vol. 2
, Tech has accidentally revealed to us that he's scared of what the reaction to his third album might be.
And make no mistake, the reaction has largely been vicious. I suppose you have to expect that - five years is a long time for somebody's personal politics to be picked apart, particularly when they're as extreme as Tech's are. A backlash was inevitable once the shock of the new and the power of his delivery wore off, and people realized just what the lyrics were actually saying. Yet, to slate this album for the political views it espouses is to miss the point entirely. After all, it's not as if the two Revolutionary
albums were watertight documents in that regard, and yet they are both still (correctly) seen as genre classics, underground classics, however you want to phrase it. No, the problems of The 3rd World
run deeper than that.
One of those problems is, in fairness, no problem of Tech's at all. DJ Green Lantern mans the boards here, and quite frankly, he's shi
t at everything he does. His scratching, in particular, seems limited to pointless 'rewinds' that repeat the previous four lines of the rap so that you're forced to sit through them again. His beats aren't much more impressive, lacking as they are in any form of complexity, intelligence, or inspiration. Even when a rare good idea does arise - see the 'open your eyes before you die' sample - it's poorly handled. Tech has never had great beats, but these mark a new low for him.
Maybe it's because the beats have no impact that Tech has changed his rapping style to a new, harsher, more direct tone. If he IS compensating - and I'm being charitable in drawing that conclusion - then it's backfired. The new angrier voice makes for angrier lyrics, which in turn makes for less intelligent lyrics. Again, this is more a development of an existing problem rather than an entirely new one - the politics on the Revolutionary
albums were hardly the most sane or measured in the world, but at least they felt like some thought had gone into them. These don't. Worse still, the constant barrage of harsh, static rapping simply gets tiring after a while; even if his lyrics were genuinely revelatory, the sheer sound makes it difficult to want
to keep up. The only variations come from a handful of voiceovers (which again feel oddly tentative, as if Tech and Lantern are just searching for some kind of external validation for their beliefs), and the guests, who outrap Tech on an alarmingly regular basis.
No matter what way you cut it, The 3rd World
is a bad release. It's redeemed somewhat by the clear conviction with which Tech performs, and the natural charisma the mas has, but even by releasing this he'll no doubt turn away a lot of people who've been supporting him for years. And that's a shame; the world could always do with another extreme artistic voice. Still, I guess I'm happy to fall into the trap Tech wants me to fall into - this isn't Revolutionary Vol. 3
, and I'll wait until then before I declare his career effectively over. If you're a fan who hasn't heard this, though, I'd advise you stay away from it and just keep waiting, because this is a particular kind of failure - a stop-gap that doesn't stop anything OR fill any gaps.