(Viper Records)

recommended recommended recommended

Since Dead Prez fell off (you know it's true), hiphop has been severely understaffed in the militant socialist guerrilla department. Enter Immortal Technique.

The Peruvian-born, Harlem-raised MC blew up on the battle-rap circuit (using part of his winnings to finance his first album), carved out a niche for himself in the underground scene, and amassed a sizable following—mostly college kids learning about Che Guevara and 9/11 conspiracy theories for the first time.

It's taken a while for Immortal Technique to get past his battle-rap roots. Tech has always been good for a clever punch line, but he couldn't write a hook to save his life, and he's often been saddled with subpar production. From the first growled bar on The 3rd World's opening track, "Death March," though, it's clear that Tech has stepped his game up since dropping his last album five years ago.

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The 3rd World isn't an "official" album, but rather a mixtape put together with DJ Green Lantern, who produces about a third of the album's tracks with help from Southpaw and Bronze Nazareth. Still, it feels more polished than either of Tech's previous releases, especially on the album's best cut, "Mistakes," which plays like it could be Tech's radio single if not for the dark subject matter. Tech, backed up by Poison Pen, Chino XL, and Ras Kass, covers all of the usual Revolution 101 topics—the commoditization of hiphop, the evils of capitalism, U.S. imperialism, etc.—and appears to have dropped some of the homophobic undercurrents found on his previous albums, perhaps in an attempt to broaden his audience.

Despite Tech's new, obnoxiously gravelly delivery—no shit, he sounds like a young DMX—The 3rd World's mix of party beats and politics is worth a listen. At least until Dead Prez get their shit together and get back to writing songs about Huey P., tofu, and soul food.

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