by: Arash Sharifi
Q. First off thank you for the chance to interview. If possible could you give us your thoughts on our magazine “I Am Hip Hop”?
I think that any publication that attempts to challenge the mainstream narrative about not only hip-hop, but the world at large should be supported. In that sense, I see “I Am Hip-Hop” as an important new contribution to the media scene in the UK.
Q. How and why did you decide to get involved within the hip hop movement?
I received my initial political education through a number of my favourite hip-hop artists. During my formative teenage years, I was listening to tons of rap music that had a seriously revolutionary edge, from dead prez to KRS-One. This challenged my worldview that I had been embedded with thus far. I decided to start writing my own lyrics as a form of self-expression. Soon enough, I realized that it was probably the best form of self-therapy and reflection I could have ever hoped for.
Q. Throughout your music you touch on a number of political topics and the affects they have on the people within a number of countries from Palestine, Syria to North America. Why do you feel it is important to you to cover these topics?
My true intention is not to merely be a rapper, if I am to be honest. What I genuinely want is to contribute in the best way possible to the liberation of humanity. I see hip-hop as a potential contribution to this process, because to be honest our youth are listening to the sounds of rap music more so than they are to any political leaders. Our young people are generally very intelligent, but also very alienated from political life for very good reasons. It is my hope that hip-hop will do for many what it did for me— to bring them closer to wanting to transform the world. There is also an important element that I need to discuss, which is that as good as most “conscious” rappers are, there is still serious misunderstanding in hip-hop in regards to the most important political issues of the day. For instance, the U.S. and NATO are on the verge of overthrowing the last remaining pan-Arab, nationalist, and socialist-oriented state in the Middle East: Syria. Honestly, we live in an age where revolutionary political leadership is seriously missing. If we had it—like Cuba and Venezuela do, for instance–we would be able to have the clarity to understand that revolution and counter-revolution are diametric opposites and that we should stand with the Syrian state against imperialism. However, we are missing this leadership and increasingly getting it from rappers who just don’t know any better. Thus, we’re winding up confused and if anything, contributing to something that is more than likely actually going against our true intentions, which is supporting counter-revolution and imperialism.
Q. On your latest album History Will Absolve Us you cover the very serious topic of female abuse. Many people feel that our governments and police do not really take the issue of violence towards women seriously. What do you feel we can do as the people to combat this issue?
Women are — or should be — equal with men in every single respect. This is the essence of what I am trying to get across. Lots of rappers have songs where they “give props” to the women in their life or say that women should be “respected”. I think we need to go way beyond that. My understanding is that it is because of the capitalist system that women have been relegated to secondary and subservient positions in society, where they are merely looked at as either sexual objects or as mothers. Women are not naturally inferior to men. They are inferior only in the context of this oppressive system that needs to be thrown off our backs. Domestic violence, which affects one in four women in both the UK and the United States, is an expression of the alienation that both men and women experience because of this backward social system. Often, men feel so furious with their lack of “progress” in society because of the immense pressures to “succeed” (where they really can’t because upward mobility is a joke) that they will take out their frustrations on their partners, who they are told are essentially their property. Many women feel compelled to surrender to their men. There’s much more to be said here, and it’s deeply complex in many ways, but on the surface it is as simple as saying that capitalism enslaves women and their liberation will only begin with the establishment of socialism.
Q. As an artist who covers a wide range of political topics who would you say were some of your main influences with in your music?
Definitely dead prez, who I have had the pleasure and opportunity to work with over the last several years of my career. Also, amazing artists such as Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Nas, KRS-One, my close friends Rebel Diaz and Lowkey. My favorite MC of all-time is Tupac Shakur, and I enjoy every type of music beyond the boundaries of hip-hop as long as it’s pleasurable to the soul.
Q. You were very heavily involved in the occupy movement in New York. Could you talk a bit about why you felt it was important to get involved and what you feel it achieved?
I lived for many years in the poorest district of the United States, which was Hunts Point in the South Bronx. There, I saw folks like Rebel Diaz doing incredible work. In addition, I was involved with revolutionary political organizations, because I have always considered organization to be the essence of the fight back. Doing so alone will not yield any results. Change comes through the organized people. At the time of OWS, I was involved with the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). As a Marxist group, the PSL understood the significance of the Occupy movement as the largest protest movement in the country in nearly 40 years. Occupy showed that the people are not dormant, nor ignorant. It proved that the masses have an understanding that there is something fundamentally wrong in society—that is makes no sense at all for the rich to be getting excessively richer while the majority struggle to make ends meet. The movement had great contradictions, but was at the end of the day above all an expression that the people when fed up will begin to fight back—one day we will not merely fight, but win.
Q. As a people what do you think the main battles that we at the moment need to overcome so we can live in a more unified global society?
We need political organization. This can not be understated. The toiling peoples of the planet, the wretched of the earth, the impoverished, the oppressed, require political education and organization. There is no hope without this, period. There has never been an example of revolutionary change anywhere in the world that was not preceded by the building of an organization or organizations that could carry out this transformation. As far as the idea of a unified society, it will only come when we live in a fraternity of nations. This will only happen once imperialism is done away with, and when capitalism is abolished from the pages of history. The dustbin is waiting to receive the decadent system that trashes the world and reduced more than two thirds to slaves. The future belongs to humanity, to participatory democracy, to equality.
Q. Lastly what can we expect from Marcel Cartier in the future?
I will do whatever I can to best contribute to the new world that we need to build. Hip-Hop is one component of this. It’s important, but if it ceases being so tomorrow then I will be obligated to pick up whatever other tools are necessary to continue humanity’s march toward liberation.