Inside the Mind of Rapper and Activist Marcel Cartier

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.


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