Inside the Mind of Rapper and Activist Marcel Cartier

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?

marcel_endthewarnowI 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.

marcel cartierQ. 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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Arash Sharifi

Arash Sharifi

Arash has been pas­sion­ate about Hip hop for many years. He believes through hip hop you can teach, edu­cate and empower people to become bet­ter ver­sions of them­selves and help and sup­port their com­munity and oth­ers. Hip hop is more than just music, it can be a teach­er to us all.

About Arash Sharifi

Arash Sharifi
Arash has been passionate about Hip hop for many years. He believes through hip hop you can teach, educate and empower people to become better versions of themselves and help and support their community and others. Hip hop is more than just music, it can be a teacher to us all.

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