SEATTLE, Washington — Raised in New York, Immortal Technique (real name Felipe Andres Coronel) has occupied the underground music circuit with his racy artistry and impeccable flow for more than a decade. He’s renowned as a monstrous lyricist, but Coronel’s amazing intellect takes him beyond the realm of rapping and into detailed, conscious analysis of third-world struggles and impoverished populations.
The gritty Peruvian-born artist got his first taste of success in August 2005, when his name appeared on promotional stickers for the first International Hip-Hop Summit during the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students in Venezuela. The event’s purpose was to attract as many youth and students from across the globe to share cultures, promote active participation in democracy and to “[fight]against imperialism and war.”
Roughly one year later, Coronel worked on a farm in his native Peru while creating initiatives that gave back to Middle Eastern youth. His efforts soon sparked a conversation with nonprofit Omeid International founder Shamsia Razaqi, who proposed the idea of a shelter for Afghan children in Kabul. Razaqi and her foundation formulated this idea as a way to save the lives of these youth, and as an important alternative to enlisting in fundamentalist groups for safety and survival.
Coronel agreed, and within two years he was able to save and invest $60,000 into the orphanage. In March 2009, Coronel spent weeks in war-torn Afghanistan to oversee construction of what would be called the Amin Institute. It was early April 2009 when the facility opened and admitted its first group of orphaned Kabul children, aiming to provide for their academic and health needs.
To maximize public attention, a 60-minute documentary about Amin’s construction was given the green light. While the documentary was in production, Coronel set out for another overseas opportunity that would redefine his outlook on global initiatives. Following the harrowing 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the rapper joined a host of fellow rappers in ‘Rock the Bells’, an event which vowed to allow residuals to Haitian relief programs in partnership with ‘Hip Hop for Haiti’ and ‘Arms around Haiti’.
The corruption of aid distribution that Coronel saw on this trip to the Caribbean culminated in his writing an open letter, expressing frustration with “the little of what’s left of Haiti’s government”. There had been instances where customs officers allegedly charged $8,000 for donated items to cross the Haitian border. Coronel argued that those in power expected to get paid for aiding disaster victims, even though much of their action was minimal or ineffective.
His concerns received their due diligence in 2011, when Coronel and documentary director Cary Stewart finally released ‘The [R]evolution of Immortal Technique’, exploring the construction of the Amin Institute and depicting the “human side of war” within Afghan territory.
The documentary was met with massive acclaim from NBC and Vice, and Coronel was recognized and celebrated as a philanthropist. His music had already helped him break through the clutter and spread a message of critical thinking, but his role in creating a home for Afghan children out of his own pocket revealed what NBC described as a “big heart beyond [the rapper’s]intense exterior”.
Today, Felipe Coronel continues to be a Peruvian agro-worker, global activist and entertainer, using benefit concerts and album sales to contribute to sincere causes and the running costs of the Amin Institute. He has said that “giving your time is often more valuable than giving your money”, a belief that will ultimately trickle down to all those who are drawn in by his charisma and passion and create a more compassionate society.
– Jeff Varner