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Interview with Revolutionary Rapper Testament

March 2, 2011
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BY SARA FALCONER

Tell us a bit about yourself and about Test their Logik.

I’ve been rapping under the name Testament for a while now and I am a revolutionary hip-hop artist based in southern Ontario. I am also a community organizer, cuz like Dead Prez says, “It’s bigger than hip-hop.” Many people are now familiar with my work in the hip-hop duo, Test Their Logik.

Test Their Logik is made up of myself (Testament), and Illogik, a Toronto-based revolutionary MC and producer. We met a few years ago through mutual friends in Guelph’s anarchist community who brought us there to do a show together. It was so refreshing to see our politics mirrored in each other’s flows and I knew it was the start of something with real potential. We gradually started doing other shows together until our first tour where we started writing songs collaboratively as a group two years ago.

What inspired your “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” remix?

The remix I released of “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” was inspired by my own daily life of having prison hanging over my head as a constant threat, a cohersive force, and violent daily reality. Prison is a very real possibility in my future, and writing this song was a way for me to mentally take myself there and prepare psychologically for that eventuality. It was me putting myself in the shoes of our captive comrades in order to strengthen my resolve against prison and the world that needs them.

People I love sitting in prison fills me with pain and rage. Just the idea of prison itself is revolting enough to inspire this song. That said this song was particularily inspired by the “green scare” and earth liberation prisoners serving crazy time like Marie Mason, Eric McDavid, Daniel McGowan and others who never hurt a living being, and are in there purely because of political repression and targetting. They put everything on the line for the health of this planet and for a world free of torture and domination and have paid the ultimate price.

When the original version of this song came onto the radio I knew I had to remix it. The painful hook about kissing loved ones through phones immediately brought vivid thoughts of political prisoners and calls from prison. I began re-writting the song immediately knowing I had to steal the soul of this pop song and make it about something real.

You’ve used this song and others to reappropriate pop culture songs for revolutionary purposes. How does this work?

I have definitely reappropriated other pop culture songs for revolutionary purposes because I hate hearing amazing beats and hooks getting constantly spoiled by mindless, selfish, egotistical, and oppressive lyrics. Reappropriating popular music is a way of salvaging the hard work and talent of the producers and give their songs meaning and power. Doing this is also very effective in spreading radical politics because folks are already familiar with the original versions and have a reference for the remixes to compare and contrast to. The practice of taking other songs and flipping them up, remixing them, and making new versions is a long-time tradition in hip-hop. So the only thing different I’m doing is making them about revolutionary politics. And even other artists like Dead Prez have been doing that for years as well.

One of the earliest tracks I did that folks got into was a remix of “This is why I’m hot” which I flipped up to “This is why I’m not” and critiqued the materialist culture we live in and the state of hip-hop. Recently, I also remixed Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Run This Town” to challenge their attempt to use revolutionary black bloc imagery in their music video for a song that was classist, materialistic, sexist, homophobic and all about their lust for power. I flipped it up to call them out as well as to make the case for us runing our own towns, communities, and neighbourhoods collectively and creating conflict with forces of social control and domination such as multi-millionaires, cops, corporations, and pop icons.

What repression did you face in the lead-up to the G8/G20 summit in Toronto this past June?

For over a year leading up to the G20 I was under heavy surveillance. For over a year leading up to the G20 there were several undercover operatives pretending to be my friends. They infiltrated our networks and rooted themselves in our communities in order to entrap us, destroy our movements and throw us in jail. In May I was visited by CSIS agents at the airport who harrassed me, my partner, and my mom. Since they were gathering intel on me, they obviously knew I wouldn’t talk to them, so their reason for being there was purely intimidation. They followed us aggressively, making accusations and insinuations about my criminal behaviour. Then about two weeks before the G20 undercover cops in London swarmed me and a comrade of mine as we were putting up anti-G20 posters. They threw us in jail for almost 24 hours and charged us with 7 counts of mischief each, one for every poster they claim to have documented us putting up. We were released with conditions of “obeying the laws of Canada.” When questioned by the media, the chief of police said they had reacted so strongly because they wanted us to be out on bail conditions during the G20 itself. They already had me on a list that they were going to arrest so it was a way for them to pre-emptively add another charge (breach of bail), and a way for them to try to deny me bail and keep me in jail once they arrested me the next time. On Sunday morning during the G20 I was swarmed by the “hold-up squad” who had staked out my car all night and waited for me in several unmarked vehicles. They jumped out in full tactical gear pointing automatic weapons at me. I was then charged with indictable conspiracy, indictable counseling, and masked with intent. Illogik was also violently arrested that morning at a different location. The warrants for our arrests used our stage names, and pictures from our myspace page. We were released 3 days later on life-altering bail conditions that barred us from associating with each other, making music with each other, or having any communication at all. Luckily our charges were just stayed due to lack of evidence, and after 5 months of being unable to work on our music we are back together working on our debut album, doing tours, speaking out, and playing benefit shows.

You’ve been playing gigs and speaking in support of G20 defendants. What do you want people to know about them?

I can’t even count how many benefit shows I’ve done for G20 defendants. While me and Illogik had non-association conditions I went and did a solo tour across the entire country entitled the “Rap For Freedom” tour. The tour was both to raise funds for legal defense as well as raise more awareness about what went down during the G20 in the streets of Toronto, and the ongoing criminalization and targeting of our community. Dozens of people that I am tight friends with were thrown in jail during the G20. I am friends with everybody facing the most serious charges of conspiracy and those who are facing high-profile mischief charges. Many of these people I consider family. The G20 defendants are some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. They make this world a better place every day in the work they do as organizers, and they are a beacon of hope in what often feels like a hopeless ugly world. They continue to be an inspiration and blessing in my life.

What’s next for Test their Logik?

Test Their Logik is once again conspiring for a better world and counseling people through music. We are taking things to the next level now, and getting really serious about our art now that we know how seriously our enemies take it. We are in the studio a lot and are planning on dropping our first professionally mixed, mastered, and pressed album in mid march. We are also about to launch our website testtheirlogik.com and are in the process of booking a cross-”Canada” tour from mid-march until June. We are also anxious to connect with folks in the U.S. again too so we are actively looking for help in finding legitimate professional gigs and dealing with all the related border issues. We are also looking to collaborate with other artists who share our politics as we are planning on building an anarchist hip-hop collective called “Raised Fist Collective” in order to help liberate hip-hop from the corporate industry that has kidnapped it. Hip-hop has been taken prisoner, and its time for a jail-break.

What message would you like to send to our readers?

First off, I want to send love and solidarity to anybody reading this in a cage. My heart is with all prisoners who have been captured by the state, and thinking about you fuels the rage within those of us on the outside who work to secure your freedom and abolish prison. More broadly I want to support those of you who, like me, identify as being against prison. I know it can sometimes be a hard thing to do in a sea of reformers and liberals who push for bigger cages because of their inability to imagine a world without prison. But we must envision a world without prison and work for that to be a reality now more than ever as the state expands its capacity to incarcerate ever-larger numbers of us. Keep the struggle alive until every cage is emptied!

Testament, Kiss Me Thru The Phone (remix)

I wanna see you, but all I can do is listen
to your voice on this phone we’re digitally kissin’
through telephone wires til they let me outta prison
there aint no love here it’s hate and i’m missin’
my lover and community and family and livin’
outside of these walls and this state and this system
it’s a slave industry so fight for abolition
I wanna kiss you for real but until then I’ll be singin’

They tappin’ this call and it’s the only one I’m gettin’
security culture don’t let them catch you slippin’
loose lips sink ships so stop snitchin’
stop braggin’ and stop gossipin’
cuz you don’t know who’s working for the feds
they want us all in jail or dead
their prison industry is so widespread
its got millions of us kissing through receivers on the side of our heads

I hate phones but I’ll take what I can get
They got me locked up cuz they know that I’m a threat
to the system on which all these prisons depend
liberate the earth greens the new red
gotta liberate myself now I’m dreaming ahead
to the day when I’ll be free and I can see you again
find peace.. and fall asleep in our bed
wake up and kiss without a phone get freaky instead

 

www.myspace.com/testamenthiphop

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