*You really have to give it up for Tech N9ne. Like the title of his new album, he is literally “Something Else.”
Seriously, the man has carved out a niche for himself in an industry that is largely formulaic and is notoriously fickle toward any artist who may have considered reinventing the proverbial wheel.
Tech N9ne is just that type of artist. He has been making a living as an emcee since 1991 and has flirted with signing to a major label from the very beginning, but things never seem to work out on that route.
However, that appears to have worked out for the better as far as the Kansas City-based rapper’s overall career arc is concerned. Tech has over 13 studio albums to his credit, and has hustled his Strange Music imprint into a multi-million dollar entity.
Very few independent artists, if any, can boast of this. He forged himself into a legend on the low. Yes, a legend…don’t hate. I see your brow wrinkling as the smirk forms upon your face. But, despite your hate and claims of “wack,” contemporaries such as Nas, Busta Rhymes and Royce 5’9″ are on record stating otherwise.
“That’s f**kin’ crazy, man. Even Royce 5’9″ rappin’ ass called me a legend,” said Tech of his industry admirers. “Like, I’m beside myself. Don’t you see another me over here? I’m literally beside my f**kin’ self. Me? Little ol’ me from Kansas City, Missouri? A legend? I just thank GOD. I don’t really know what GOD has in store for me, but I believe it’s something beautiful.”
When I heard Tech was having an album release party down at S.O.B. in NYC I had to take the opportunity to talk shop with him.
“The album is called ‘Something Else,’ said Tech of his latest effort. “So, after doing music for so many years I felt like I have something else to say. I’m 41 years old. I feel like I have something else to say that they ain’t ever heard before. That’s why I had to do it that way.”
While listening to ‘Something Else’ the richness of several of the tracks struck me, as did the noticeable changes in the overall tone of the album. Which picked up a frantic sprint in some areas, and slowed to a reflective trot in others.
“I knew the beats had to be extra,” he explained. “The whole theme of the album was a meteorite landing in downtown Kansas City and putting a story with it. It had the elements of Fire, Water and Earth.”
One track that stood out to me was “That’s My Kid.” It spook to me for several reasons, primary among them was the fact that I am also a father. CeeLo Green puts his foot in the vocals while Big K.R.I.T. and Kutt Calhoun team up with Tech to great effect.
“I grew up in a gangbang neighborhood. My son is 18 years old now. My daughter is 14. I’m glad they latched onto music instead of the bullshit I grew up on. I thank GOD for them. That’s why I did the song ‘That’s My Kid’. (Scroll down to listen to it.)
Tech N9ne has survived alleged beefs with Rakim, Eminem and (laughing my a*s off) Keisha Cole and is still around to tell the tale. Though he rarely has come at anyone directly, people often misconstrue his lyrics and his image as well. Tech has actually been dealing with being misunderstood from the very start of his solo career. But that only helped to steel his resolve.
“In the beginning I was the guy with the painted face. So, I wasn’t the norm. A lot of people fronted on me like ‘Aww, that shit fake. He needs a gimmick’. I don’t need a gimmick for nobody. I’m a student of hip-hop. I was listening to Schoolly D, I was listening to Just Ice, I was listening to Busy B. I was listening to LL Cool J, Rakim and KRS One. I’m a student of hip-hop. I was doing it when Naughty By Nature was doing it. I am a student of hip-hop, so I knew there was no way they were going to be able to keep me out.”
“With my painted face, I look more like my ancestors than any of these other motherf*****s, on the real. So, I can’t wait to perform in Africa. The funny thing is my success comes from me being me and sticking to my guns and not conforming to what everybody else was doing,” said Tech.
Speaking of the painted face thing, I’ve always wondered where that originated. Here Tech breaks it down.
“They initially said my painted face was scaring people away. But it was initially my homeboy’s idea,” said the rapper. “He started painting my face in 1994. He was killed. I continue to do it as a tribute to him. So, f**k what everybody is talking about. I was being me and I stuck to my guns, but some people are still scared. Some people think I’m a devil worshiper but I’m not. I grew up in the church and later my mother married a Muslim when I was young. So, I studied both Christianity and Islam. I’m a Christian though, and they both make for wonderful music. That got me fans and with fans comes money. ”
Yes, with fans comes money. That fact cannot be overstated. Some might browse his discography and scoff at Tech’s lack of platinum albums, which would be scoff worthy had he been on a major label. But, as an independent artist it is not inconceivable for him to be getting 6 or 7 dollars per album as opposed to perhaps 1 or 2 dollars from a major. Factor in his ownership of said indie label and…well, you get the point. I asked Tech if there were any major labels still trying to win him over to the dark side.
“We got a few calls but me and my partner are weighing our options right now. The only thing a major label like Def Jam can do for me now is video and airtime. But, we’re actually doing that on our own on this album,” he explained. “I can’t wait to see what this album opens up for me. Every album opens up something different. It might take me to another part of the world. Some place else I ain’t never been.”
“Something Else” dropped this past Tuesday, July 30 and features guest appearances from B.o.B., Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa among others. In addition to “That’s My Kid”, another song you might want to lay an ear to is “Fragile” featuring Kendrick Lamar.
For more information on Tech and Strange Music log on to www.therealtechn9ne.ning.com
Listen to Tech N9ne’s “That’s My Kid”:
Also, just released from Tech N9ne’s new album is the cut “Straight Out The Gate” (Feat. Serj Tankian). Check it out: