Tech N9ne just released one of the best hip-hop albums of the year and definitely one of his personal best, Something Else . As like last time, the good people at Strange Music were quick to find some time for me to chat with Tech about his love of my hometown Victoria, the dreams he got to fulfill on the new album and his tenuous relationship with the Black community. Tech proved once again that he's a thoughtful, engaging and humble presence, more than deserving of all the adulation and accolades that have been coming his way. Respect to Technician #1.
(If you see the thumbnail, that's my Tech-inspired war-paint I donned for Shambhala.)
Tech N9ne: I’ve been out here in New York since Sunday doing press for my album. I’ve been doing everything – BET Backroom Freestyle for 106 and Park, MTV Rapsix, NBC, just everything, hot 97, power 105.1 – everything you can think to do out here, I’ve done it. Parties every night. A listening party the first night, know what I’m sizzlin’.
Rags Music: You’re fucking everywhere. Do you get super tired doing press and running all these interviews?
TN: Oh my God, man. I’m so tired, man. My eyes are bloodshot red, things pop up like crazy. I was ready to go sleep after the DJ Enemy show, at like 10:30, and the artist Rocco invited me to a party because he wanted to meet me, so I had to go.
RM: Of course, you gotta go.
TN: Yeah man. They’re showing a lot of love out here, we got a lot done. I had to talk to Forbes yesterday. I was like, “I’m so nervous to talk to Forbes. They wanna ask me about my money and I hate talking about my money!” But it was good.
RM: Well, I appreciate you slogging through it all and talking to me in the morning here.
TN: Whenever anyone is trying to elevate me through any publication or anything I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think it’s a blessing and I don’t take it for granted. I don’t feel shitty about doing an interview while my eyes are still closed. <laughs>
RM: The last time we talked, I obviously wrote an article after, and I think, if I remember correctly, it was the most viewed article we had on the site all year.
TN: For real!?
RM: Yeah, man. Your fans are incredible.
TN: Yes they are, man. Everybody says that and it’s such a true thing. They love me so much. I love them back. I know what it’s like to have none and now I have some, in abundance. It’s beautiful. It’s still growing, like a forest fire.
RM: It’s an infection, moving across.
TN: It is an infection. An infection of beautiful music.
RM: Is there anywhere you’ve been where you’ve been really shocked to find out where your music has made it to. When you hear about it and you just say, “Holy shit.”
TN: I’m shocked my music makes it anywhere it goes. <laughs> When I’m going to these places, I mean, you’ve been to a Winnipeg show, right?
RM: I haven’t been to a Winnipeg show. Just over here on the west coast in Vancouver and Victoria.
TN: Ah, where you saying at?
RM: I’m in Victoria.
TN: You’re in Victoria?! Oh my goodness! I love Victoria. We have to take that boat over there, right? And we usually do two shows, one for the young ones and one for the older ones. So much love in Victoria. Wow!
RM: It’s like stepping into another world when you’re in town.
TN: Yes it is. It feels so good. Even though we get on that boat early. We wake up on the bus and we gotta go upstairs and have breakfast or whatever on the little float thing, we go out there and watch the water spray at the back…We love it. And Victoria show have so much love, so many people who love us there. It’s a beautiful place. I’m glad you said Victoria, man.
RM: Well I’m glad you like it so much. Looking forward to you coming back out here next month.
TN: Ah man, it’s going to be beautiful. I don’t know if we’re doing two shows again but I hope we are.
RM: I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head.
TN: Last time we came and only did one and I was like, “What happened to the two shows?!” Also keep in mind that our show is a show that you shouldn’t be able to do twice in one night. <laughs> But we were raring to do it in Victoria. That’s the only place we would do two shows in Canada.
RM: We all appreciate it. I know people who have gone to both shows a few times.
TN: Yeah man. Wonderful days, wonderful days. You brightened me up when you said Victoria.
RM: Do you find with so much fan support, do you find the expectations of the fans guiding your music at all?
TN: Yeah, I like to please them. I write what I want and I write what I feel. I know that they want me to be myself. I know that for a fact. I know that I can’t do an album without at least one “Choppers” song or the fans will be like, “What the hell Tech?!” I know little things. I have to do “So Dope” for my fans. They want to hear the Technician number 1, they want to hear the reason why they came. I know that deep in my head even though I hate, well I’m not going to say hate, dislike writing the triple-time rhymes. They’re so intricate and my brain will never let me rest. It won’t stop me from rhyming. I just want to say, “Okay, that’s enough.” But it’ll just keep going. I’ll sit there until I can rhyme every word even if it takes hours and hours and hours. My brain won’t let me rest. It’s so never-wracking. Everyone that calls me wants me to do triple time and I’m like, “Fuck. I’m going to need some time to do this.” It’s a wonderful thing and I do it wonderful and that’s what they like me to do. I always keep in mind that my fans like certain things. I like to give them a variety, different levels, because that’s what they’re used to.
RM: That “So Dope,” man, that song is fire, it’s a fucking great song.
TN: I’m so beside myself man. It came out so dope. The beat is so open and the people I chose to be on it. It’s just perfect. I don’t think nobody would disagree.
RM: Man, you get some amazing guests, do you ever have to twist peoples’ arms to get them on there or are people usually pretty stoked to get on a Tech N9ne record?
TN: Only one that I had to kind of twist her arm is Snow (Tha Product) because Snow is a respectable woman and when you call a respectable woman and say I want you to be the only girl on a song called “So Dope (They Wanna Fuck),” she was like, “Ahh, I don’t know about that Tech.” But she came with it. She came with it even though that’s not what she raps about. And she stands by that and I respect her for it. She don’t have to sell sex or whatever in order to be dope. And she did it. She talked about people trying to get at her and she said I don’t get down like that. She told people in the song. She let people know that this ain’t my thing but I’ma murder this shit. She did it for me, know what I’m saying.
RM: That’s dope. What is it about you that gets women so riled up. I see females at your shows that I know to be respectable women outside the show but as soon as they get Tech N9ne in the bloodstream they’re going apeshit.
TN: I’m like a snake charmer, you know what I’m saying. Snake Charmer. The music and I give directions like, “That shirt came off and show tha, oooh, areola.” I was put here for the female species. Sorry. I said it in a song a long time ago. It was an extra song, near the end or maybe an extra song on Everready that was called “Fuck ‘em Girl,” and I said “I feel like I was put here for the female species…” Something so narcissistic that it’s funny. But in my brain, that’s crazy.
RM: How’d you get hooked up with Serj (Tankian)? That’s awesome, I’m excited to hear that.
TN: Awwww! <laughs> Man. It’s like I got a couple of dreams off on this album and Serj was one of them. Ever since I heard that song, “Sugar.” I saw that on MTV years ago and I was a fan since that day. I’ve gotten everything they’ve done since. I tried to get him back in the Anghellic days, but we couldn’t get to him. A different song called, “Straight out the Gate.” Me and Krizz Kaliko tinkered on it and we sent it to Serj’s brother. One of my people out in LA, Dave Weinhart, the Vice President of Strange Music, he sent it to Serj’s brother George. George heard it and sent it to Serj out in New Zealand. Serj heard it and recorded it immediately. I didn’t know until he sent it back and I was told, “You got Serj. Serj wants to talk to you. He’s going to be calling you from this number so look out for it.” I was in the studio and he called me, man. I was so nervous because I think he’s such an artist and I’ve been a fan of his music since day one. He said “Tech, I never heard of you before this. But it was so good, I went and got all your music and now you make me run faster on the treadmill.” He said, “I love your music because it’s melodic, emotional and I love the way it flows.” I said, “I feel the same thing about you.” Then we hooked up in LA and shot the video. I met him the night before and had dinner near his home with he and his wife and his neighbor, who’s an artist. We just kicked it, man, and did the video. He gave me some wisdom on how he gets better, on being the bread-winner and having to help everybody out. He’s such a really angelic soul. It was so wonderful to work with somebody you love listening to and they’re even better than what you expected. It was the same thing with the Doors. How did that happen?! What is going on in my life that I deserve all these blessings? I think it’s because I gave so much and it’s coming back to me ten-fold. Being able to work with Ray Manzereck before he passed and Robbie Krieger and John Dunsmore and have Jim Morrison on the chorus…they’re the people that inspired me to do Strange Music. That’s only in fairytales, dude.
RM: Hell yeah. The Doors, that’s Strange Music right there. That’s crazy.
TN: Somebody said something to me that I didn’t realize when I was recording it when they were in the studio with me, looking through the window at me as I was recording it, giving me the thumbs up. They said, “You were in Jim’s spot.” I don’t think anybody could take his spot and he was right there, singing, “Strange days have found us…” I was like, “Oh man! I’m right here, for real!?” I got to share that with the fans and put it on my album. Damn.
RM: That’s some heavy shit. That’s awesome.
TN: I know, man. Those were the two dreams I got off of my album, Serj and the Doors. Slipknot was supposed to be in there, Corey Taylor, I sent him a song and he loved it. I was going to have him write the chorus but his wife had a death in the family. They had to go to Detroit or something and I told him, “Next one, brother. Don’t even trip.” So I almost had Corey Taylor and got three dreams off there.
RM: Ah, whatever. Gives you something to look forward to on the next one. S’all good, right? I gotta say, it seems kind of cruel to do this interview right before the record drops. I’m going to ask you all these questions and I’ma get the answers again on Tuesday.
TN: <laughs> it’s all good.
RM: I love “Fragile,” too man. That’s a fucking beautiful song, man.
TN: Yeah it is. It’s beautiful music inspired by real events and everything. That’s the one that everybody’s gravitating toward and it makes me feel good because I didn’t have to conform to any certain format to appeal to anybody. I just proved you can do real music and it can still be accepted. Kendrick Lamar came through like crazy. Kendall Morgan, with her beautiful angelic voice singing on it. It’s just beautiful. I think Johnny Cash did the beat and two other guys were involved. It was just wonderful, so many people came together to make one wonderful song. It’s going to last for a long time, you know?
RM: It’s a really beautiful song.
TN: It has what I do…speed rap…it has me doing me.
RM: It’s always interesting listening to a Tech N9ne song you’ve never heard before because you’re always wondering how he’s coming with the flow. Fragile is like, “Okay, this is one of those maybe more laid back raps…” then you just come out and blast it apart. Amazing.
TN: <laughs> I know! The song comes in levels. The beat, sound like jazz. What’s Tech going to do that on? And I don’t even coming in rapping, there’s a singing voice, then the guitar, it’s like Whoa! The singing is all beautiful and smooth then this massive Top 40 voice comes in like, “What?!” It’s like, “Okay this is different for Tech, but it’s beautiful.” And then I come in and your brain is fucked. Then Kendrick Lamar comes in angry, so forceful. I’m so proud of it.
RM: What is it about you and your music…you drag the best out of your guests all the time.
TN: I have to. I have to. That’s what’s going to make it a better product. I give a thousand percent on my half and I sent it to him as a challenge, like, “Okay, if I came in like this and you’re coming in second, you gotta go! You gotta really go!” I did the same thing with “Worldwide Choppers” when I sent it to Busta. I want them to push to be the best on the song and all in all it’s going to be a beautiful, beautiful collaboration. Now, the fans are always going to try to judge who did better but I ain’t tripping on that. My status is forever reserved, like Eminem says. I do what I do and the other people, they do what they do. They do it well when they do it with me because I set the bar high.
RM: Yeah, man, I dig that. I get tired of people trying to compare artists to each other because artists are all so different. It’s not necessarily a fair comparison most of the time.
TN: Yeah, man. They always gotta compare, “Who’s rapping faster.” I don’t care who’s faster if you can’t hear it. It’s like, clarity is everything. That’s how I show out is I can say these words with lightning speed and you can still hear it. I rhyme like crazy within it, it’s not just words stacked upon each other. These are stories I’m telling.
RM: On a complete sidenote, I’d love to hear you rap with Gift of Gab. You two going back and forth would be something else.
TN: Really? That’s funny every time you say “Something Else” because it’s my album title. We didn’t realize how much we said until it was the album title. <laughs>
RM: I say it a lot listening to your music so it makes a lot of sense.
TN: I’m glad that you adore this music because it means it’s going to be around for a long time. I haven’t done anything to make my fans want to leave.
RM: You seem to have pretty fans that a really open to go with you.
TN: Yeah, that’s how I planned it. Because I’m not one-dimensional, I’m three. I’ve been like that since day one.
RM: It’s good because it keeps it interesting for us. With a song like “Fragile,” you seem to be pretty good at ignoring critics, so why even bother with them?
TN: I’ve done it in the past, you just gotta catch it. There’s not too many people that say bad things about me so when somebody says something really offensive I gotta write and this guy said, “Though his style may be redundant and gimmicky, his show is tight.” Fuck you!
RM: Redundant and gimmicky?!
TN: Yeah! How can you even say “redundant” to Tech N9ne who prides himself on having every flow different? “Gimmicky,” okay you don’t get the face-paint, but it was painted by my dead homebody Brian Dennis in ’94, so it’s offensive and those two things were enough to set me off. And thank God he said it because it inspired that beautiful song.
RM: Do you find the face paint turns people off that might otherwise dig you?
TN: Yeah, man.
RM: That seems so crazy because it’s got that menacing, African tribal thing going on.
TN: That’s what I said! I look more like my ancestors but no one over here is used to that shit. But I don’t give a fuck. If you don’t like it, I don’t give a fuck, that’s ME. My face-paint guy can’t make it into Canada so that’s why my face-paint is kind of so-so over there because he can’t make it in. I feel so naked but I still bring it. People don’t like what they don’t understand, they can’t control it. And what they can’t control they try to destroy.
RM: Ain’t that an old, old truth. I read an interesting comment you made about the disconnect between Black audiences and your music, why do you think that problem exists?
TN: They thought I was a devil worshipper after Anghellic. 2001. They saw the artwork, me as an angel falling into the world of temptation, they saw me accept drugs, liquor and naked women from the demon and if you accept all those things the result is the beast. It was me in a Devil suit. They saw the Devil suit like, “Ah , hell no!”<laughs>
RM: Man, that’s just people not listening. I don’t get it.
TN: People don’t listen if they see something they don’t like. It was just me expressing my spirituality. Slowly but surely my people have been coming back and I won’t give up on my people.
RM: I’m fascinated by the idea of certain kind of “Blackness” someone has to live up. Being the only black kid in a white family, I sort of understand that sometimes.
TN: I’ve always been strange since I was a kid. I was always the kid in the gangbang neighbourhood listening to Slipknot. I’ve always been the little boy so into music in third and fourth grade that teachers would say, “Aaaron! If you do your work like you do this music you’d be an A student.” I’ve always been in my head, imaginative. That’s strange to some people. Being me is paying off wonderfully.
RM: Yeah, man. It’s great. Everytime you put something up the groundswell seems to grow. I think it’s great. I love seeing more people listening to unique, interesting music. What’s the common thread running this record? Your records, all the songs stand on their own, but there’s a…I don’t know if “theme” is the right word, but there’s a sound…
TN: Yeah, there’s a theme. It’s a story inspired by something that scared the shit out of me: When that meteorite hit over Russia. I always thought that’s how we’re going to all go, asteroids getting through the atmosphere. I saw that, I was laying on my bed and I thought, “Holy fuck, we’re dead.” We couldn’t see it because the sun was blocking it. Oh my god! This is all I needed to know. Asteroid going to fuck our shit up, it’s inevitable. So I made it happen over Kansas City on the album. This asteroid came and Boom! It hit right across the street from my house. The thing that was riding it was EBAH, Evil Brain Angel Heart. We don’t know where EBAH comes from but it’s somewhere out there. When this thing crashes right in Pleasant Hill, MS, there’s burgundy mist that starts spreading in the air, changing the sky from blue to burgundy. Through the course of the album when it firsts lands there’s fire. The fire songs are the darker songs, more angry and confused. As the album progresses you have the water level, which is more calm. It has things like so “So Dope,” “Blam,” it has “See Me” in it. The water level is really short, the calm. I guess I’m never calm. Then it goes to Earth, which I made my Heavenly level. It has songs like “That’s my Kid” and “Burn the World,” Burn the world in a good way. When you hear the song it’s not like burn the world and blow it up! It’s not that. If you get a lighter in everyone’s hand the world will be brighter, the sky will be fire. Brighten up the dark spaces where people do bad things and maybe bad things won’t happen. I have a newscaster throughout, narrating. It’s so well put together. It goes from bad to good. I made it do that because I knew when people saw the picture of EBAH they’d just say “Devil worshipper!” So I made EBAH divine.
RM: Wow, that’s fucking awesome.
TN: Wait until you hear it. It’s exciting.
RM: I gotta thank you for paying attention the art of a RECORD. I appreciate that shit. So much stuff just seems completely singles oriented. To have people putting thought into a record and how it all connects is great because I love to sit down and pull records apart.
TN: Thank you, man. I can’t wait for the fans to hear it and really absorb it. It’s intricate. It’s like putting together a movie.
RM: You are the definition of a “road warrior,” and you give so much to your fans. Do you ever get to the point where you need to take a long break, get away and have a vacation of some kind?
TN: Yeah man, I feel like I need a holiday right now. After all this running around I’ve done this week, just a week do all the press, and I’m still doing it. <yawning> I gotta do three more interviews before I get on the plane. And find some time to pack in between there. It’s moving, it’s moving, The road is my habitat. That’s where I belong. The other place I belong is with my children. I’m good, I’m good. I’m just grateful that people want to see and hear what I have to say.
RM: Do you find it’s the energy from any given city on any given night that helps recharge the batteries?
TN: Totally, totally. When there’s energy out there it’s just fire. There’s so much love and heat, man, waves coming at you. Then a song like “Riot Maker” comes on and you just wanna fight, dude. <laughs> But lyrically, you know? Yeah, man, then a song like “Einstein” comes on and it’s like, “Shit! Let’s do this,” you know. Fan favourites.
RM: It seems like every song is a fan favourite at your shows. People are losing their minds all over the place. It’s great. When do you start Canada?
TN: I leave August 13th.
RM: I gotta ask you before I let you go here…Is the Gathering of the Juggalos as fun and wild as it seems?
TN: <laughs> Hellmotherfucking yes! I always have to do something the day after so I can never stay like I used to back in the day. KK has a show after our show at 5 or 4 in the morning and I gotta go to Chicago for a Comic-Con, a comic festival or some shit like that. We’re doing art with Rob Prior. He’s taken EBAH and made a story behind it. It’s so wonderful. So yes, if you can go to a Gathering if you might want to do it.
RM: I would LOVE to but I’m not allowed down into the States.
TN: Damn. So you a gangsta, then.
RM: I guess. I’m just a weed smoker. That’s all that shit.
TN: Ah man, you a gangsta. Can’t leave.
RM: I can go everywhere else in the world, just not the States. They don’t like me down there,
TN: Damn. That’s how they feel about Mad Child.
RM: Yeah, there you go. Another BC boy that can’t get through.
TN: You’re a hooligan, you’re gangsta. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re too extreme. I’m too extreme too. They barely let me in when I come to Canada. <laughs>
You can check the article that sprung from this interview here.
Check out Tech's world here.