Rarely do face paint and hardcore rap seamlessly fit together, but for Kansas City’s Tech N9ne, it’s been his steez for the past two decades. The self-proclaimed “weirdo rapper” deals in fallen angels and other dark material that places him worlds apart from other MCs. It’s not all about bling, bitches or Bentleys—he rhymes like he’s narrating a horror film. Tech’s style murders the competition by combining wicked, tricky wordplay, melodic hooks and incredibly speedy rap. But the most impressive thing about Tech N9ne isn’t his music—it’s his work ethic.
“I’ve been dicked around so many times by major labels for years. I’ve been through a lot of record deals and nobody could do what I wanted,” Tech says. “Who better to do you than you?”
Withstanding the rap industry’s immense pressure to sign with a major label, he decided to keep it local and started the Strange Music label. Run by Tech and manager Travis O’Guin, Strange Music has put out seven Tech N9ne albums to date. In September 2008, sales crossed the 1 million mark without the aid of bigwigs (and their big money), video or radio.
“I had no idea the negative energy would effect me like it did. I was deep in a hole. ... I’ll never make an album like this again.”
“We can do it better than anybody,” Tech says. “Even with my clown face painted and everybody calling me crazy, I would still be No. 1 if I had all those executives backing me. But until we play their game, we’re going to continue blowing this underground up.”
If Tech N9ne’s Rock the Bells performance in Colorado this August was any indication of his intentions to keep being the king of the underground’s darkest reaches, then all hail Tech. His energy, along with fellow MCs Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun, was so infectious that it ricocheted throughout the entire crowd until people were jumping out of their seats. From “Einstein” to “Caribou Lou,” Tech kept the momentum going by balancing old classics and new singles.
K.O.D., Tech’s sixth solo album, is slated for release on Oct. 27. It contains some of his most sinister material to date, which he says he really struggled with both during and after the recording process.
“This album is different because on past releases, there were only sections of darkness. This one is completely dark,” he says. “I had no idea the negative energy would effect me like it did. I was deep in a hole. It had me sulking and falling out with everybody around me.”
While the music is beautifully composed, the ominous nature of each track is painfully clear. The bulk of the lyrics touch on his mother’s illness, spiritual doubt and a constant internal struggle with his own demons.
“I made a mistake. I’ll never make an album like this again,” he confesses. “On the next one, I’m going to try to keep it light.”
In the meantime, Tech is rolling three-
“When I go to these smalls towns and nobody knows who I am, that’s when I feel like I still have a lot of work to do,” he says. “My goal is to get my music to the rest of the world. I will tread every piece of this earth until I do it.”