Tech N9ne is a prolific rapper. In July 2013, Tech’s 13th studio album, Something Else, took a huge leap forward in closing the gap between his indie and mainstream audiences. Four months later, Tech broadened his range with a heavy metal sound found in Therapy, an EP that opened new doors for him. Now to start off his partnership with Strange Music’s latest addition, Murs, Tech has added him into the rotation of heavy hitters and prominent beatmakers found on Strangeulation.
The fifth in Tech’s collabo series finds him riding in the backseat and letting his Strange Music roster take the wheel. The lyrical specialist from Kansas City, Mo., trades fire verses with familiar names like Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Calhoun, Rittz, ¡Mayday! and others that are starting to bubble out of the underground. With 17 tracks (plus four more added to the deluxe version), the album pulls various aesthetics to serve up a sample platter for newcomers that aren’t too familiar with Strange. Longtime Tech fans will also appreciate its uniformity along the lines of known favorites like Misery Loves Kompany and Sickology 101.
What sets Strangeulation apart from the rest is the presence of Murs, who sounds right at home next to his labelmates. “Hard (A Monster Made It)” is the first official collaboration between Tech and the West Coast veteran, where the two trace back the origins of their style and flows over haunting production. “Words to live by, now I die by a strange code/About to kill this verse, they call me Murs if you ain’t know/I don’t rap fast, Ima leave that up to Tech and ‘em/Ces, Bernz, Krizz, Rittz, Wrek and the rest of ‘em,” Murs spits. He later pops up again in Tech’s “Strangeulation” cyphers alongside Godemis, Stevie Stone and Brotha Lynch Hung. Some of these lines here are obvious jabs at mainstream hip-hop trends that connect well with Strange fans. “I don’t want to hear another rapper harmonizing unless/He thuggish, ruggish, Layzie, Krayzie, Wish or Flesh/Maybe I’m just hatin’ ’cause my Black ass can’t sing/Fuck the Auto-Tune, I hope the future is filled with better things.”
Although spotlighting the label’s entire roster is a plus, the LP isn’t really breaking any new ground. Much like any other compilation done by a conglomerate, there are only a few songs that appease diehard fans and give them exactly what they want. Highlights like “Fear,” which intricately details Tech’s mother suffering from a life-threatening disease, is a passionate track that sounds both dark and beautiful. Other artists stand out through their swagger like Jay Rock (“Red Rags”), ¡Mayday!’s Bernz and Wrekonize (“We Are Free”), and Rittz (“Make Waves”). While you would have loved to see Tech and co. step outside the box of their usual formula or offer some radio singles like Something Else’s “Fragile,” Strangeulation’s sole purpose is to show their lyrical talents and chemistry.
At 42, Tech N9ne is considered a legacy artist with a legion of fans that seems to get bigger with time. On a level where his underground stature is seeping into popular music, Tech’s been killing it and manages to still produce quality material to those who matter. There’s a sense of realization on Strangeulation that shows Tech’s motivated to become a part of the elite rap league that includes Eminem and Jay Z. With his latest collabo effort before Special Effects (his 15th studio album), Tech is viewed as the big homie among his peers and delivers his best work to allow them to rise to the occasion. This time around, it just seems the Technicans are the only ones listening.—Eric Diep