Pay Attention
Two of hip-hop’s finest, Tech N9ne and Murs, chop it up before hopping on tour.
Images Samantha Levi
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of XXL Magazine. Don't miss our cover stories on Meek Mill and Rick Ross right here.

While chilling on a red leather couch in the main lobby of Strangeland, the new 26,000 square feet musical and visual headquarters of Strange Music Records, the label’s flagship artist Tech N9ne watches the snow fall on the other side of the glass doors. It’s a frigid winter afternoon in February and the first big snowstorm for Lee’s Summit, Mo. this season. But unlike most nights each year, Tech isn’t on the road. Tonight, he’s laying low at Strangeland, getting ready for a video shoot the following day.

In town on a business visit from L.A. is MC and newest Strange Music signee, Murs. Influential in his own right and highly skilled on the mic, Murs knows a thing or two about touring and performing. As a founder of the annual Paid Dues hip-hop festival nine years ago, Murs has established himself as a leading figure in hip-hop focused on bringing artists together from all over.

In April, Tech and Murs will hit the road together along with fellow Strange Music artist Krizz Kaliko, Chris Webby, Jamaican rapper Zuse and King 810 for the Tech N9ne’s Special Effects Tour, to promote Tech’s 11th solo album, Special Effects. Friends for years, Murs decided to play the role of reporter and interview Tech for XXL. Here’s their convo.

Ed. Note: For the purposes of clarity, Murs' words are in bold type.

Photo Credit: Samantha Levi

Murs: I’m here to talk about your new album, Special Effects.
Tech N9ne: My new fuckin’ record, man. It’s probably going to be the biggest record I’ve ever done. Not because of the features or anything. The features are humongous, but big as in when it comes to the music, the production, the artwork and concepts behind the music and everything. And it’s dedicated to my mom, the passing of my mom. So it starts pretty dark.

Murs: When I heard that, I wanted to call you. I lost my father, but like, I have no idea how that would feel... I talked to Travis O’Guin (Strange Music's CEO), like, “Can we take him off the road? Can we push Special Effects back?” because it had already been announced that Special Effects was coming, so I was like, “Is my nigga gonna chill?” ’Cause I know from being a fan that your mom is a big part of your life but you didn’t miss a step, it seems like.
Tech N9ne: She wouldn’t have wanted me to stop anything. I got her with me so why would I break down? I just have to keep on pushing. She represents pure love, you know what I’m saying? So I have to keep spreading that love to the people that are out there for me.

I lost her in the air when I was on tour. I was flying from somewhere to Denver to do Summer Jam with Kendrick Lamar. I already had the day after Summer Jam off, so I’m like, “I’m gonna go kiss mama one last time.” And I just knew... When I landed in Denver, Travis called me as soon as I turned my phone on, he’s like, “I got something to tell you.” I’m like, “Uh oh,” and he told me. I was like, “Fuck,” and I just sat there on the plane for a minute, and totally tore up once we got to the venue. I just wanted to go to the hotel room and chill, man. I still came home the next day. Me and my brothers and sisters ate some soul food and we laughed and talked and shit.

When she left, all my dreams that I wanted since ’99—wanting to work with Slipknot or me and Eminem—all this crazy shit started happening. Me getting my first Rock Fest, it landed on her birthday, she would’ve been 59 years old and I did my first Slipknot Rock Fest that day, something I’ve never done before. I always wanted my music to reach everybody. Hip-hop and rock is always something I did since the very beginning. Now, after she left, all this shit has happened.

Murs: That’s how you know.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, man. It’s like, How is all this happening now? After all these years? But she wouldn’t have wanted me to stop, dude. I’ve been going ever since. A lot of crazy shit’s been happening. A lot of dreams have been coming true while I’ve been in the midst of doing this album. Everything is just happening.

Photo Credit: Samantha Levi

Murs: Yeah, I was just texting like, “We’re praying for you,” like that’s what I do. My best friend lost his mom and people would say sorry and he’d be like, “Well, you didn’t kill her.”
Tech N9ne: [Laughs] Yeah, well maybe “Sorry for your loss,” that’s understandable. So I got a couple of condolences on this album like “Lacrimosa,” that song is about my mom, inspired by my mom that is. E-40’s on there giving condolences, my brother Poochie that nobody knows about, a real gangsta from L.A. and my pops, another gangsta from L.A.

Murs: Yeah, wait is your pops a cop?
Tech N9ne: Yeah, LAPD. That’s why I said another gangsta, yeah, he’s a real one. [Laughs]

Murs: So I guess we come from the same element, from the hood, but you talk about doing Rock Fest. I wonder sometimes when I be up there rapping, I don’t know about you but I’m thinking like, “What part that I’m rapping about do all you muthafuckas connect with?” Like I’m thankful and I’m like “please keep coming” but it bugs me out sometimes. Like I’m talking about the homies, but I’m doing it over this 9th Wonder beat and I’m friends with Slug but some of the shit you’re saying is, for lack of a better term, “Nigga shit.” Like, what part of this do you identify with?
Tech N9ne: Well, I look at it like this: we go see a muthfuckin’ Hannibal Lecter movie, we don’t know what the fuck that is, but it’s like intriguing. [Laughs] That’s why like, N.W.A, you go to they shows, it’s all White muthafuckas. It’s just like going to see a movie. If I say, “Who got this muthafuckin’ house on lock?/I feel that I got will and I’m gonna bill ’til I’m killed/If I fail then I’m gonna steal what I will,” I’m talking about robbing niggas and shit like that, but muthafuckas know what that is. They ain’t actually know what I say, when we was first saying niggas and stuff like that...

But we learned from N.W.A to glorify our hood. Compton, 57th Street, to bang your set. Well, you don’t have to bang your set, but it’s like you in school or something and it’s your team. Like, “We’re the Jaguars, muthafucka. Fuck you if you the Wildcats.” “We’re the Alpha Omegas” and “We’re the Kappas,” just different sets of people but we all enjoy entertainment. This muthafucka came out here with his face painted and shit like, “Aww shit, muthafucka, I’m gonna kick your ass for stress relief,” you know, that’s entertainment, I think.

Photo Credit: Samantha Levi

Murs: I brought you out for Paid Dues 2009 and talked shit and it was like, “Fuck that.” My fans and Atmosphere’s fans don’t fuck with you, but there wasn’t one muthafucka that said shit after you performed. You show and proved. And to me you have the best live show. I go see the Spice Girls, I go see a lot of shit but nobody’s fuckin’ with you. But you said old school rap inspired you, but what keeps you—you’re the best. I’ll fight a nigga over that. You’re the best live rapper, period. So what keeps you pushing now?
Tech N9ne: Well, what me and Travis set out to do, man, people say we crazy but what we want is world domination. We want global acceptance or notoriety. And that means I wanna tread every piece of this earth and give them what I have. That’s why I keep adding to our show. Now I have the live band with me, I take this as big as I can go. I wanna be the muthafucka on television when the Grammys or the BET Awards or the Hip-Hop Honors come on or whoever the fuck is on TV getting awards. I wanna be the one who opens the bitch up and I’m doing my thing. I want people to see that real shit, that real passion. I want people around the world to know that I give all of this and I expect it back. That’s why I got the word “sacrifice” all across my chest, ’cause I give so much of my life away for this. I want everything out of it and what I want out of it is to tread every piece of this earth before we say, “Fuck it.”

Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s not gonna fuck with Tech N9ne, you know what I’m saying? It just might be a little too much for some muthafuckas but these muthafuckas that talk shit, that only listen to Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan, all the muthafuckas that listen to OG Maco, they gonna have to hear me in some kind of form or fashion because they gonna buy the Wayne CD and hear me or it’s gonna reach them because real shit always shines. It don’t matter what you listen to, you’re gonna know about Tech N9ne. All them niggas I just named, I aint never met Rich Homie Quan, I ain’t never met Young Thug, but they people come to me and say, “They fuck with you.” That name resonates. They know that’s a nigga to do something. 2 Chainz says, “When you a good rapping-ass nigga, they know about it.” It don’t matter that I have my Strangeland over here, it done bled over into the mainstream and it’s still bleeding. It’s supposed to slither and go everywhere. It’s like a fucking parasite. You cannot fight it. It’s going to get to you. I don’t give a fuck what you listen to, you say you don’t fuck with Tech N9ne but you will get it.

Murs: And when you do metal, for instance, when I was on Warped Tour with Atmosphere I had to stop and tell him, “Like really, my nigga, you saved my life.” I just got a call like niggas are getting shot on my block. I’m here and these White people, they barbequing. You took me out of some shit and I know, because I don’t get on stage and tell that story, because I’m away from it. I’m so happy to be away from it. Like, you being on stage at Rock Fest, you being a kid from Kansas City, from the hood, did you ever think you’d be rapping for like...?
Tech N9ne: Dude, I’ma tell you, it has always been a dream of mine to make this Strange Music a melting pot for everybody involved. I’ve always favored rock-n-roll along with hip-hop. So I knew if I could just get on tour with Korn or something, man, I could touch all these people. And then now, after all these years, I always thought that we could do a Warped Tour or Ozzfest or some shit but it just wasn’t happening. But then, this is the biggest win to me because this was my first Rock Fest. I’m like, “Oh shit, I gotta kill these muthafuckas.” At the end of my set, everybody had the horns up in the air and I was like, “Yes, we did it.” But then, muthafuckas backstage was telling me, “Wait ’til you do Rock On The Range” and we got Rock On The Range on this tour coming up and that’s 120,000 people. So it just keeps on spreading. Who do I catch now? It’s only a matter of time before Excision hears the song that we did, to where he’s putting it on his show and I go out with him.

Photo Credit: Samantha Levi

Murs: Niggas in the hood will respect that shit, but they won’t respect what we do. I wanna talk to you about this. We had, to me, the same hood breakthrough at the same time. You had a video on BET: Uncut at the same time I had a video on BET: Uncut. I used to tell my niggas, “I’m going to Europe,” or I’m doing this, they’d be like, “Oh, that’s cool.” When I got me a little money, I got a Cadillac, niggas was like, “Okay, you doing it,” but they didn’t fuck with my music. Soon as I got on BET: Uncut, I went to Roscoe’s, they was like, “Hey, cuz...” Did you experience the same thing?
Tech N9ne: Yes, I did. Keep in mind, back then I had red spiked hair. This was around Absolute Power album time. In 2003, they wasn’t fuckin’ with me. I’m not saying everybody, but a lot of niggas wasn’t fuckin’ with me, especially from my town. They thought I was a devil worshipper, which is not a true statement. It’s like, after I did the video and it was on Uncut, that’s when niggas thought I made it.

Murs: That’s why I created Paid Dues. I want Tech N9ne with Dipset on stage with Odd Future. ’Cause we’re all one family. It’s all hip-hop.
Tech N9ne: This is what I’m trying to get across to people. There should be no barriers. No fuckin’ barriers.