Tech N9ne Has Planetary Goals Following Release of ‘The Storm’ Album
Tech N9ne is in his own world -- literally. If you ask him, the rapper's planet is called Nueve. He wasn't always living there though, doing his own thing. It's been a process to get to that point. For more than 25 years, Tech has been climbing hip-hop's ladder of success. Along the way, he's been blessed to jump over a few rungs but has also experienced a few slips back down. His recent tour disappointment an example of how years in the game don't always guarantee ticket sales. However, he's got more than 17 albums under his belt, which is a testament to not only his work ethic but the demand for his music.
His Technicians are no joke. They'll come to their leader's defense at all costs and are the reason why he scored two gold records this year. If they're still standing behind his bold rhymes and braggadocios lyrics ever since the 1990s, Tech is obviously doing something right. His new album, The Storm, is proof of that. The Kansas City native welcomes a diverse cast of characters to help tell his three-tier story across 32 tracks. The project is split up into three sections: Kingdom display Tech’s narcissistic side, Clown Town highlights the dark territory in his mind and G Zone reflects his gangster persona.
The weed-infused "Buddha" featuring Boyz II Men, the Marsha Ambrosius-assisted "Anywhere" and the lyrical journey of "Sriracha" with Logic and Joyner Lucas are just a few of the album highlights displaying Tech's versatility. He can roll with the best of them while holding his own.
Fresh off his tour, Tech N9ne touched down in New York to discuss his new LP and what the next year holds for himself and his Strange Music crew. From Lil Yachty's opinions on old school rap veterans to the violence that has personally hit home, the rapper discusses it all. Get into the candid conversation with Tech below.
XXL: You mentioned that you get this jittery feeling when you perform. What goes through your body when you're just in that mental space and rapping, whether it's freestyling or a song you wrote?
Tech N9ne: I write from my heart so everything I say, I say with force. Especially the rhyme called "Wifi (WeeFee)"-- that's the way they say it in Paris. When I first found out how to say Wi-Fi over there, they don't know Wi-Fi, but they know what WeeFee is. I'm the Wi-Fi, so I get everybody connected. I'm trying to let the whole world know that I can keep it connected if you get with me, you know what I'm saying? I could put you on. I'm such a vet that you bet that I can get you connected, because I'm the Wi-Fi, you know what I'm saying? You cannot stay still when you do that kind of thing, I meant it. This is my life I'm talking about, even when I'm just busting like that.
Why it was important not to just put this project out for yourself and who you wanted to collaborate with, but also give your other artists shine?
Well, we've got a lot of new artists now. It's a way that my fans and all the newer fans can get a whiff of their new stuff coming up, like Mackenzie Nicole, like JL. Darien Saffron, all of us were on there. It's a family thing -- that's why I have this big tattoo across my chest that says "sacrifice." I always sacrifice myself for the love of all my people. I bring them with me no matter what. We thought that it would be good to showcase a lot of our new talent, as well as some of the ones that have been with us for a while.
How do you feel just looking back on 2016 and going into 2017? You're still making albums?
That's crazy. That's crazy because not only am I making albums, I'm still on the incline. Just now I'm getting gold records and stuff like that and I'm like, what?
Yeah, it's supposed to go the other way.
How many? It's two this year, right?
It's three. It's two this year. "Caribou Lou" was my first one [in 2013] and then recently, "Hood Go Crazy" and "Fragile." Now everybody but me look like it's going to go a million on them, along with those as well, as they keep going. That's a blessing, to still be here. I just turned 45 on Nov. 8 and I don't feel any pain at all. I still got stuff to talk about. I feel like as long as you're living, you've got everything to talk about.
Speaking about having things to talk about, what was one of the more pressing topics you felt like you needed to express on this album, maybe more than others?
My fans. It's a song called "Anywhere" and it's a big feature because I've been wanting to work with Floetry for so many years and I got Marsha on it thanks to Kon Artis from D12, he did the beat and got me hooked up with Marsha and I did the song "Anywhere." Because the album was late, the fall tours are usually kind of light -- lighter than the spring and summer -- because the album was late, it didn't come out Sept. 9 like it was supposed to.
It was blamed on me that I didn't make it in time, so that's why the tour was light. It was talking to the fans on one of the verses like, "Anywhere but here, I'd rather be anywhere but here because I'm doing all this music and y'all ain't showing up? Where y'all at? Like y'all usually are." It's scary. They started showing up after a while. I sold out Red Rocks at 10,000 people -- just with me. I had some acts there with me, but they were people that the crowd didn't know. We still sold it out at 10,000 and it started going up after a while. But that song -- it happened at the beginning of the tour when it was light and we were going places we've never been before, like Bemidji, Minn. or Lafayette, La., places we've never been and I'm like, Duh, these people don't know we're here.
That song got it and it took me a while to write it because I was really feeling down. I didn't feel like writing anything, especially on tour trying to finish the last songs on my record and thanks to Atmosphere of Rhymesayers, they let me record in Minnesota at their studios and I got to get a few songs done. It was harder to write because it was my heart and I'm trying not to say anything to offend anybody at the same time.
How do you get through those moments? You're on tour and your expectations -- and I'm sure your team's' expectations -- are one way and you get there and you don't see the fans. I'm sure that happens in other moments too, where you're just let down as an artist. How do you handle that?
You still give it a thousand percent like you just started and those people that are there see something that they're like, "Wow," and they then come back. You feel like you're starting over. Next time I go we won't have to damn-near cancel the show, because they'll be hip, because we're still pushing. There's a lot of places we haven't been, we tour so much. But we're about to go to a lot more new places these years and I'm going to make it brand new for everybody just coming in and a lot more people are still coming in because of the new singles and everything, but I'm not satisfied until I'm selling out 10,000 every night and more.
So with this project, what do you want your fans to get out of it? And the new fans? The people who've been with you already from the jump, but then the people that are just coming on board.
The way that I set it up, I made it for everybody. Because there's three levels to the album; Kingdom is all the narcissistic music, songs like "Erbody But Me," songs like "Wifi (WeeFee)," "Get Off Me," a lot of the narcissistic music is up in the Kingdom where the King is, because that's a part of me. I can be a big narcissist, because I feel like I'm one of the best to do it and the whole world doesn't know yet. That's where all the narcissistic music is -- in the Kingdom.
Then something to negate everything the king said, here comes Clown Town. The clown does not agree with the king. The king feels like he should be everywhere and every genre, but the clown is like I'm cool right here. I'm going to be weird, I don't give a fuck if you like me, I ain't trippin'. Remember that. That's where the darker music -- not totally dark -- but more zany and slightly dark on this one, in Clown Town. With songs like "Starting to Turn" with Jonathan Davis of Korn, songs on there as well in Clown Town like "Poisoning the Well" is kind of creepy.
After Clown Town, we go to the last level, which is G Zone and that's where the more grittier music is, some gangster shit like "Buss Serves," which Too $hort let use that old "Cuss Words" beat, it's so wonderful. I put Young Devi D and Big Scoob on it and I got a song right after that with Boyz II Men on it, a weed song called "Buddha," oh my god, it's so wonderful. But then it gets serious in the G Zone, because G is for gentleman and OG gangster, so respect life because you've seen so much death -- appreciate life, to still be living, so respect is there as well. Songs like "Anywhere" with Marsha Ambrosius and another song on that level is called "The Needle," where I'm talking about how we've done all this stuff, we've done rock fest... and all the summer jams in 2015 and killed everything, but it seems like the needle ain't moving.
What is it? Where do we go from here? We're trying to get that needle to move all the way up like this, we got it to a really good point in the middle, but it has to go that way. It gets pretty serious towards the end of the record. I think that I put a bit of everything on there for everybody. When I went into this album and started getting the songs down, and I'm like, this is exactly what I'm going to do, I’m going to bring black the King, the Clown and the G from Everready, 2006 because those are my characteristics that I gave names for back in the day. I think it's going to satisfy the new fans, the existing fans, the core and everything. It feels good to me, I listen to it every day. When I'm flying on a plane I go straight to my record. I'm a Tech N9ne fan, I'm the biggest Tech N9ne fan.
And you should be. Especially when you look in a mirror every day, you have to be your biggest fan. "Buddha," let's talk about that, with Boyz II Men. That doesn't necessarily seem like the first collaboration that you would think of and I think that's pretty awesome.
That was the first idea I had for this record. Yeah. I started this record last Christmas time [in 2015]. Yeah, I started this record, I got the first idea for "Buddha" mid-December, right before I went on my vacation with my kids to Hawaii. I've always had this idea to do a song with Boyz II Men called "Buddha." I did not think that they would do it, because I've never met the guys and they said yes. And they want to shoot a video?
I was like Tech N9ne brings clean-cut Boyz II Men to do a song about marijuana? I'm so hyped on it. I'm just sad that we haven't put it out yet, because I think it's such a hit. You've just got to get it out there for people. I have this wonderful idea, so Wanya flew down from Vegas, because they have a residency in Vegas, he flew down to KC [Kansas City] for a couple days and got with us.
He got in the studio, he came to my house to eat, we ate and we you know, we kicked it. I had no idea, he's such a down-to-earth brother, so, he told me he was going to do his parts in KC and then Shawn and Nate were going to do their parts in Vegas and they did, so I got all the remaining members on the record. It's such a victory and I can't wait for people to hear it, because it's such a wonderful remake that I've always had in the back of my head for years and I got it down.
Looking back on this year -- work or personal -- what's something you feel like you overcame or an accomplishment that you didn't think was going to happen?
I didn't expect to see those two gold records come in to me like that, back to back. It just came out of nowhere, it came out of nowhere. We just do the work, I'm like okay, maybe it sold 100,000, 200,000 or something like that. So it got to 500,000 and I didn't expect it. I was so happy. It let me know that I still have time in this, being my age, even though I feel like a youngster, I'm not. Maybe young in the music, maybe I'm young in the mind, maybe that's they still want to hear me, I don't know. To know that your new material is reaching so many people.
It still resonates.
It's a smile on the inside and real person songs like "Fragile" too, with Kendrick Lamar, that was something we all put our heart into. The beat, the everything, Mayday, you know Kendall Morgan, they're putting Kendall Morgan on it, and me sending it to K. Dot when he's on tour and he records it in Cleveland somewhere where MGK does his recording. He did it for me on the road. I had no idea that I was going to get plaques for that, I wasn't even tripping. I just want to give my music to the world. I was happy about that, but the biggest thing that I overcame was feeling like my mom was cheated in her life.
I lost her in 2014 to Lupus, she was sick all her life, God please, tell me something. I feel like I overcame that when I got with my people at Anonymous -- they snuck into KC and saw me and my partner and we met at a place where nobody else could see them and they taught me about energy. I mean, I already knew a lot about energy -- the energy centers in your body -- seven chakras, power chakras, my sixth being my most important.
They taught me something else, they had me thinking, these guys were really smart at Anonymous, the guys we met. They taught me that energy never dies, it just transfers. They showed us a movie on that during the meeting, we met for some hours. For them to tell me what they want me to do for them and everything. It was truly pleasant and after that meeting, they gave me books and everything and I started realizing that energy never dies and that's what I think Pharrell was talking about with N.E.R.D. -- no one ever really dies or something like that. N.E.R.D.
I didn't really understand, but now I understand that energy is transferred and when I start feeling that bright, I'm already a happy person -- a loving person -- but that extra energy I feel in my chest, I'm like, I felt it. I felt like I got it transferred to me and I'm sure my siblings too. They taught me a lot and I overcame feeling like my mom got cheated, because now I take her everywhere with me. Sorry, I'm so long-winded.
No, it's appreciated. You also experienced some family loss this year due to gun violence, right?
Yes. I did, recently. My niece, Pretty, got gunned down by her ex-boyfriend's twin. Right before that my Auntie almost got killed, shot through her lung, she just got released from the hospital just recently in the last week or so, just before Thanksgiving she got released. So she made it, it was hard. That whole last tour, she's been in the hospital all this time. Kansas City, man, could just get really crazy. Love triangles, everything. I had that it happened, I hate it. I can't take anymore though. I don't want it for nobody, but for my family? Jesus. How many more I gotta take? My mom was enough, but now there's gun violence, shit.
Some people don't share that, but you do. You put it out there and I appreciate that because I feel like it could help other people, just to see someone going through something similar.
Yeah. I was like, c'mon Kansas City, man. I don't want to come home to this. This is what I've got to come home to? It's me. Hopefully I can make a difference and that it won't continue, because that side of my family is really gangster. You don't want things to keep happening, a lot of people love my music, maybe they'll let up. I try anything to try and keep the peace. I mean, if what I do can touch people and make people disarm people, I'll do what I can.
What are you looking forward to for the next year? For 2017?
I'm looking to become a planet. Me and my partner, Travis, we've been looking for things to help us elevate. Deals with other people, linking with other people to try and boost this Strange Music thing that we've built so beautifully and keep it around for the next generation. We've been 16-plus years together and I'm looking forward to working this record so well with videos, with press, with everything working it so well that it's solidifies us -- here for 10 more years if be. Me, Krizz Kaliko, we get that planet status that we've been working for and that's a lot because we have to go to a lot of places to make that work. We still haven't been to Japan, we still haven't been to Budapest, we still haven't been to Africa, I haven't done a show in Barcelona. I spent five days there, I never go there without a woman again. It's too romantic.
Do you have a name for your planet? Or would it just be Tech N9ne?
It's just planet Nueve.
Have you ever looked at another artist's empire and said, "This is what I would like to aspire to"?
Oh yeah. I looked at E-40 and Sick Wid It a long time ago. Travis, he was really big on No Limit -- how they did it. We looked at Sick Wid It and we're like oh, that's wonderful. E-40, man, he's been around for years and he's still here? I want to follow that.
What is it about E-40 that you respect?
What is there not to respect? I mean, he's been in the game for so long and he's still here, as long as he wants to be. He's business savvy, doing music, blowing up Sick Wid It and bringing all his family in, from Suga-T to D-Shot to B-Legit, everybody, then he can branch off and do liquors, beers, clothes. I wish I could say chains, but he got it on. What is there not to respect? That's family too and he's doing everything that he wants to do.
Is there another rapper, maybe some of the newer guys, that are on your radar?
Who do I like? I really like what Chance The Rapper has been doing and that he's independent. Just popping, I love that he can do all types of flow. Complete artist. I hope that I run into him soon to say thank you for wonderful music and he did one a while back with Jay Electronica, ["How Great"], that was so wonderful. I can tell he's conscious, I can tell he can do whatever and I love that about Chance The Rapper.
And lastly, there's a big talk in 2016 about old school hip-hop and new school hip-hop. This is a conversation more than ever that's happening with Lil Yachty being at the forefront. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, hip-hop is everything. Nelly got a song with Tim McGraw, Tech N9ne got a song with Slipknot. Gangstarr did it with jazz. It takes on so many different forms. Over the years it went house with Heavy D, even Queen Latifah, and there's always going to be the boom rap, there's always going to be the gangster rap, there's always going to be backpack, whatever they call it - and it's taking on another form. Everybody's on Auto-Tune, the kids don't care. I congratulate people like Yachty when they can make that kind of music and still infect so many people. OG's like us, we laugh at that shit like, "What? I can't believe it."
Congratulations though. At the same time, somebody's gotta be around him -- media training or something -- you cannot say -- I don't give a fuck if you're 10 years old -- you cannot say Biggie is overrated. You cannot say it. You can feel that, that's cool. [If you] don't really listen to 'Pac or whatever, this is blasphemy in the rap world. In the hip-hop world, it's blasphemy. Somebody was supposed to tell him that, because my kids are -- Rainbow is 17, Donny just turned 22, Lily is 22 -- they have shit backdated to Kurtis Blow in their iPods. I was going through their iPods when we were in Hawaii for last Christmas and New Year's. I was playing their shit like, "Damn, how do you know about A Tribe Called Quest?" They say, "Daddy, you played all this stuff when we were younger."
C'mon, man. They know about Kurtis Blow, they know about Biz Markie, they know about all this. It's the education you get from whoever is your elder. So maybe somebody with Yachty didn't tell him. Maybe his momma who he gave a 10,000 dollar check to, or whatever, maybe she didn't listen to that kind of shit. Maybe she listened to gospel.
My grandma, when we were living with them, it was all Shirley Caesar, so you know how when "Beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes" came out, it was like whoa, that sounds so familiar. So I heard Shirley Caesar every day. But, I found a way that my other family, my uncles and everything taught me everything else, stuff that I missed.
I found about The Doors on my own because they taught me rock and roll back then. I found The Doors and thank god I found The Doors because it inspired me to do Strange Music and it saved my life. I think that whoever is with Yachty should tell him -- or maybe he don't give a fuck -- probably tell him there are certain things you shouldn't say -- and I say everything, but I know what not to say -- because if you say it you gotta expect what's coming. So now they got him posted up, like I see memes and shit. "Look at the clown who said Biggie and 'Pac were overrated and he does the worst freestyle." You're not supposed to tell Yachty to freestyle when he comes here, that's not what he does. Don't tell him to do it.
Why would they set him up like that? I think that 21 Savage and Lil Uzi Vert, I just went to a 21 Savage show last week in Kansas City, he was opening for Young Thug -- I couldn't wait to see Young Thug. I wanted to see what crowd he was going to bring out and that motherfucker was packed, I was so proud. Young Thug was something I used to laugh at until those melodies started getting really infectious and now I'm like, I gotta go see him do this motherfuckin' song. You know what I'm saying? That's my shit. You can't hate that he knows melody, you could hate that shit, but the man knows melody and I know music and melody so I get it. I just went to a 21 Savage show and I heard -- I think his song was "X" -- that motherfucker went crazy out there -- that whole crowd. Totally mixed crowd, White folks, Latina, Blacks, everybody, gangsters, everybody was there. Tech N9ne was there, having a good time.
I congratulate these new dudes, because there was a forum for it. Because if it wasn't, it would be us old guys here talking about that ain't real hip-hop. Everybody has an idea of what they think hip-hop is. You can say what your favorite part of hip-hop but you can't say that it's not everything.
You've seen it change. Do motherfuckers still dress like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five like they did on the Corners of Don't Push Me and they're all leather and anything? Does anybody dress like Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force? Straight from Zulu nation, which they are, but you know it's like they just got out of the jungle onstage. Barracuda hats and shit. Nobody does that, but that was then. Tribe Called Quest has got a new album, just wonderful for the culture. It's out there for all of us. You don't have to listen to Lil Yachty. I like D.R.A.M. and what he does. I told him to his face in KC backstage and we exchanged numbers and everything. D.R.A.M. and Yachty got a really big song out called "Broccoli" and when they just played it, where was I at the other day, they just played it in the club I was in. That motherfucker went bonkers.
There's a forum for it. So old dudes, leave them kids alone, but make sure those kids say the right motherfuckin' thing because this is your field. You're going to run into these people at Summer Jams and everything, you're going to run into these motherfuckers looking at you like... but they've got a right to like what they like. Leave them kids alone. Let them get their money because I'm going to get mine.
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