True, Tech N9ne has had the sort of longevity and success that most rappers only dream about: more than a decade in the game, more than ten albums under his belt, hundreds of live shows a year, a dedicated fan base, and an independent empire. But, still, only in the last year or so has the Strange Music general started to garner the recognition from mainstream hip-hop that his movement has deserved for years. His latest offering, All 6’s and 7’s, is the KCMO spitter’s first drop since catching the ear of artists like Lil Wayne and fan bases like XXL’s. The album is the first test of Tech's ability to balance his new industry connections with the distinct style that his Technicians have become accustomed to over the years. Luckily, he reaches that marker without any real stumbles along the way.

Through the years, Tech N9ne has become a heralded lyricist for his rapid-fire wordplay and, while this surely shines through All 6’s and 7’s, an added strength is the album’s range of content. In what is sure to make long-time fans happy, Tech attacks tracks like “The Boogieman,” single “Mental Giant,” and “Am I A Psycho?,” (which features a ferocious verse from B.o.B, again reminding fans of his credentials) with a dark and twisted approach. Things get personal on the slowed down “Mama Nem,” a true album standout.

Later, sexual explicitness is the name of the game on “Fuck Food” (featuring Lil Wayne and T-Pain), “Overtime,” and “Pornographic” (featuring Snoop Dogg, E-40 and Krizz Kaliko). Unfortunately, these three tracks follow one another, and the subject gets tired.

Still, “Fuck Food,” which many thought would be deemed blasphemous by Tech’s die-hards, is not a shot at radio, but rather a light-hearted, sexually boastful lyrical display. This is the key to the balance that Tech N9ne strikes on the album: He enlists rap (pop?) stars like Lil Wayne, T-Pain, B.o.B, and Snoop Dogg, but doesn’t force radio hits with them. On the contrary, he’s almost steering away from a mainstream look—especially on “Fuck Food”—almost issuing a challenge: Are you going to play this raunchy song of mine, simply because it features Weezy and T-Pain? Whether or not they do play it, he wins.

Though there’s undeniable chopping throughout (“Worldwide Choppers” is a clinic), the sonic backdrop falls short. Some beats are a bit boring (“Cult Leader”), while others seem an unnecessary stretch for a hip-hop sound (“Pornographic”). The album also drags on, with 24 tracks (including five skits) on the hour-plus disc.

Tech begins to bring things to a close on track 22, the somber “Love Me Tomorrow,” where he addresses “fair-weather” fans who may question the direction of his career. “Said I’m a sellout cause I work with Wayne/First your brain needs work, you hurt the game,” he spits. As the verse closes, he intersperses a clip of himself talking: “I told my fans that—I told them this years ago. I said that Tech will never go mainstream, mainstream will go Tech.”

With All 6’s and 7’s, it seems that’s bound to happen. Everyone will probably be a little stranger for it, and that’s probably for the better. —Adam Fleischer