Tech N9ne: Organized Confusion
Over the course of 11 albums, Tech N9ne has put his entire life on wax. He openly pens gut-wrenching lyrics about his own insecurity, infidelity, drug use and vanity. The global fan response is undeniable, and with his latest effort, Killer, debuting at number 12 on the Billboard 200, Tech will likely become the first Hip Hop artist to sell a million albums independently. A more globalized economy and the impending implosion of the recording industry could bring the mainstream recognition that Tech N9ne has been craving for decades. Any emcee in a similar position would have to be certifiably crazy to even think about quitting at this point, right? Of course.
HipHopDX: You say you wrote this entire album during a 30 day tour, so you mustve had a lot on your mind.
Tech N9ne: I did all those songs in like a month, man. Once I stopped doing that Ecstasy, it opened up a whole new world. I swear to God I almost died. I took like 15 pills in one night. Ive been clean for about a year or so. Since I stopped that, its like a whole new ballgame opened up in my brain. I have different subject matter and everything now.
Its insanity. I thought with Everready, I had said everythingwith The Rain/Welcome Back/Party Hard [click to read] and my little girl and everything. I had My World with Brotha Lynch Hung [click to read], and I thought it couldnt get any better than that. But, I was still on that drug then. You know what Im sizzlin? Im not saying that held me back or nothing, because a lot of beautiful material came out of that. Now look what a clean me brought. There are titles like Hope For A Higher Power, Cry Baby, Cant Shake It and Why You Aint Call Me. This is stuff Ive never addressed before. Its shit that Ive been wanting to say to Jay-Z [click to read], Nelly, Ludacris [click to read] and all these cats that Ive toured with. Theres shit that I had wanted to say, and it finally came out.
DX: Early in your career Quincy Jones told you, Rap what you know and people will forever feel you. Is this Killer album cover a way of paying homage to him?
Tech N9ne: Yes I am. Its for Quincy and Michael [Jackson], because Im affiliated with Quincy. They used to always call me "the Michael Jackson of rap" back when I was signed with Qwest and Warner. They called me that because they thought I was lyrically eliteone of the top [emcees], if not the top, even if the whole world doesnt know it yet. I had the idea to do that for a long time and now I think I have the mind and spirit to carry that out. Killer is what came out of that.
DX: Thriller moved over 30 million units and youre on the verge of moving one million independently. Whats you mind state as you approach that milestone?
TN: Ive got high hopes, man. Ive been having high hopes. Its like the Jim Carrey syndrome, when he got that first role in Batman [Forever] playing The Riddler. They asked him in one interview if he was ecstatic or surprised that they offered him $25 million, and he was like, No. Ive been waiting on this my whole life.
Ive been planning this all my life, so I have high hopes for this. Thats why the album has a chip on its shoulder, because I have been doing elite music since I started. But, only a handful of motherfuckers get it. I feel like Im making music for the world. Being independent is a hard task. You dont see me on TV or hear me on the radio, yet I have all of these fans. My fans are the world. I want to be global and thats why the album has a chip on its shoulder. Thats why Im like, This is my last album and yall dont get it. You niggas dont get it. Thats why the album kind of feels like thatwell, not kind of. It hella feels like that, because thats how I hella feel. Quincy said, Rap what you know and people will forever feel you. This is what I know. I know that Im frustrated. I know that this shit is elite.
DX: You can chill with Quincy Jones or Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, you have fans with your face tattooed on them and youve got money. Are just you frustrated because you feel your peers dont recognize?
TN: Yeah. A lot of these cats dont know me because they dont see me on TV. Thats where everybody gets discovered. Kid Rock got discovered at the MTV Awards. Everybody saw Motown 25 when Michael Jackson did Billy Jean and the Moonwalk. Its that dummy tube. We aint on it, but look what weve built without that. Were still chasing it. They better not let me get on that TV, Omar. If they do, Im taking it alltheir women and everything else.
This is something different from Tech N9ne because Im a different cat. When they see and hear me its gonna be a new day. A lot of niggas say that like, Im gonna change the game and blah, blah, blah. Nah, I aint saying that. If I happen to change the game, then praise the Lord. But, Ive got to get into these peoples hearts and minds.
What makes my story so important? What makes me so important? Why should they buy my album? Because Im an inside-out nigga. I aint afraid to let people know whats going on inside of me without fabricating shit and holding my face tight. Some people do that as a defense mechanism. I walk around here with red bandana shoes. Thats like screaming, Nigga come kill me. And, Im a smart guy.
DX: I gotta say, Tech. Thats one hell of a contradiction.
TN: The [wearing] red thingI dont want my kids to lose me to that either. Thats stupid nigga shit. But, this is all I know. When it comes to my homies and my hood, this is who taught me how to be a man and take care of my family. I was taught to do anything to take care of my family. How can I shake that? Thats the only negative thing that plagues me to this day. Everybody wants to belong to something. I wish as black people, and even the people they call trailer trash, I wish we could belong to something way more positive. Id much rather me be a Kappa [Alpha Psi]. But the [Bloods] who were running from the cops in 85 moved into our neighborhood. Thats one of the only things that plague me to this day. Well, that and the fact that I owe the IRS a little money. [Laughs]
But, youre gonna hear confusion in my album. Youre going to hear grown-up shit and everything else too. I am inside-out, and thats what makes me so special. What I mean by inside-out is letting my fans experience everything that Im thinking. When they meet me they realize Im that same guy theyve been listening to the whole time. When chicks meet me they go, Thats that dude Ive been listening to the whole time. That makes them tingle in the middle, and thats why Im taking their women.
DX: Since you brought up the ladies, I noticed your album is divided into sections. Then you have a group of six songs labeled The Sextion.
TN: Ah, man I got to have it. Im a Scorpio male and The Sextion had to happen. I was supposed to do it for [Misery Loves Kompany], and I let them get a piece of that with Sex Out South, That Box and Get Ya Head Right. But, I really hit them hard with this section on Seven Words.
DX: Thats actually the first song I listened to, because I thought you were doing something like George Carlin. Then the hook comes in and you say
TN: "I love it when you suck my dick!" Yeah, everyone falls out when they hear that because they aint expecting the seven words to be that vulgar. Its the perfect seven words because it works for males and females. Cats love it because its funny as hell and they know that the bitches love it, so theyre going to try and act that out. Thats why I tried to teach the world about hot water, because a young lady in Minneapolis, Minnesota taught me about hot water. I had to reenact that so I could teach the world to sing those seven words. Its the funniest situation, but its also the realest situation. Why not share pleasure with the rest of the world? Thats why The Sextion is dominant.
DX: You say you never make a song just to make it. So did Psycho Bitch II come from fan demands or more crazy experiences?
TN: In dealing with women, if indeed you say youre girl crazy, youre gonna keep encountering psycho bitches. With more success and more fansnewer fans came because the Alpha Dog movie, [had] Caribou Lou, and Im A Player. Those people didnt catch the first Psycho Bitch. You know how they remade Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the new generation? I felt like, Yes, Im still living it. Im just teaching these young motherfuckers some new shit, but its on some old shit. Psycho Bitch came out in 2001, and now that 08 is here there are new lessons. They wont ever learn because psycho bitches will always be here. When you play the game of hearts you end up with crimes of passionbitches tapping your phone, looking through your wallet and wondering why there are condoms in your dresser when yall dont use them.
DX: Although its divided into sections, this Killer album seems like the best balance of all the different sides of your personality.
TN: Yeah, Ive got control of it. Im the king, the clown and the G. I let the clown get out of hand with the Ecstasy and the women, and thats how I lost my wife. She knows Im girl crazy. The stripper bitch that I had an affair with told my wife and taped me talking about an abortion with the bitch. I was gone on that shit, man. I was getting caught up with bitches and shit. Thats all that the clown side had to offer me, and Im not saying its still not a part of me. Im still girl crazy, but I cut that drug out. I dont want my kids to have to lose me to something ignorant.
DX: It sounds like its been a long grind.
TN: Were an underground movement, but its starting to make its way to the surface. Ive been in this since 85 mansince the Jordan shoe. I wrote my first rhyme in seventh grade back in 1985. Ive been doing this professionally since 1990, and Ive been elite since I started. Thats why you see me on a video with Eminem, or on a song with 2Pac, or on stage with Snoop Dogg. Ive rocked with George Clinton, Slipknot and the list goes on and on. Tech N9ne is everything and Im a fan of it. I feel like Im trapped in a psychos body. Im trapped inside this motherfucker that writes this elite shit, and hes just taking me places. He took me to Denmark to do Roskilde Festival last year. I was in Australia with Kurupt, Dru Down, The Luniz and everybody. I was in Alaska last year. This is what this guy Tech N9ne is doing for me. Im just like this little kid inside this cat that writes this elite shit.
My goal is to give this music to the rest of the world and let them hear non-fabricated Tech N9ne. We dont slouch, and were en voguein style all day. Sometimes we might be a little bit ahead of our time, but were right here in the middle of the map. Kansas City, Missourimisery. We get our music from everywhere. We get it from the south, the east, the west and everywhere else. Once you get all this music from all these places pumped into one person, you get something astronomical. You can hear the influence of rock, opera, gang-banging, spoken word and everything else.
DX: With you being trapped inside your Tech N9ne persona, could you ever see yourself not doing something artistic for a living?
TN: No, I was born to do this. Ive had jobs in my past. If I had to work for somebody and not have my own business like Strange Music, Id probably be dead or in jail. I hate to be that negative though. I have a keep on keeping on, warrior state of mind. If something negative is going to consume me, Im going to lash out. This music thing is a positive thing for me. I was put here to do this. My mom, uncles and aunties instilled this rhythm in me. With rhythm came rhyme. Who wouldve thought it would be me to make people say, I aint never heard anything like you, man. I think youre one of the best rappers.
Im just this little normal cat whos abnormal at the same time. Thats probably what makes me crazy, because I think Im normal and I cant go to the movies with a bitch without getting swarmed. Thats why my bodyguards are always trippin with me like, Nigga you cant go out there like that! Im thinking, Yes I can. Yall big ass niggas draw too much attention and Im a little dude.
People hear that abnormal shit in my music. If I had to be a normal dude and do a nine-to-five at the post office, Id go crazy. I have to be able to lash out spiritually. What would I do if I was at work all day flipping burgers, and I hear Kanye [West], Eminem, 50 Cent [click to read] and all these motherfuckers on the radio? I would go crazy if I knew that I had that in me and I couldnt get it to anybody. Tech N9ne is getting it to people, but he aint getting it to enough motherfuckers. If Lil Wayne [click to read] can do a million in the first week Ive got to do something. I know these motherfuckers love me. Some of them just dont know it yet.
DX: Throw on your A&R hat for a minute. Now that the recording industry is so different, it helps an independent artist like you. How do you make that work in your favor?
TN: Man, you name it: iTunes, ringtones and everything else. We dont have a lot of overhead, so all that coming in is ours. We dont have to pay a middleman anymore like a [Priority Records Co-Founder] Mark Cerami or Jay Ferris. We dont have a problem with Quincy because Quincy is still our people. We dont have a problem with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. When I see them in the airport and stuff I give them love. They know it wasnt our fault; it was the bitches they had running their labels.
At Strange Music we are the label. Our distribution is with Universal through Fontana, and theyre a good partner. We get our shit monthly and its wonderful. While everybody is on the decline, were on the incline as an independent. Were not putting $500,000 towards a damn single. We aint paying all that payola. Most of these motherfuckers can go gold, even triple-platinum, and wont even see a damn royalty check. Thats not happening here. My mechanical [royalties] are coming in from Everready as we speak. Im vice president of my label, and Im the first artist on Strange Musicthe floor plan, if you will. Look what its turning into.
DX: With that in mind, you guys have been doing stuff that people are just catching on to. You met Ronnz over the Internet and he ended up doing a few songs for Absolute Power.
TN: Oh, youre talking about Ronnz from Berlin? Yeah, all day. I work with producers from everywhere. If theyve got the heat, it doesnt matter if theyre high or low on the totem pole. Thats how we found David Sanders II, Matic Lee and Ronnz. These cats actually sent beats in. I dont care if you live in the basement at your grandmas house, if youve got that heat, its going on my album. And then it spreads.
People in Berlin have been waiting because that word spread that Tech N9ne fucks with them. I like my music to travel. Thats why on Everybody Move I say, Im naughty, naughty, naughty boy, boy boy/when Im in the Aussie, Aussie, Aussie (what)/Oy! Oy! Oy! When I was over there, thats what they were screaming. Now that was against us. Thats pretty much saying, Ill fuck you up if youre over here tripping, you American. When I say that now they know whats up. When I go to Australia theyre gonna yell it to me, but its going to be love this time.
DX: I want to switch gears real quick. As Hip Hop fans were exposed to a lot of Five Percent teachings from Rakim on down to Brand Nubian and Wu-Tang Clan. Cant Shake It is one of the few songs that openly questions that.
TN: Man, thats reality. Thats what I mean by being inside-out. People wouldnt dare speak against The Honorable Elijah Muhammad or Noble Drew Ali. Ill tell you something though. With this religion stuff its all man made, brother. What other reason would explain the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? He found the God plan. That means everybody is created equal. You know that speech about Jews and gentiles.
Same thing with Malcolm X when he took his pilgrimage to Mecca. He saw that everything he was saying about racial separation was wrong and it was made by man. When he was in Mecca and drinking out of the same cups as Muslims of different races, he had to come back to the states and say, I was wrong. That was going to fuck up Elijah Muhammads money, and their solution was saying, Were gonna kill this nigga and silence him.
Thats nigga shit, man! Thats not spiritual and its not godlike. If God exists thats not it. Everybody with the God plan seems to die in this world. What does that tell me? This world is run by evil deeds. Look at Bush. I hate to speak about it because I can speak about it forever. Thats why [on Cant Shake It] I said, I was brought up in a Christian house/but my mama married a Muslim/threw the Christian out/what they did to Malcolm X threw the Islam out/so my homies with money seem to be the glistening route. Thats where the bloodshed came in, and I say what I feel. I read Message to the Black Man when I was younger, but then you read the story of Malcolm X and find out it was his own people that did that in front of his kids and everything. Then Spike Lee put it in a film, and its like, Ah, man. Here was somebody that understood the remedy for man was togetherness instead of separation, and theyre not here anymore. Man cant speak to me, and thats why I love women. Dont get me wrong because bitches can make you do some shit like that too. Look at the Adam and Eve storytheyre tantalizing and they make you do shit youre not supposed to do. Theyre the gateway to evil, but theyre beautiful. Theyre angels; man is self-destructive. Everything man has created he has also single-handedly destroyed.
Thats why on Hope For A Higher Power I said, What A gamble/thats what life is and its hard to handle/the Bible says worship this/but the scriptures written by man though/so when man destroys us/the word might not stand so/till that day Im just gone protect my fam with ammo. The higher power may be firepower, and if thats the case, were gonna lose. Thats a dark thought, man. Who has the most firepower? The government. Niggas in the hood can shoot and kill each other all we want to, but if it ever came down to marshal law and anarchy erupts, we aint winning against those tanks. So, what do we do? We do the best we can to protect our loved ones until we cant anymore. We party like its 1999, even though it didnt end in 99 like Prince thought. We party like theres no tomorrow. [Laughs]
DX: So weve got the conspiracy theory and you dabble in the numerology as far as your name goes
TN: Yeah, man Ive got to. Nine is a number of completion. It takes nine months to complete a pregnancy. A cat has nine lives. Theres nothing else like nine, because its the highest single digit. After that its double, triple and quadruple. The technique is complete and I have the complete technique of rhyming. Im everything in one.
DX: Where did you pick that up?
TN: I dont recall. When I got my name in 88, it was because I spit fast like a semi-automatic tech nine, and I was in a group called Black Mafia. I read a lot when I was younger. As far as when and how I ran across numerology back then, I could not tell you. But, Im so glad it happened because it put me in a spiritual place. With my name being Aaron, off top, thats Moses brother the high priest. So I got that and the number nine to symbolize completion, and it made me feel like Im supposed to be here doing this.
Now if I feel like king of all kings, imagine how it feels when the whole world isnt getting it. Im watching 50 Cent on MTV Jams right now with the mute button onhes in Africa. I love it. G-Unit is in Africa enjoying life, doing music and learning new shit. When I was on tour with Paul Wall, he had just come back from Sierra Leone with Raekwon doing [Bligd]. Thats what its all about with this music thing. Were from the hood. Who the fuck chose us to do this?
Its got to be a spiritual thing, man. I pray every night, and I want to believe that. If this is just something like how they say The Bible is just a parable and it contradicts itself, and man contradicts himselfif there is not anything higher than us, then its going to be a problem. What happens when people start knowing that? Weve been knowing it for a long time. This is divine that we can stick our genitals inside of a woman, bust, and then another human being that looks like you comes out. Creation versus Darwinism? This shit grew like a plant. Creation tells you that God created everything, and yet Darwinism sounds more logical. Niggas dont know what to think, but we pray daily. We need all the good luck in the world, because weve had dark days so many times in our lives. Ive got too much to say to the world, man.
DX: I see. Its pretty obvious that youre well-read. Is there any particular book that stands out?
TN: A lot of my reading went on in the past. After this Tech N9ne thing sped up, I had no time. I havent rebooted in years. Everything that Im speaking right now is over the years from reading about the Illuminati, Message to the Black Man, The Celestine Prophecyit keeps going. This is shit I picked up years and years ago, and it broadened my way of thinking. I had all these different religious beliefs and I was kind of screwed up. My mom was a hardcore Christian and my step-dad, who was a Muslim, married her when I was 12. That made me question Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto. It made me think that there were all these different places and languages. Its like how the Christians thought Allah was a different man, but it was just a different language for God. Its just a misunderstanding. People are different, but we all have something in common. Were human beings.
I have never seen something supernatural. When they say some place is haunted I go stand right there. Well be on tour, and someone will say one of the basements in those old venues is haunted. Its one of those things like a little girl died there, and you can still hear her playing with her ball or some shit. Ill go in the basement and stand in the corner for like a minute and see if I feel anything different. It never happens. Its kind of eerie, and you never know if theres a psycho down there who just wants to fulfill everybodys dream and kill you. But, Ive never seen anything supernatural.
Can you imagine how drastically my music would change if I saw something higher than a human being? When you hear people like Floetry sing, thats divine. Talent is divine to me. Nobody can sing like Marsha Ambrosius. The way Jimi Hendrix played was divine. The nigga played with his teeth! But, Ive never seen anything higher than a human being. Ive seen towering human beings, like Shaq, but Ive never seen anything spiritual. That would be validation. Id think, Okay, I really need to get my shit right. But whats really rightthe stuff thats in The Bible or The Koran? Then you go crazy. Youre so smart, yet you go crazy.
DX: Thats ill. Ive never heard you mention The Celestine Prophecy in any interview or song, but I just had this feeling you were gonna say something about that book and energy.
TN: Yeah, man. You can feel my energy through the phone. Im calm. This is my life. Its not a thing, but its some thing for me to be that way and it exudes happiness. Sometimes it exudes confusion or madness, but right now Im in a quiet place. My children are out of school, theyre kicking it and they dont want for anything. Im taking my son to the movies after awhile. You can feel that energy and its me all the time.
DX: Do your kids know what you do for a living? And if they do, what do they think of your music?
TN: My kids are the biggest Tech N9ne fans ever, man. I let them listen to whatever they want to, and theyre really eclectic. Ive got two 13-year-olds and one nine-year-old. They listen to me, and theyre so proud of me. My two little girls live in Los Angeles and my son lives here in Kansas City with his mom. They love me and my music. They have been on stage with me since they were born, introducing me on the mic at the age of three. Theres no shyness or nothing. They are my reason for growing up and theyre the reason I stopped doing Ecstasy, acid, shrooms, GHB and all that shit. I cant be killing my body because I need to be there for them. I still drink, but I stopped smoking weed in 98. Im working to take them to Hawaii in mid-July. They call me everyday asking, Daddy, are we still going to Hawaii. I have to keep telling them, Yes, I just have to find the correct time. They are why I do this.
My children are in awe when it comes to my music. Me and my wife were just talking about my nine-year-old.
Do you know Rainbows favorite song on Krizz Kalikos album?
It Aint Your Bitch, right?
Yeah, how did you know that?
I dont know. I just know my little one.
She would come home and play that ten times in a row after she came home from school. Its the one where Im singing on the chorus, It was cool when I met her/the type of chick who wanna do whatever/I think you better let her/cause nigga that aint your bitch. What is my nine-year-old little girl thinking listening to that? What, she gets kick out of that? But, shes smart as hell. That tells me she loves music that relaxes her. So yeah, my kids have been on it.