Exclusive: The Strange Musicians also talk taxes, illuminati, sex with Wal-Mart shoppers, what they look for in new artists, and which lines to their verses that they stumble over most frequently.
Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko should have their own television show. It’s true. Not only is the The Mental Giant’s improbable path to under-heralded Rap icon-status the stuff of all the best VH1 Behind The Music’s, but the inner workings of Strange Music’s new era mixed with a glorious side of banter with his long time protege feels like a recipe for unintentionally hilarious edutainment. On and off wax, Tech and Krizz command attention without sacrificing authenticity. They’re real. And the right kind of ridiculous.
HipHopDX caught a glimpse of the chemistry between these two Strange Musicians while in Atlanta’s Criminal Records during the 2012 A3C Hip Hop Festival. In this interview, Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko talk upcoming EPs, taxes, stumbling over lines on stage, and the hold up on their much needed television show.
HipHopDX: How’s it going?
Tech N9ne: We were just in New York [City] not too long ago drinking until three or four in the morning. [Laughs]
DX: Yeah, you guys put me on to my first K.C. Tea.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, K.C. Tea - Kansas City Tea, man - Hennessy, Sprite, and lemon. I don’t think I had one last night. I’m hanging over from last night, man. I can’t remember what I had last night.
DX: Are you guys enjoying A3C?
Tech N9ne: Totally, man.
DX: Who did you check out last night?
Tech N9ne: I didn’t get to check out anybody. I got too drunk...Oh, yes I did. Killer Mike.
DX: He released a great album this year [in] R.A.P. Music.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, he did.
Tech N9ne & Krizz Kaliko Discuss Strange Music's Huge Retail 2012 Year
DX: This is a huge year for Strange Music. Is this a banner year for Strange Music? Looking at critically acclaimed projects from Krizz [Kaliko], ¡MayDay!, Ces Cru released a super strong [EP]. Stevie Stone...how does this compare to other years?
Krizz Kaliko: Rittz.
Tech N9ne: Rittz. This is going to be the most music we’ve ever put out. I just dropped an EP on September 18, E.B.A.H., and for Halloween I’m dropping the darker side to E.B.A.H. It’s called Boiling Point. So it’s a lot of music. And I’m working on my new album as we speak. We’ve got a lot. Krizz Kaliko is working on what?
Krizz Kaliko: I’m working on Nevermind, my EP. It’s like “nehmind.”
Tech N9ne: Y’all don’t get it? “Nehmind.”
DX: When’s that EP coming?
Krizz Kaliko: It comes out November 13.
Tech N9ne: It’s been a big year already. But year’s end is going to be even bigger than in the beginning. More Tech N9ne. More ¡MayDay! More everything. More Strange Music.
Krizz Kaliko: And we got Rittz!
Tech N9ne: It’s a beautiful thing. Slumerican.
DX: He’s another double-time emcee. He’s a real poignant storyteller. You feel him when you listen to him.
Tech N9ne: I went to a couple of his shows last year. I enjoyed it. I was thrilled to know that he wanted to come where we were. He liked our work. He like our touring.
Tech N9ne & Krizz Kaliko Explain What It Takes To Sign To Strange Music
DX: Is that something you scout when you’re looking at new artists? How are they live? How are they on stage?
Tech N9ne: Oh yes. They have to be able to do it live. That’s what we pride ourselves on doing.
Krizz Kaliko: We built the whole thing off of good music and a good live performance. So, we can’t let you take it down. You’ve got to be just as good.
Tech N9ne: Like, we took Brotha Lynch Hung on tour. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do that. You’ve got to be able to, not just be able to do it in the studio - studio tricks. You’ve got to be able to do it live. That’s what I look for. I go see emcees at their show. I went to go see JL [of B. Hood] perform and I was like, “Yeah, JL’s dope.” That’s something that’s on my head - to get JL down with us. Same thing with Ces Cru. I went to a Mac Lethal show and they were performing. I saw them do something incredible. All these guys, I went to go see them at clubs. I’m a fan scouting them out. Like, “Yeah, come on with me.” I told [Krizz] to come on with me. He thought I was bullshitting.
DX: We spoke with Ces Cru not too long ago this year. For them, the way they described it was that they had been grinding through the Kansas City scene and rose through the ranks and that’s how [they] caught your eye. Are you proud of those guys? Is there a personal feeling when you look at everything they’ve done over the past 10 years to where they are now?
Tech N9ne: I love it, man, because they never stopped doing what they were doing. All I said was I just want to accent [what they’re doing] and get more people on it. To see them and they’re still good and even better than what they were, everybody just keeps elevating, elevating, elevating. I love it. I can’t wait to get them on tour with me. It’s coming.
DX: How do you manage the growth of Strange Music? You just mentioned that you put out more music this year than you have [previously], so the organization has to be moving at pace that maybe it hasn’t done before.
Krizz Kaliko: Keep hiring people.
Tech N9ne: It’s like people working there that I don’t really know now.
Krizz Kaliko: Travis [O’Guin] did it the other day. I said, “Hey man, what’s the lady back with the merchandise? The lady with the brown hair?” He said, “Um...” I said, “Didn’t you hire her?” He said, “Yeah, um...I don’t know her name.” I said, “Wow. It’s got that big.”
Tech N9ne: It’s getting bigger, man. We just expanded. We’ve got another building now. We bought another building. It’s gonna be Strangeland Studios. It’s gonna be amazing. [Motioning to the onlookers watching the interview] The girls are looking at us. [Laughs]
DX: It’s an everyday thing, Tech. Nehmind.
Tech N9ne: Ne’mind! [Laughs]
Krizz Kaliko: [Laughs]
Tech N9ne: Yeah, man. We’re expanding. We’re moving the video crew down into the new building real soon. We’re expanding, still. We need more space. I didn’t think we’d ever outgrow the headquarters.
Krizz Kaliko: I didn’t think we’d ever outgrow Travis’ basement. We used to be in Trav’s basement.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, we used to be in Trav’s basement. It’s growing rapidly, man. And I’m still scouting. I’m still looking for beautiful music - people that make beautiful music. We’re always on the road showing our beautiful music all over the globe. That’s a dream that I had a long time ago and I told [Krizz], “Yo, I want you to get on the album with me and do all the songs with me.” He thought I was lying. I made it happen. Now he’s still doing all the songs with me.
Krizz Kaliko: That’s a tall order, though. Just think: If you got somebody saying something, who’s already a super popular artist - especially in Kansas City - who says, “Hey man, I want you to do my whole album with me.” It sounds like a lie. That sounds like, “Yeah, whatever dog.” And here we are, still. That was like 12 years ago.
Tech N9ne: But when you’re that talented though, you’re either gonna be jealous of the talent, or you’re gonna want it with you. I want all the hardest artists with me. I go out and scope the hardest ones like, “Let’s go!” We do songs with them, too. We do songs with Busta Rhymes. We do songs with Twista. We do songs together with them. We do songs with a lot of other emcees. B.o.B., Hopsin. We’re out there. We want all the hardest emcees on our team. And so far, we’re doing good. Especially, Strange Music. Wait until we do our cypher. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine Brother Lynch Hung, Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Calhoun, ¡MayDay!, Rittz, Ces Cru, Stevie Stone, Prozak, Big Scoob.
DX: I was impressed. [“Hostile Takeover”] was my first time checking a Strange tour and getting to see you guys rock live as a unit. I listened to the records and the emphasis that you guys put on rapping good; on what you’re saying, but also how you’re saying it, coming up with different patterns. What struck me was how well you perform those songs live. When you’re doing double-time stuff, what’s a line of yours - for each of you - that you tend to mess up performing?
Krizz Kaliko: [Laughs] I already know what he’s gonna say.
Tech N9ne: “Midwest Choppers,” right?
Krizz Kaliko: “Midwest Choppers.”
Tech N9ne: Yeah, man. It’s the hardest...you have to be elite to do this. And to get it across live - any of the “Choppers...” [Quotes the first verse to “Worldwide Choppers”] I’ve gotta do that perfect every night! Sometimes you can get tongue tied. And if you’re looking at the crowd - it’s the weirdest thing - you’re looking at the crowd and they’re saying the wrong words, it can throw you off. [Laughs]
Krizz Kaliko: I try not to look.
Tech N9ne: I’ve gotta close my eyes because the girls are trying to say it and they miss words. I’m like, “Don’t look at me! Wait. Look at me, but I won’t look at you!” [Laughs]
DX: What would you say, Krizz?
Krizz Kaliko: It’s funny, because I worry about it every night. It’s a song I got called “Spaz,” with the Dubstep. I say, “Babblin‘ badder than half of you rappers...
Tech N9ne: “...spit like a javelin...”
Krizz Kaliko: “...Trapped in the traffic compadiris / You niggas Earthlings and off of Saturn’...” It ain’t even that fast but, I think that I’m gonna say something backwards. Actually, I have on “Kill Shit.” I don’t know if we can curse on this, but...
DX: It’s the Internet. There’s porn on the Internet.
Tech N9ne: [Laughs] You ain’t lying.
Krizz Kaliko: On the “Kill Shit” song, I always say the lines backwards, sometimes. And He’s backing me up on that song, so it will throw him off. I forgot what line it is.
Tech N9ne: Yeah. It’s the one where you say, [“...Better not start me / Bet I’ll pick up a grip in a heartbeat / Sitting in the star seat / I’ll get to killing them softly...”]
Krizz Kaliko: I don’t even remember how it go. I gotta be on stage. I say sometimes, “Sitting in the star seat / I’ll get to killing them softly,” or “Give me my car keys...” It’s a lot of words, especially when you’re jumping and, like he said, somebody is saying the words. Some people are in the front row and they feel like they should know the words but they’re not saying nothing. They’re just [miming the words].
Tech N9ne: I’ll tell you the hardest part for me. When I’m doing “Worldwide Choppers,” and I get down on one knee. So the crowd is [in front of me] and I’m right there by their heads. I can hear the girls saying it and it’ll throw me off. I have to try to block them out.
DX: I need you guys to have a TV show. I need to be able to turn on the TV once a week and watch Tech and Krizz walk around and just interact.
Krizz Kaliko: Man, I’ve been telling him this for years! We’re always pretty entertaining just to talk to and just to [watch] talk to each other. Travis - who’s our CEO - says, “Hey man, make sure you guys are prompting each other on camera.” I’m like, “Dude, we don’t have to do that. All we literally have to do is turn on the camera and it will be hilarious.” Matter of fact, we just did our Canadian tour. I had my iPhone. You can turn the camera towards you, you know. And all I did was, whenever I was talking to him, I just turned on the camera. If we just watch it right now, we’ll all be in stitches. It’s just regular conversation. We been needing a reality show. People have been approaching us.
DX: What’s the hold up?
Tech N9ne: They want you to do weird things on television. They want you to be ignorant. I don’t want to be ignorant in front of kids.
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah, sometimes they do. It’s true.
Tech N9ne: I don’t want to show bullshit. If they want to follow the tour and see our work ethic and everything and laugh about what we’re talking about, yeah. But I ain’t about to show them [ignorance]. They want to see groupies. They want to see raw shit. I ain’t about to give them that.
Krizz Kaliko: If it was somebody that wants to do something and they just wanted what we got and they don’t want to prompt us to do extra stuff, it would be cool.
Tech N9ne: If they try to tell Krizz, “Have an argument with Tech. Pick a fight with Tech,” we don’t want to do that. We like to be normal. I don’t wanna show ignorance to America or overseas anyway.
Tech N9ne & Krizz Kaliko Talk About Election, Taxes & The Illuminati
DX: We appreciate that. Is this an important election year in your mind? We’re in the middle of the Presidential debates right now. We’re talking about not showing ignorance on TV.
Tech N9ne: Did Obama tell Mitt Romney to “Shut the hell up. I got five more minutes?”
DX: He needs to. I think he told Jim Lehrer that.
Tech N9ne: [Laughs] I missed it, man. I’m always in the studio. I heard about it because I live with Makzilla. Makzilla is into politics deep. He keeps me hip to everything because I’m always in the studio writing. So I missed the debate, but I heard it was pretty funny. He told me [President] Obama didn’t win the debate.
DX: I think a lot of times we don’t think about how important an election is, or if it’s even important in Hip Hop anymore [in] the same way we might’ve [thought about it] when N.W.A. and Public Enemy [were rocking]. We don’t get that on the radio anymore.
Tech N9ne: It’s important for me because of taxes. [Laughs]
Krizz Kaliko: Man. I know if we’ve got tax troubles, these other guys gotta be crazy. Benzes, Bentleys‘, and coupes and all that. I know they’ve got to have tax problems.
Tech N9ne: Niggas is going to jail now. They said Lauryn Hill’s going to jail.
DX: Nas got hit. He had to pay a tax fine.
Krizz Kaliko: I see it more and more. We’ve had our issues that we’re getting out of now.
Tech N9ne: I just paid the IRS a Maybach in three months. $400,000. I ain’t supposed to be talking about that. [Laughs] Don’t ask me these questions.
DX: This kind of feels like the new Hip Hop police, doesn’t it? Like in the late 1990s when all the rappers were getting pulled over. Now they’re all getting hit by the IRS.
Krizz Kaliko: Now they’re all getting hit on taxes.
Tech N9ne: But you’ve gotta pay your taxes. I’m paying. I payed them. I’m still paying. I’m not in danger of going to jail.
Krizz Kaliko: This is Saturday. I’ve got my last payment today for my back-taxes. Today.
Tech N9ne: That’s why it’s important. I really don’t talk about politics. There’s three things that I don’t talk about [people] will start fights because of it: politics, whether O.J. [Simpson] did it or not, and is Tupac dead or alive. [Laughs]
DX: I’m surprised you didn’t throw “Illuminati” in there.
Tech N9ne: I don’t care about Illuminati. I read that book years ago when I was in my teens. I wasn’t in my teens. I was like 22 [years old] or something like that.
Krizz Kaliko: Being a member, they don’t want us talking about that. [Laughs] You know, that’s why they were saying that I covered my eye on Kickin’ & Screamin’ [album art]. The right eye covered up now means [you’re in the Illuminati]. Everything is a symbol of the Illuminati. I’ve got my shoe strings untied: [Illuminati].
Tech N9ne: The way you shake peoples hand. “Did you see that handshake Tech did? He hangs out with Masons.”
[Tech and Krizz in unison]: But I do hang out with Masons, though. [Everyone laughs]
Tech N9ne: Don’t we hang out with Masons, Muggs? [Laughs] That’s one of our security guys, Donte. Donte will shake your hand all funny. [Laughs]
Krizz Kaliko: He ain’t hiding it. He’s got on a Mason ring, a Mason chain, Mason tattoos, Mason gang.
DX: That sounds like capable security. That’s what you want. You each have an EP coming out [in 2012]. You’ve got [Boiling Point] and [Nevermind]. Is everybody on Strange going to have a new project out next year?
Tech N9ne: I think so. They said we’re going to shoot like 100 videos. We had this meeting right after we came back from Canada and [they said], “We’re going to shoot 100 videos.” We’re moving on along, though. I shot “Don’t Tweet This.” I shot “E.B.A.H.” We’re supposed to shoot “Rock Yo Head.” On Boiling Point, I’m about to shoot my first video Monday. We’re moving, man. We’re just working, man. We’re just going. We don’t stop, but our work catches us. That’s the beauty of it. It catches you so well. Like, “Boom” this magazine. “Boom,” Forbes. Everybody’s calling me now like, “Can I have some money.” I’m like, “God dammit, Forbes.”
DX: Did your daughter win Homecoming Queen [at her high school]?
Tech N9ne: I don’t know. I have to call. Thank you for saying that. The voting was Thursday.
DX: You should call her right now.
Krizz Kaliko: Call her right now. Put her on speaker phone.
Tech N9ne: No. I don’t want her to be crying and then everybody sees it. Thanks for reminding me, man. I’m gonna call her mama because her momma is hitting me right now. Thank you for being real and we can do real things. I like to do real things. I mean, if she would’ve won, I would’ve known. I get nervous about these kind of things. [Tech gets on the phone with his daughter’s mother]
What’s up, momma?...I’m in the midst of an interview and they asked me something. Did LeLe win or lose?...Oh, she said Thursday...Next Friday? They won’t announce it until next Friday...Alright, thank you. I’ll call you back.
Aight, we’ve got another week left. My fingers are crossed. Thanks for paying attention.
DX: If there is one thing from each of you that you’re excited about in 2013 that you might not have already spoke about and people might not be aware of, what is it?
Tech N9ne: We’re working so much that after my new album comes out in March, I’m banking on having...you see the 3D glasses I'm wearin'?
DX: I saw those. Styling.
Tech N9ne: I'm always thinking 3D, but I'm banking on havin' a couple of months to go be a fan. That’s my new dream. I’ve never told nobody that on camera. My first dream was to take my kids all around the world; to be on beaches and we did it four years straight. They told me on the last cruise, “Daddy, we’re done. We’ve done it to death.” I’m like, “Okay!” So my new dream just hit me on my last tour when I was in Canada. If Collie Buddz is playing in Jamaica, I want to go. If Citizen Cope is playing in Sweden, I want to go. If Eminem is playing in Germany, I want to go. If Prince is playing anymore shows before he quits...I just want to go and be a fan. I want to take somebody that can sit on my face, and go and be a fan. Krizz said, “I’d rather be the man.” I said, “But imagine being the man and the fan.” That’s what I want to do after this next album comes out. I hope I can have a little bit of time off. I want to map it out. If Snoop Dogg is performing on a cruise with Parliament Funkadelic, and R Kelly and everybody is on this boat, I want to go. I want to go be a fan. I’m a fan of music. I just want to go. If System Of A Down is playing in Turkey, I want to go. I’m gonna go. I just want to go and show up at people’s shows and love the music.
When I was in Canada, I had a couple days off, which we never have. I was able to go see Pharoahe Monch, and Tha Alkaholiks in Toronto. Then in Toronto the next day, I got to see Big K.R.I.T. and Slim Thug. I was there to be a fan. Everybody calls me up on stage. Last night, Killer Mike called me up on stage. I was drunk. I said, “I’m sorry, ATL. I’m a little drunk.” But everybody [cheered], so I guess I was good. That’s why I can’t wait to go to A3C [again tonight]. I just want to go and listen to music and be amongst normal folk. I need normalcy because I’ll go crazy. In a world that I created that everybody label’s you “God,” it can mess your head up. I need normalcy. I need to be able to go to Wal-Mart and buy my own food and stuff like that. I get chased now. I’m not going to do that.
Krizz Kaliko: You’ve got to go at four in the morning. I go and it be like six people in there.
Tech N9ne: Not me. Where I stay, there’s always girls in there. I’ve met so many women at Wal-Mart. It’s crazy. Me and Makzilla, we used to run from them and see if they can catch us. If they catch us, we’ll take pictures and do everything.
DX: I’m sure it feels a lot worse than it sounds.
Tech N9ne: [Laughs]
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah, you’re like, “Dang, I’m meeting too many women at Wal-Mart and taking them back and having sex with them. It’s so terrible!”
Tech N9ne: I need normalcy. It’s hard to go to the movies. I want to see Sinister. When I go to the concessions, I’ve got to take pictures with 50 kids. It’s harder for me, but I need to do normal things. That’s me being the fan. It gives me that normalcy that I need. I need that.
Krizz Kaliko: I’d say I’m going to work more. When he takes time off, I’m going to do more towards my solo career. When he’s taking time off, I might actually tour by myself. Then that way, when we come back together and tour again, it’ll be even that much bigger. It’ll create just that much more fanaticism just from my solo career, too.