Some artists get writers block, but for Tech N9ne, the ideas keep flowing.
That’s why, more than a decade after he released his first nationally-distributed album, the pioneering Kansas City rapper decided to call his forthcoming studio album Something Else.
“After all this music, you have the nerve to say to the world that you have something else other than what we’ve heard already, that’s cocky,” Tech N9ne says. “I knew going into this album that it was going to have to be totally something else beatwise, contentwise and featurewise. I went in on a lot of stuff.”
Tech N9ne delivers on his goals throughout Something Else, a rousing collection that takes listeners on an epic journey through Fire, Water and Earth sections of the album, a formatting tactic Tech N9ne also employed on his landmark Anghellic album in 2001 and his Everready [The Religion] album in 2006.
“Straight Out The Gate” kicks off the intense Fire section of the album. Featuring System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian, the song has political and religious overtones while highlighting both Tankian and Tech N9ne’s talents. “Serj, he’s a guy that takes chances with music and sounds and fuses them together and that’s how I feel about my hip-hop music,” Tech N9ne says. “Our being on a song together, that’s one of the biggest things that could happen. That’s why I put it first on the album.”
From there, Tech keeps the intensity level sky-high with “B.I.T.C.H.,” an acronym for “Breaking Into Colored Houses,” a cut about his interaction with his black fans. “Love 2 Dislike Me” discusses the aftermath of a relationship gone sour, while “Fortune Force Field” explains how certain people are trying to keep Tech N9ne from enjoying all the fruits of his musical labor. Then there’s “I’m Not A Saint,” Tech N9ne’s latest look at his Evil Brain Angel Heart persona.
Tech N9ne embraces such personal, evocative subject matter because it is an innate part of his artistry. “The reason I opened up on this album is because throughout my career, all I’ve been doing is being inside out, being an open book,” he says. “Since the album is called Something Else, I have to let certain things loose that I otherwise wouldn’t let loose.”
The same logic applies to “Fragile,” a fierce collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, ¡Mayday! and Kendall Morgan. Here, the artists blast uninformed critics who lack the perspective and qualifications to fully and accurately evaluate their craft. Tech N9ne also introduces spirited newcomer Angel Davanport on “Priorities,” which also features Game.
As the Water section of the album arrives, the selections become calmer, if only thematically. “Dwamn” introduces the album’s first party vibe, while “So Dope (They Wanna)” with Wrekonize, Snow Tha Product and Twisted Insane, is the latest of Tech N9ne’s posse cuts highlighting rappers who excel at rapid-fire rapping, or chopping. “See Me,” with Wiz Khalifa and B.o.B., showcases Tech N9ne’s ability as an independent artist to conceive and execute independent albums with major label artists and with a major label feel. That’s also why this song’s lyrics focus on people overlooking Tech N9ne’s remarkable achievements – that he’s sold more than 2 million units independently, developed into to one of music’s most dependable touring artists and that he’s built Strange Music into one of rap’s most successful imprints from his hometown of Kansas City.
As Something Else advances to the Earth section, Tech N9ne focuses on topics he hopes will make the world better. “That’s My Kid,” with CeeLo Green, Big K.R.I.T. and Kutt Calhoun, for instance, finds Tech N9ne contemplating the recent rash of school shootings and realizing how fortunate he is that his children did not make some of the mistakes that he did as a child. “I was just sitting up one day looking at all these kids that do these heinous things, these horrible things,” Tech N9ne says. “I’m lucky that my son didn’t latch on to the Blood gang nonsense that I grew up doing. He latched on to music and now he wants to rap. I’m blessed. I have to rejoice.”
Tech N9ne also rejoiced on the career-defining song “Strange 2013,” his collaboration with The Doors. Tech N9ne named his Strange Music label with partner Travis O’Guin after the icon rock group’s songs “Strange Days” and “People Are Strange.” As a black fan of rock and rap growing up in Missouri, Tech N9ne grew up thinking he was “strange”. Getting to work with the surviving members of The Doors on “Strange 2013,” a reworking of “Strange Days,” is one of the proudest moments of his groundbreaking career.
“If it wasn’t for their fusion of music, I would have never told Travis I wanted to call the joint venture that we have Strange Music,” Tech N9ne explains. “That’s why ‘Strange 2013’ meant so much to me. Now, when I listen to it, I smile, like, ‘I did that.’ They’re the ones that inspired me. It’s the thing keeping me alive and putting my kids through college, because I was a Doors fan.”
Today, millions of people are Tech N9ne fans. He became known as an innovative rapper in the 1990s because of his trendsetting ability to rap at breakneck speed, to rap backwards and, soon thereafter, to also deliver riveting personal songs that examined his own inner demons, as evidenced throughout such memorable cuts as “Tormented” and “Real Killer.” In the 2000s, Tech N9ne hit the road relentlessly, becoming one of rap’s premier touring acts.
With 2012’s “Hostile Takeover 2012 Tour,” Tech N9ne holds the title of headlining the longest continuous tour in rap history. Even with all these accolades and the impressive list of artists Tech N9ne features on Something Else, he sounds as fresh and hungry as he did when he first started releasing music commercially more than a decade ago. “I’ve got a chip on my shoulder,” Tech N9ne says. “I’ve still got a lot to prove. That’s why I still rap so hard. I’m always trying to get better and better. I’m not softening it.”
That, in and of itself, is Something Else indeed.