Tech N9ne Says 'Industry Is Punks,' Goes Own Way For Power

Riveting rapper reaching fans with own label, DVD.

Tech N9ne felt shortchanged that he could only put 80 minutes of music on his new album, Absolute Power.

At the suggestion of his manager, the Kansas City rapper — who has recorded with everyone from Eminem to the RZA — put seven songs he couldn't fit on the record onto a bonus DVD that also includes live performances, the video for his "Slacker" single and behind-the-scenes footage. In addition to giving fans more value for their purchasing dollar, Tech N9ne feels the bonus DVD lets his fans get more connected to him.

"Getting to know the artist is a must," Tech N9ne said. "That's why 2Pac was so popular. Everybody was so in tune with his life. I think the DVD lets you know what I do, what I'm thinking. It brings the fans a lot closer to me, and the fans appreciate that."

Tech N9ne may have surprised some when Absolute Power debuted at #79 on the Billboard 200 this month, but the fiery underground rapper has been blazing lyrical trails for nearly a decade. He was signed to superproducers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis' Perspective Records in the early 1990s before moving to Quincy Jones' Qwest Records in the mid '90s. The now-defunct JCOR Records released his previous album, 2001's Anghellic.

As Tech N9ne was jumping from label to label, he was steadily recording, appearing on a slew of albums and showcasing his wide-ranging, mind-blowing flows. Tech believes his dramatic deliveries are one of the things that make fans gravitate toward him.

"People like to see a versatile MC," he said. "You've got to be able to go left or right, up or down. An MC, to me, can adapt to any musical situation. That's why you can hear me on 'The Wake Up Show' with Heltah Skeltah, Juice or Eminem, why you can hear me on some thug sh-- with Brotha Lynch Hung, C-Bo, Yukmouth or some hardcore R&B sh-- with Solé. I can adapt, and I think people really dig that. They dig somebody that can adjust."

After his multiple label deals went nowhere, Tech N9ne started wondering if his apocalyptic music, which has discussed abortion and infidelity as much as his rapping prowess, was too different for the major-label system.

"A lot of these motherf---ers don't know what to do with somebody as different as me," he said. "A lot of record labels tend to want to go with what's hot. You can't really hate them for that, because they want to get their money right now, quick. But when you're an artist and you feel like you're original and you're trying to take the rap game to another level, motherf---ers that don't want to take chances tend to make me say, 'The industry is punks.' "

Largely because of this frustration, Tech N9ne and his manager Travis O'Guin formed their own label, Strange Music, and released Absolute Power in conjunction with upstart MSC Music, a new company headed by the co-founder of Priority Records. Tech reasoned that if you're going to take chances with your music, why not do the same with your business?

"Who would have ever thought Kenny G, a motherf---er blowing a horn, would be a multimillion-dollar act?" he said. "You never know."

You never know what to expect on Tech N9ne's songs, either. On Absolute Power cuts "Slither" and "Worst Enemy," the imaginative rhymer includes twists that unfold like top-quality cinema and will certainly throw listeners. Yet these wild storylines are what Tech N9ne said his followers swear by.

"The fans love creativity," he said. "That's why the movies are big. When you listen to 'Slither,' you think it's a real story and some of those things that took place are real. I took some of that but gave it a little 'From Dusk Till Dawn' twist at the end. People love people who make you think different. Like with 'Worst Enemy,' you make them think you're talking about somebody [in particular throughout] the whole thing."

By adding interesting wrinkles to his raps and by not compromising his artistry in order to conform, Tech N9ne feels he's getting closer and closer to having Absolute Power.

"To move a sea of people with your words," he said, "something you thought up, something that you feel — when they feel the same way you feel because you triggered that in them, that's absolute power."