Interview: Tech N9ne
Mon, 19 May 2014 09:48:41
Tech N9ne never stops.
"I'm just touring like crazy as usual," he smiles. "If I'm not in the studio, I'm on the road. Now that my studio sessions are earlier, 10 in the morning until 8 at night, I have time to go home and watch a little bit of TV before I have to write. I usually sit down and eat something and watch whatever I've recorded like The Walking Dead. Then, I start writing until I fall asleep. I do it again the next day!"
That grind is why he's one of the most important rappers in the game. Consistently unleashing new albums, he constantly perfects his craft and raises the bar for the entire genre each time he leaves the studio. The latest in his Collabos series, Strangeulation, maintains that tradition. In fact, this set features some of his most furious rapping to date alongside the entire Strange Music roster. They've got rap in a chokehold. Make no mistake about it.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Tech N9ne breaks down Strangeulation, hints at Special Effects, and so much more in this exclusive interview.
This could easily stand alongside your solo albums...
As I was doing the music, I said this to Travis. I did "Fear" and "The Calling". I did all of my solos first. Travis and everybody were like, "Are you sure you want to do these for a Collabos record? These are great. We put more money and promotion behind artist solo projects. These sound like album material". I said, "How can I not put these out though?" I'm picking up where I left off with Something Else and Therapy. I can't half ass it. I've never done that. I think I keep getting better.
How did you strike the flow for Strangeulation?
I've always done my albums the same way. I'm like a DJ. I grew up around DJs so I look for BPMs. What song will go smoothly into this one? The tempos have to be matched pretty much. I don't want the party to stop until we come to a commercial or a skit. The BPMs are really important. The Strange Music roster, crew, clique, and I really know each other. We know what we sound good doing together. Even though Ces Cru threw me a curveball and tossed me some K.O.D. shit, it was their idea to do "American Horror Story". I was like, "Oh my Goodness, this is perfect!" Ubiquitous sent me his verse. He and Seven [producer] got together. He wanted everybody to do the same style. That curveball was right up my alley. It's beautiful how cohesive everybody is. That's why I think the album is that way. We know each other really well, and we know what to do with these beats together.
How did you "Strangeulation I" come together?
With all of these MCs on my label, I knew I was going to have to come. That's why I did 32 bars. I sat in my house and thought up lines because I just wanted to talk. I didn't want to really out-rap the whole world and make it impossible for people to say. I didn't want that "Chopper" Tech flow on this one. The beat meant so much to me because it's one of the first beats from Seven that I rapped over. Actually, he didn't even give it to me. He gave it to a DJ back in the day before I even met him. DJ Fresh put this thing together back in our town, Kansas City, MO, called "50 MCs". He took 50 MCs from Kansas City to North Kansas City to even Wichita. Seven is from Wichita. It was the whole area. The beat that DJ Fresh chose for me to do happened to be that Seven beat. I had never met Seven at that point. It was a beat called "Ready for the Meat Wagon". I always liked that grim sound of it. The first thing Seven really landed with me was "Come Gangsta", which is monumental, in 2006. Over the years, I've been talking to him about recreating the "Meat Wagon" beat. This one was special to me. Seven's been our in-house producer for some years now. It's so marvelous. I told him, "I want that tune I've been telling you about, 'Ready for the Meat Wagon' with the 'Approach to Danger' N.W.A. drums". I wanted all of my artists to rap over the first beat Seven had ever done with Tech N9ne on it. That's how it came about. When it went into the rhyme, I didn't want it to be so complicated. I mixed it up. I want to talk to everyone and tell them how I feel. It came through, and it's powerful to me.
What's the story behind "Hard (A Monster Made It)"?
I think "Hard" is amazing. Seven did this beat. I told him I wanted to do a song called "Hard". I had the chorus first. Sometimes, when I'm walking around, a chorus will just hit me. It's a boastful song. I got to really flow over this hardcore ass, bass-driving beat from Seven. You can't help but feel it. It was perfect because we had just signed Murs. I was like, "You know what? I'm going to throw him a layup!" I did, and he handled it.
On these Collabos albums, it's like you're a film director assembling an entire cast. Is it more challenging than a solo record?
I really don't know what Seven's going to pump out if it's not an idea out of my head. I can only hope that something comes through that reminds me of something I can do with Rittz. Sometimes, I want to go outside of everybody's comfort zone and put Rittz on something like "Make Waves". "Na Na" is right up his alley. He even told me, "That's my shit right there". "Make Waves" has that hard "Midwest Choppers" flow. It's like, "Okay Rittz, here we go!" He did it. It's like rolling the dice. Seven can do so many different things. I wanted to take Ces Cru into the club. So, I said, "I want to put them on 'Great Night'." Ces is a powerhouse, and I wanted to get them on something that could be played in the club. I wanted a worldwide club feel. That's what Seven did for "Great Night". It happened to work, and it's divine.
Has Strangeulation inspired more music for you?
Yes, I just got two beats the other day. I got one from Seven. It's for Special Effects. I'm like, "Yes" on both beats. These are massive. They're going somewhere that's truly Special Effects, and I've gotten ideas for both of them. We get the beats out here. Krizz Kaliko and I come up with the ideas and execute them at home. Now, we've got a studio. We don't have to book studio time, but we actually do because we've got so many artists working [Laughs]. I'm the boss so I can get in there although I'm really respectful when Ces Cru is in there or Stevie Stone and them need to come in and record or Kutt Calhoun. If they're writing, I'll come in, lay my verses, and finish. We alternate.
What's been influencing you lately?
Well, I'm steadily living life, and I'm seeing this thing grow before my eyes still. I'm seeing a lot of ex-friends trying to resurface so I'm seeing the power of fame and fortune. It seems very artificial, but I'm not worried about it. I'm reaching for happy. My mom is still sick. I'm going to forever have that on me as you can hear on "Fear". I'm steadily living life day by day. One of the beats Seven sent me—and I'm going to tell you this since nobody knows it as I just came up with it the other day—is massive. I want to call it "Dying Flying". The reason I want to call it that is because I'm flying but it seems like the higher I get some people get upset and want to die off and bash me. They'll be like, "He did a song with Lil Wayne, and now's it's soft". It's not soft. It's still hard. It's just that a lot of people don't want to see you shared with the rest of the world. That's what my quest has been. It feels like I'm "Dying Flying". While I'm flying, people are dying off because they don't want me to get that big. It's holding me back. This is supposed to be for everybody. These things are motivating me to write.
Is there anything you still haven't done that you want to?
I'm always pushing for new flows. I'll listen to a train going by and get an idea. I can listen to anything that has a rhythm. It could be a washer and dryer. I'm always searching for sounds outside. That's what Special Effects is going to be about. It's about taking the time to play with the music, actually fucking with the beat and lyrics and really affecting it. It's about doing different things. There are a lot of people I still want to collaborate with. I still want to do something with Citizen Cope and Marsha Ambrosius. I still want to do something with Eminem. I still want to do something with Metallica. I also want to do something with Slipknot. I already did a song with one of my other favorite bands, System of a Down. I'm trying to keep moving. I want to do something with Gavin Rossdale on the chorus. I just want to go!
If you were to compare Strangeulation to a movie or a combination of movies what would you compare it to?
The cinematic equivalent of Strangeulation would be Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. There are all kinds of twists and turns. It's cartoon-y in spots. It's dark. It's happy. It's love. It's anger. It's bloody. If you've ever seen that, you'll know it's everything. Even the music in that movie is everything. It's such a clusterfuck of imagery. That's what that album is for me. We are all Natural Born Killers.
What have you been listening to?
I listen to Strangeulation every day. I just gave my copy to a friend yesterday. I've been listening to Richie Havens' live performance of "Freedom" at Woodstock. I'm in love with it so much that I might be contacting the people who own that and saying, "Hey, I'd like to use it!"
Where did "We Are Free" come from?
It's wonderful. I was watching a movie called Sinister, and I loved the drum pattern and the beat at the end. I told Seven I needed something that reminds you of that drum pattern. It's so unique. I tried to look up the people who did it to see if I could try to get with them. That whole soundtrack is actually sinister! It's like, "Wow, who did this?" We added our own flavor to the drum pattern. We are free to do whatever the fuck we want lyrically and musically. There are no boundaries. We are free. It went so wonderfully together.
Are you doing any more rock-oriented music a la Therapy?
It's going to always be there. It's been there since the beginning from "Riot Maker" to "Tormented" to "Little Pills". There are the songs I did with Deftones and The Doors. There's also the thing I did on Five Finger Death Punch's album. I'm that guy with the rock 'n' roll as well. It's going to be there in a big fucking way.
What's your favorite Tech N9ne song?
See our review of Strangeulation here!