Last year I sat at a bar and overheard two graduate students debating the hottest new rapper they had heard. It was not Drake or Wiz Khalifa, not J. Cole or Fashawn, it was Tech N9ne. In the months since, Hip Hop's elite gatekeepers like Just-Ice and Freddie Foxxx, as well as emcees ranging from Ill Bill to Glasses Malone, they all expressed to me their endorsement about the 38 year-old emcee from Kansas City that has a flow like a Thompson machine gun, and captivate his audience like Rick Warren.
So it makes perfect sense that Lil Wayne would be like everybody else.
Early this month, Weezy F. told Funkmaster Flex that he hoped to work with OutKast's Andre 3000 and Tech N9ne upon leaving Rikers Island. Snoop Dogg recently swung by the Missouri Strange Music compound, and both Raekwon and Ghostface Killah are looking to do work with The Regime emcee. Tech N9ne is in demand more than ever before, and a decade after he was in an industry-full nelson, sitting on label benches, backed up in paperwork.
With the incarcerated Wayne having signed two of Rap's biggest stars in Drake and Nicki Minaj, and Tech N9ne bringing artists like Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Kalhoun and the nearly forgotten Brotha Lynch Hung to the charts, to national tours and to devoted fans, this could make history. All we have now is time to wait.
Speaking with HipHopDX on Thursday, Tech N9ne shared his reactions to the possibility. The emcee criticized his fans who have second-guessed these implications, and perhaps misunderstood his mantra years ago. Lastly, Tech looks at his label's success with Brotha Lynch Hung, and all-but-confirms signing Jay Rock, as one more label orphan stands the chance to beat the system with Strange friends.
HipHopDX: Congratulations on the success of The Gates Mixed Plate. I have to say, I haven't eaten barbecue in two or three weeks, and every time I see the "O.G." video, it makes me hungry, and sorry that I live in Philadelphia...
Tech N9ne: [Laughs] I'm gettin' fat right now because of that video. I gotta see it everywhere I go, so next thing I know, I'm at Gates [Bar B.Q.]. Gates is contributing to my belly, but I'm about to go on this tour with E-40 on September 14, so I think we're gonna be good, 'cause I do a lot on stage.
DX: Videos have made some landmarks. There's Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound on the roof of V.I.P. Records, there's the Fat Boys at Sbarro, so I have to ask... has Gates been thankful of the presumed shine you've brought them?
Tech N9ne: First of all, I had to clear it with them first. I am a businessman. I know that I just didn't want to go in and use their name without their consent - out of respect for Gates & Sons. 'Cause I grew up eating Gates. I recognized that they're classy, and I recognized that they do good business, so I had to extend the same thing. I told them my whole idea, I wanted to [name my album] The Gates Mixed Plate and that I wanted the [inserts] to look like a menu, and they blessed me. They said, "We love that idea. We need that demographic." They were saying that now the youngsters, when they go to prom, they don't go to Gates anymore, they go to Bonefish or Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Chang's. I was like, man, I'd take my date to Gates.
I was in Europe for a month and a half, on tour. When I got back, all I was hearin' was that actual mixed plate [dinner] at Gates has shot through the roof [in popularity]. I feel good about that. People from out of town are comin' in, "Aye. Give me what Tech N9ne's talkin' about." I heard they're makin' shirts that say, "Strawberry. Baked bean. Mixed plate." That made me feel really good to know that I could do anything for somebody that helped raise me.
DX: You mentioned your Independent Grind Tour with E-40. Each year, you tour with different artists, and make an exciting, eye-opening show for your fans. Can you tell me a little bit about involving Jay Rock and Glasses Malone? Both aren't Strange artists, but frequently work with you...
Tech N9ne: First of all, when I did the video with Estevan Oriol, "Like Yeah" [from Killer], Jay Rock came down. I'd never met him, but I'd heard him. He did that song with [Lil] Wayne, "All My Life (In The Ghetto)." He came and showed me love, he was 100. He came and told me what he had poppin': he was on Warner Brothers, messing with [DJ] Kay Slay...he was a real cool cat. So we started talkin', and the deal wasn't really goin' well with Warner. So we were like, "What if we can get in there and get Jay Rock?" We're almost [secured] in having Jay Rock over here at Strange Music. It's almost final. We're just tweaking a couple things. From he being down with me to him possibly being one of my artists on Strange Music is a big thing for me.
What really did it for the tour was, we had had a meeting with all his people, and we brought him out to Kansas City. We ate, we partied, we saw a show. XXL was down here to see it. When I went to L.A., I got to see him open up for my show. I had never saw him on stage. Him and Kendrick Lamar and all them really murdered it! [My publicist] brought me in to see it. "Check Jay Rock out." I was thoroughly impressed, homie! Come on, Jake, we really do shows, my friend. For somebody to blow me away, that's a lot.
Glasses Malone is family off top. He was at that "Like Yeah" video shoot too. I met a lot of these cats through that video. Glasses is family, and Jay Rock is right there.
DX: You mentioned Wayne. The news last week broke of Lil Wayne's interview with Funkmaster Flex. He wants to work with two emcees: you and Andre 3000. It was crazy to see on Twitter, your fans reacting to a mainstream superstar wanting to work with the king of the underground. What was your initial reaction?
Tech N9ne: I was in the studio with Big Scoob; we're recording [his] album called Damn Fool. I'm in the writing. He came in. He's like, "You heard the news about Lil Wayne?" I'm like, "What happened to Lil Wayne?" [expressing concern] He was like, "Nah, man. Dude said when he gets outta jail, he wants to work with Andre 3000 and you." I'm like, "What?" I've never met Wayne, but I've always adored his skill. I heard all the mixtapes with him really goin', everything.
I respect him as an artist. I really do. That's why when some of my fans be like, "Don't do it!" it boggles me that they would feel that way. All we're gonna do is bring each other in each other's world. He's gonna bring me to Wayne's world, I'm gonna bring him to Strange world. It's gonna be a wonderful thing - two artists, together, showin' skill at doin' what they love to do. It's a great look for Tech N9ne, 'cause Tech N9ne ain't even been looked at on that level. I'm gettin' there, but like you said, "king of the underground." People been scared of me for years. We've always been tryin' to find ways to get in the faces of everybody, 'cause truly my music is for the whole world. My name means "The complete technique of rhymes / technique number nine." I'm supposed to belong to everybody. I look at Wayne comin' out and sellin' a million records in a week. That's beautiful, man. I always felt like I was the type of artist who could do that [too] if everybody knew. What me and Travis [O'Guin] have built here at Strange Music is beautiful, without major video and major airplay - that's something that Wayne has. Besides all that, my friend, it's about artistry. It's beautiful that somebody of that stature would speak my name next to Three Stacks. You know how we feel about Andre, man? Come on, man! It's Andre 3000, my friend!
I really feel that it's validated that [the man who calls himself "the best rapper alive"] thinks I'm an elite emcee. That feels so good to me. People hold him up there. Even Eminem said he was jealous of him. Eminem is treacherous, lyrically! You heard [Recovery], it's treacherous! I put my all into my music. If you listen to "Can't Shake It" off of Killer, if you listen to "Riot Maker," talkin' 'bout how they won't let me over in Honolulu because they said I'd get the Samoans rowdy with my music and unruly. I can't go certain places 'cause they say I'm a riot-maker. Certain black folks say I'm a devil-worshipper. As much as all the pain I've been through and all the might we've been puttin' into this Tech N9ne music, givin' the world...to have Wayne acknowledge me, just acknowledge me. Even if we never did the song... say we get to 2012 to do the song, and say the Mayan Calendar was correct and everything is destroyed [laughing] the fact that he acknowledged me on the level he did, I'm totally thankful. I can't wait to do the motherfuckin' song, man. Nothing is gonna stop it. Evil will stop things that are supposed to be Godly, but ain't nothin' gonna stop this.
Some of my fans are upset. "Wayne is everything Tech N9ne is against!" Really? In 2002, I said "Fuck the industry." Because, the industry - the people who control radio and video and dictate what goes on are scared to take chances on new music. Lauryn Hill said, "Music is supposed to inspire." So why wouldn't they want to put new music on the radio instead of clonin' these motherfuckers that are already there? I said, "Fuck the industry!" So a lot of my fans thought, "Oh, he's just gonna stray away from mainstream." No, I'm not takin' about the artists. Get your money! Soulja Boy, get your money! I love to see niggas do good! White folks, Eminem, [or] Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, oh my God! When I said, "Fuck the industry," I'm takin' about these motherfuckin' [program directors] that won't let niggas get in. Fuck these mothafuckas!
DX: I'm a huge fan of underdogs, in sports, in music and in life. One of my favorite albums this year has been Dinner & A Movie by Brotha Lynch Hung. That album was a surprise. As a teenager who copped Season of The Siccness because he had heard Snoop Dogg talk about it in Murder Dog, this one felt good. You've got so many great underdog stories in Strange Music's history, but tell me about this one...
Tech N9ne: I'ma tell you like this, man: I was that same kid. I was the same kid who bought [Brotha Lynch Hung's] 24 Deep album. [Recites "Had 2 Gat Ya"] I listened to that shit like, "Who is this nigga? Who is this? He's dope!" I've been a fan for years. A long time ago, when The Click was doing their albums and stuff, we all went on a tour. It was me and my son's mom, Agony, and I was hype-man for Tony Roma, a [rapper from Kansas City]. He took us on the tour. It was E-40 & The Click, Mac Mall, Brotha Lynch Hung. I talked to Lynch back then, and he liked my style back then. Everybody, E-40, Suga-T, we became family a long time ago. This was way before I met Yukmouth and Quincy Jones in '97, and moved to [California].
When we heard Lynch was in troubles with [Black Market Records], I was like, "Man, I wonder if I can get him over here." It starts with an idea. Travis, my business partner, he's a fan too. [Strange Music executive] Dave Weiner used to do all types of stuff for Lynch back in the day, in the Priority [Records] days. That brought him closer to us.
In 2006, I sent out for a Lynch verse to a song called "My World" intended for me, Lynch and Eminem. Eminem was goin' through so much stuff back then that he couldn't do it. [Brotha Lynch Hung] sent back the verse. It blew my mind. He said [reciting] "Wait a minute, I'm from the west coast conference like Kobe or James Worthy / You can just call me the king of the valley, all I need is a gang jersey ..." I was like, "What!" [Laughs] Uh uh, I've got to get that nigga over here, dog. I only want the hardest niggas on my team, you feel me? With Travis bein' the true businessman that he is, we got Lynch up out of all his shit. I was on the K.O.D. Tour with Slaughterhouse and Glasses Malone. Lynch was here recording his album, so I missed the whole recording. Dinner & Movie, he sent me ["Don't Worry Momma, It's Just Bleeding"], and I had no idea what I was in for when I got home. I got home, Travis gave me the album and said, "Listen, Lynch don't want nobody to have this. Not even us." [Laughs] I popped that mothafucka in, I couldn't believe it. It's so innovative and everything, the styles, the subject matter [with songs like] "Sit In That Corner Bitch" and "Colostomy Bag" [recites verses]. Hardcore, the whole album. It feels so good that I can have somebody that really influenced me back in the day to really push for everything lyrically.
I can't wait to hear what Mandible Lector is gonna sound like, and what The Coat Hanger Strangler is gonna sound like. Those are the two that he's gonna do with us. I'm psyched, 'caused I have no idea what I'm gonna say next. All 6's & 7's is gonna be my new solo. I have no idea what to say until I sit down with the beat tells me exactly what to say.
I write my life how it is and how it stands. I did K.O.D. It was dark 'cause my mom was sick. My mom's better, mothafucka, I can't do the God damned Gates Mixed Plate. My fans talk shit on motherfuckin' Siccness.net, "Aw, Tech, he's lost it. This is the worst album he's ever done. Oh my God, he ain't even got nothin' to talk about but food and pussy." You mothafuckas! I actually gave you that hard-ass album, K.O.D., and you sucked my dick - and that's wonderful, 'cause I love my dick sucked.
DX: Who doesn't.
Tech N9ne: I can say that to my fans. Suck my dick for K.O.D. Thank you, 'cause I gave you my heart; I'm 'posed to have my dick sucked. So when I get lighter and brighter these mothafuckas are mad at me. "Oh, the beats are horrible." Then I gotta calm down. I'm 38. My fan-base is getting younger and younger, and they don't know who Roger Troutman is. So when I do an ode to Roger Troutman and I do a rap on top of called "O.G." [and they criticize me and call it] G-Funk, I gotta say that they don't really know. They don't know what we know. So I gotta suck that up. Some people want to hear "Caribou Lou." Some people don't, they want to hear "Riot Maker." Some people want to hear "I Need More Angels," some people want to hear "Can't Shake It," some people want to hear "Like Yeah," some people want to hear "Sex Out South." The reason I have this problem is because I am three-dimensional. All my fans are different types of fans: kottonmouth kings and queens, juggalos and juggalettes, thug niggas, Metal heads - all these mothafuckas are under one roof. That's what I did myself: I turned myself into a mothafucka that did more than one thing. If I did one thing, they'd all agree, all the time. So it's a beautiful thing where I'm at. We're elevating.
All this growing, from this bum nigga. All he did was write his life and tryin' to put it out in a wonderful style. I'm still that guy. I can't go to the movies anymore because people are passing me things to sign during the movie, and reciting my rhymes behind me. I'm seeing all this happenin', and hearin' Wayne say my name, here comes another wave.