Over the course of 13 albums, Tech N9ne has pretty much experienced every high and low a rapper can encounter. He’s been the wide-eyed new artist, soaking up sage advice from the likes of Quincy Jones. He’s watched his health and familial relationships deteriorate while temporarily immersed in the stereotypical Rap life of drugs, women and all the associated trappings. And—in more recent times—he’s bounced back as the record industry’s business model has evolved. Tech has sold over one million albums independently and gained some of the mainstream recognition he once rapped about on songs like “Why You Ain’t Call Me?” As he catches what appears to be his commercial and critical second wind, what else is there for Tech N9ne?
“Because the album is called Something Else, I knew I had to take something out of that vault that might spark the wires…might spark some people in my past,” Tech N9ne explained during a lengthy phone conversation days before the release of his latest album. When those vaults opened, Tech revealed his seventh grade teacher molested him. And just like that, any Rap-related problems seem small by comparison.
The sexual assault doesn’t define Tech any more or less than the day-to-day issues of running a successful, independent label. But when he talks of “this thing I won’t keep running from” and his “Evil Brain Angel Heart,” it’s not mere hyperbole. Maybe these are the sixes and sevens Tech N9ne speaks of—the numbers inked on his body to convey his being “in a state of confusion and disarray.” In a tangential sense, you can add up a six and a seven for a grand total of 13. Having wrapped up his thirteenth release, it’s clear there’s a long way to go as Tech N9ne reconciles his different, warring internal agendas.
How The Doors Shaped Tech N9ne’s Musical Tastes
HipHopDX: What does it mean to you that one of the last songs Ray Manzarek may have recorded was with Tech N9ne and Fredwreck?
Tech N9ne: It doesn’t make me feel good, because it means we can’t record another one. But I’m glad I got the chance to work with the genius, and I wish he could still be here so we could still do more. I wanted to do “Spanish Caravan,” “People Are Strange,” and I wanted to do some original shit. They say that [our collaboration] was the last thing he did, so that means it was meant for me to do it with him. When he was with me, he was perfect—high spirited everything, jumping up and down, drinking Pinot Noir with me and everything. It makes me feel like damn, I wish he wasn’t gone so we could still be working. That’s how I feel.
DX: That’s understandable. Last time we talked to you about the black audience’s perception of Rock. Explain and the role Ray and The Doors played in your formative years while you were forming your musical palette. How important is it to be able to experiment with different genres during your early years?
Tech N9ne: It’s totally important, because it means I can reach more people. I’m not just in a box with one thing I do. There’s Rock ‘N’ Roll, Hip Hop, Jazz, Blues, Trip Hop, Salsa, Rat Pack music…there’s everything. I thank my parents for that, along with my uncles, my aunties and my mom. They raised me and showed me rhythm, along with different things like Gospel music, harmonies…everything. You can hear all that in my music. My uncles were making it where it just wasn’t Gospel, R&B, and Rap all the time in the house.
I think it’s very important growing up, being involved, being eclectic, or whatever you want to call it, because you can talk to so many different people. That’s where education comes into it. If my teachers would’ve gave me French and Spanish classes, German class—I would have been even more treacherous. I stole books; I stole information. I stole psychology books since they wouldn’t give me the classes. I think just having information period, whether it’s from music or it be from books, it’s mandatory growing up to have as much information you can, because you can talk to so many more people. I talk to a lot of people with the education I have. It could have been so much greater with so much more information.
Tech N9ne On Balancing Business & His Personal Life
DX: That’s real. I want you to break down your line, “I was fucking it and then the music became my wife.”
Tech N9ne: Yeah man, I was just fucking around in the beginning when I was young. I was fucking around rapping, doing it to show out for chicks. Then as I got older, and people started paying attention to me, I married my fans…married my music. That how I lost my wife and my family. But my family still loves me. I still get to see them; I saw them last week in LA. I was just fucking around in the beginning, but then I married it. That’s what I do 24/7.
DX: Aside from just being an artist 24/7, you’re an executive at Strange Music. How do you balance what you want to do as an artist with what you need to do as a businessman?
Tech N9ne: Luckily, I have a shrewd business partner named Travis O’Guin who handles a lot of it. It’s overwhelming when I go into the office and see everything we got from the lawyers. He sees everything we’re going through with Caribou Coffee trying to say I can’t use “Caribou Lou.” They don’t own the word Caribou. It’s a fucking animal. The thing I have with MFC—the five items I have over there that I never got paid for. And that’s why [on “Fortune Force Field”] I say, “MFC look what you’ve done to me / Took the first five I’ve done from me…” Those are CDs and DVDs I had over there that I never got paid for. Motherfuckers stop your fortune, so it’s hard to balance the business with me being Tech N9ne on the road all the time, over 250 shows a year. When I get home, I’ve got to go the office and get hit with everything at once. A lot of the shit is good, and a lot of the shit is bad…when the IRS is coming down on you, and you have to do this or that. Luckily, I have the brain capacity to put it together and fix it, and Travis is right there to help me.
DX: You were one of the only artists we’ve talked to at who has been honest about some of this stuff like dealing with the IRS, because a lot of people don’t like to even address the subject.
Tech N9ne: Everybody is like, “I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m rich.” I don’t have to say that, because you already know from the numbers. I’m not going to say all that if I’m in trouble, because I write my life. If I’m in trouble, then I’m going to say I’m in trouble. I did some ignorant things in the past when I got married early. It didn’t work right, and now I’m paying everything back from 2002 up to now. And I did it in a couple months…almost a million dollars.
Tech N9ne Reveals Being Sexually Assaulted On “I Am Not A Saint”
DX: Back at “Paid Dues” you told us you could only let people in to a certain extent. What allowed you to be so open with listeners on “I Am Not A Saint” and share the fact that your seventh grade teacher sexually assaulted you?
Tech N9ne: There is a part in your brain where you store things that you don’t want to let loose, because it can hurt everybody around you. Because the album is called Something Else, I knew I had to take something out of that vault that might spark the wires…might spark some people in my past. It’s the type of stuff like, “I knew he was fucking with that midget [laughs]!” And that’s what my wife hit me with just the other day in Kansas City. I said, “Naw, you thinking of a different bitch.” Songs like that, I knew I had to go into that vault and pull out a couple of things. The thing with my seventh grade teacher, I can’t say the name because that’s against the law. So yeah, I dug into that place where I keep everything that can hurt people around me. I took a couple things out for “I’m Not A Saint.” They get worse, believe it or not.
DX: Damn. That’s one side of it, but there is also the fact that people who going through similar things can say, “Well if Tech N9ne went through it, I can get through this experience too.” What do you think about that?
Tech N9ne: Well when they see someone they look at on a pedestal going through the same thing, that’s where we connect. It will make them more comfortable coming out and saying, “That happened to me too.” So I’m sure I’m going to hear that after this album. People are going to say, “Man that happened to me too…this happened to me too.” I feel like something is trying to hold me back too from my fortune. There is always roadblocks, and that’s why I do what I do. Quincy Jones taught me that’s how you connect to people. Rap what you know not what you think someone else is doing. Do you. That means so much…just those little words. Do you means the world. I think it’s important for people to let loose and let their demons out, because if you keep them in it will drive you crazy. I’ve seen it happen with my mother.
Tech N9ne’s Approach To Working With New Artists
DX: The song “Why You Ain’t Call Me” feels like a lifetime ago.
Tech N9ne: [Laughs] Yeah, I was just talking about “Why You Ain’t Call Me” the other day. It was 2007 or 2008. It’s not like that anymore, because everybody is calling. Right now, I got to do “Why Don’t You Quit Calling Me” [laughs].
DX: Speaking on those same lines, there are always going to be younger rappers looking for the Tech N9ne stamp of approval, because people aren’t calling them. How does that process go for you when you’re evaluating a young artist?
Tech N9ne: There are so many that are calling me, and you can’t make music with everybody. But if it’s dope, I don’t care if they just started or been around a minute. If it’s dope, we’re going to do something together; that’s the criteria. People ask, “What do I got to do to do a song with Tech N9ne?” I tell them, “Be dope.” There are rappers who I have worked with in the past who still hit me and want me to be on every one of their albums. It’s hard, man. People go, “Can I get another verse?” And I rarely charge people for a verse, even though it’s intricate to write—especially people I know. People don’t charge me for a verse. I mean, not people I know [laughs]. With people I don’t know, that’s different. People pop up in a different country, saying, “We want you to do a song.” I say, “Yeah, but it’s going to cost you this.”
How The “EBAH” Concept Came To Tech N9ne In A Dream
DX: True. Looking at your album concepts, your personality traits are kind of in binary opposition. This album has the fire and water, and before that there were All 6’s and 7’s. What will it take to get all those parts to co-exist together and not in a separated, “Evil Brain, Angel Heart” kind of way?
Tech N9ne: The “Evil Brain, Angel Heart” thing has been my whole quest, and it started off with that on Anghellic. All I’m trying to say is that I’m an angel with worldly ways. Worldly is supposed to be of the demon, and lust is supposed to be with the devil. That’s because I had the teachings of Christianity. Lust is supposed to be with the devil, and I got a lot of lust. If you’re a church boy like me and Krizz Kaliko and you get out of here and start doing these women, you might be like, “Damn I’m doing the wrong thing, because the Bible told me I’m doing the wrong thing. But I like doing the wrong thing, and my heart loves. I’m a giving person.” So it’s just the fight between good and evil my whole career, and that’s what you’re going to hear. That’s what you’re going to see.
Everready starts off with hardcore Rock on “Riot Maker,” then you get down to “The Melancholy Maze,” and it’s going to confuse you. There is always levels to it, and it’s three-dimensional with me. It’s important, and I still have that story. This time I made hell, heaven, and purgatory as fire, water, and earth. It’s the same story, but it’s something else. The meteorite that hit over Russia inspired it, because that scared the hell out of me. I always felt like that was the way the world was going to end. The Book of Revelations talks about, going in fire—that’s the thing that’s going to blow everybody up. So I thought, “Oh shit, here we are. The meteorite is going to start seeping through this motherfucker; it’s going to be Armageddon.”
So that album theme hit me like, “Boom! I’m going to make it happen over in Kansas City right in front of my house, and this thing is going to be EBAH the picture right in the front.” I don’t know where EBAH comes from; they making that right now with a comic book cat named Rob Prior. We’re creating the world of EBAH, the inner surface on a meteorite that landed right there in Kansas City right across the street in front of my house in a big field. So of course it’s going to affect Tech N9ne, and it’s going to live through me. I know people are going to think EBAH is evil because of the fiery crown and wouldn’t give a damn about the transparent heart with wings on it. So I made the album start dark with fire, because when it hits it’s going to be fire. Once it hits, there is the burgundy mist it causes. This is my imagination at work, because I’m a moviegoer…a movie buff or whatever you want to call it. I’m made of burgundy mist that’s taking over our city. Throughout the album it gets calm with water.
With all the songs about fire like “I’m Not A Saint,” “Fortune Force Field” and all that kind of stuff, like “With The Bullshit.” That’s where I’m tripping, because everything isn’t right, and that’s just of my darker stuff up there. Even “Priorities” with Game and Angel Davenport, we just talk about street life and shit like that. That’s why we say, “And that's the reason why we forever minorities / Hatred for all authorities / Fucking up our priorities…”
After all that, the newscaster comes back in, and says EBAH appears to be burned on the side of the building. That’s my imagination at work again because if you recall, I had an EP come out last year called E.B.A.H. So the only lead the police had was Tech N9ne, because [EBAH] is working through me. But I didn’t do it; this has to be EBAH, and only kids can see EBAH. I get to paint that picture on the album, because I ran out of time [on the EP]. Only kids can see EBAH, but you can feel it living through me. I made EBAH divine. I made it go from fire to water, where it’s calm, where it’s dance songs like “Dwamn,” “So Dope (They Wanna)” and “See Me” with B.o.B. and Wiz Khalifa. After that, it goes to my earth level. I made earth my heavenly level, because that’s who needs that more than anything right now is Earth. With everything that is happening—Jodi Arias, Adam Lanza, James Holmes in Aurora Colorado, Ariel Castro—just everything going on…Trayvon Martin. There’s a lot of bad things, so I made the album go from bad, to better, to best with my heavenly level.
Tech N9ne Breaks Down “My Haiku—Burn The World”
DX: Youve got some strong words for The Vatican and The Catholic Church...
Tech N9ne: There is a message to the Vatican on there. On the Earth outro it says priest, monsieur, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, pope, “No more silence in the church!” No more silence in the church [with the] priest touching little kids and shit. I don’t like people who pose as angels and are nothing but demons. They’re talking about they are celibate, but they’re touching little boys and shit. I call myself an angel, a worldly angel, but these motherfuckers are demons doing what they do. And the Vatican is keeping it a secret by just moving them from wherever they did it to another place overseas when they can do it to another kid ain’t the right solution. Jail, motherfucker—no more silence in the church!
Then after that, I do this thing, this is my haiku at the Vatican—still at the church. I say, “The sick pedophile / Touchin’ beautiful kiddies / Really gonna die…” I dreamt that haiku, and I knew it had to be five, seven, and five [syllables]. I dreamt it. I woke up, and I put it in my recorder when I was still half sleepy. I knew it had to be five syllables, seven syllables, then five more syllables. And those are good ones. I meant it, because a little, four-year-old fan in Kansas City got raped by a 28-year-old dude. This little girl was a big fan of Tech N9ne, and she had been to my shows and everything. That’s why I connected “Burn The World,” to it. It’s not burn as in destroy it.
[Begins rhyming], “If there was a lighter in everyone’s hand / The world would seem brighter / The sky would be fire / Raise our hands and burn the world…” So let’s shine the light on dark places where motherfuckers do bad things, and maybe this shit won’t happen. I said the thing about Bob Marley, “How do I light up the darkness Mr. Bob Marley?” This is my attempt right here; I’m trying. The music gets more and more beautiful. Then it goes into “That’s My Kid.” We’re talking about him going into music instead of gangbanging. I see him graduate, and then he goes to Belize and all this other shit. It gets to a really heavenly level, and that’s the end of the album.
It says, if this burgundy mist is resulting in all these good things happening like the test scores are going up and the crime rates are going down—if this is the result of the burgundy mist—then we want it to spread everywhere, for all mankind, for a better place to live. I made that image of EBAH, where I know everyone is going to say, “I knew he was a devil worshipper,” I made it divine on my album. This is my imagination mixed with reality. This is how I want the world to be for real. It’s my wish, a big wish. But as long as there is poverty, there is going to be pain. There is going to be crime as long as there is poverty. There is always going to be a black market, and ain’t no way we’re getting rid of it. Maybe we’ll start giving people jobs…we’ll see.