While artists like DMX have wrestled with their demons on record, Tech N9ne [click to read] has chosen to embrace his. K.O.D., an acronym for King of Darkness, the Kansas City rapper’s latest offering. A three-part album that attempts to capture the darkness that creatively consumes Tech. He spends 23 tracks of records and skits painting a picture filled with demoniac presence’s, questions of God, anger, madness, lust, the supernatural and the diminishing health of his beloved mother. It’s dark and at times eerie but it’s honest and his lyrical abilities are still top notch.
The album opens with an absolutely brilliant track in “Show Me a God.” In the song, he wrestles with his mother’s failing health and his own fame. The drumline style percussion and horn hits bring energy that Tech matches. It’s easy to get caught up in the title of the track but really, Tech N9ne tackles an issue that we all have faced in some way. Three 6 Mafia [click to read] makes an appearance on the next track, and sound more like the Three 6 of 10 years ago, rather than the radio-friendly group they have become as of late. It’s a dark track, but nowhere near the eerie “Blackened the Sun” which follows. From the beat to the chorus, and the lyrics, Tech shines. It’s reminiscent of early Tech N9ne, appeasing any die-hard fan.
The middle of the album suffers a bit from bland subject matter, so-so hooks, and average beats. “In the Trunk” feels out of place on K.O.D. while “Pinocchio” showcases Tech altering his voice and telling a story that is eerily similar to a hungry Big Lurch. Both are easily tracks that could and should have been cut from the 23 that made the album. It’s really a similar complaint that many fans and critics threw Tech’s way when he released Killer [click to read]. Simply put, he could have trimmed-the-fat and instantly increased the overall quality of the album.
The production of the album fits the overall mood and theme of K.O.D. There are clearly efforts that are so-so, but one of Tech N9ne’s strong points as an artist is his voice’s ability to become another instrument on a track. At times it is difficult to separate the production from Tech and that is a testament to his artistry. Big guitars make an appearance in “Low” creating one of the albums highlights. Meanwhile, the single, “Leave Me Alone” sounds like it could be played on your radio station, as it just happens to be one of the better tracks on the album. The flow is evident and unquestionable throughout the project. The guest appearances at times struggle to keep pace with Tech’s rapid-fire delivery and assort of dope verses. Freddie Foxxx [click to read] makes an always welcomed appearance, while Prozac and King Gordy drop two of the better verses of the album on “Horns.”
Tech N9ne is as technical as any emcee alive is. He can do anything he wants with his flow, voice and lyrics. On “B-Boy” he absolutely murders the beat by using every B word known to man. Only Crooked I [click to read] may rival his ability to use alliteration in a verse. That technical ability never prohibits the emotional quality of his voice and music to shine through. It’s mesmerizing to listen to him switch his flow up several times within a verse all the while relaying a deeply personal message. Maybe in an emcee’s hierarchy of needs the self-actualization stage is when he is supremely confident and can push his crafts limit without sacrificing his content. Sure, it may not bring groves of new fans, but after selling a million units during his independent career, few can doubt that Tech N9ne cares.
K.O.D. is a very ambitious project that is geared solely to Tech’s faithful audience. It is filled with many well-constructed contradictions where Tech N9ne is playing puppet master and pulling strings of controversy. Each listen deepens the complexity of the album. It’s definitely an effort that is worthy of praise and it may be Tech N9ne’s best offering to the public yet. With that said, the album has its share of flaws. The intensity at times suffocates the more light-hearted moments. While the skits, for the most part, are a waste of compact disc space. Maybe those lighthearted moments and skits are just who Tech N9ne is but unfortunately that doesn’t translate to pure perfection on K.O.D.