The name Tech N9ne is synonymous not only with hip hop, but with independent music in and of itself. Fiercely and stubbornly independent throughout his entire career, both as an artist and as co owner and operator of his genre bending record label Strange Music, Tech has been testing and bending the boundaries of hip hop for years, collaborating with everyone from Slipknot to The Doors to Kendrick Lamar and Eminem. This past May Tech released his 15th studio album Special Effects to rave reviews and has already named his follow up album for 2016, as well as a Strange Music collaboration project called Strangulation II. We talked to Tech about Special Effects and all manner of strange and beautiful music.
Special Effects is a huge album in a lot of ways: production, conception, ideas, collaboration. Did you approach this project with these ideas fully formed, or did you build on them in the studio?
Tech N9ne: I knew I wanted to do a song with Eminem for over a decade, I knew I wanted to do a song with Corey Taylor from Slipknot for over a decade. I go into every album knowing who I want to work with as soon as I hear the beats. So as soon as we came up with ‘Speedom’, I knew that this is the one I’ma send to Eminem. Soon as I heard ‘Hood Go Crazy’ I knew I was going to get 2 Chainz on it, you know what I’m sizzlin’? So the beats tell me exactly what to do. All I know going in to the album is that it has to be bigger than the last. So just imagine how big the storm has to be to beat Special Effects. How you gonna beat ‘Aw Yeah?’, how you gonna beat ‘Speedom’ with Eminem? We just gotta push harder. And this is a very massive album. It represents no barriers, no genre restrictions. I love it.
Absolutely. And it all flows really well. Listening to the album as a whole, it feels almost like watching a movie. It’s hard to pull a track out of sequence.
Tech N9ne: Totally man. I put it together that way so it does feel comfortable when you’re listening. The transitions have to be perfect. I mean think about it man, ‘Hood Go Crazy’ is right after ‘Wither’, you know? So you have to think about something that will connect the two, which is this phone call. And then you hear me say ‘why can’t I be the epicentre for all types of music’ and this metal track comes on, you know? That’s how my brain works man, no barriers. It’s beautiful.
Yeah. And you’re a very inspirational artist in that you’ve created this empire of music, your music and the music on your label, on your own terms. How do you get to where you’re at without having to sell your soul to the majors?
Tech N9ne: (laughs) I don’t even know how to sell a soul. I don’t even know how it got into me. They say it’s God, but I don’t know how to sell it. But I guess people call it selling out for money, doing something you wouldn’t regularly do for money. And that’s something I’ve never believed in. We ain’t kissing no motherf*cking ass to be accepted. But I think how you get to this point of being respected by your peers in Hip Hop, Metal, R&B, is actually being good at it and having people agree. Because everybody thinks they’re good, but people have to agree with it. And after so many years of banging people over the head with elite music and flow, people are going to listen. And that’s a hard task, especially with someone that looks and sounds as weird as I do.
I have to ask about ‘Speedom’, because when I first heard the track, my jaw was on the floor. Every verse on this song is crazy, but Eminem’s is some of the fastest rapping I’ve ever heard. Were you in the booth when he spit that?
Tech N9ne: No, we’re two very busy men, you know, so he recorded it at his studio and sent it over to me completely mastered. And when I heard it, my jaw was on the floor (laughs). I don’t no how he did it, but whatever he did, he did it well, he’s a professional. He’s the best in my opinion and to receive a verse like that and to talk to Paul Rosenberg like Travis did throughout the process, it’s a beautiful accomplishment. To have the best rapper say ‘I’ve been listening to you a long time, I’ve always appreciated what you’ve done’, that’s crazy to hear from Eminem dog, you know? Like that’s the accolade in hip hop where people say ‘oh, Eminem gave Tech N9ne the thumbs up? Ok, he must be the jiggty jam.’ And then to have Corey Taylor from Slipknot give the thumbs up, in metal. On the last album The Doors gave the thumbs up. Whoa. Just imagine how big my head is, but I don’t act that way (laughs). It’s beautiful man.
Well it’s well earned. Even on ‘Speedom’, it’s not like Eminem’s part is the only good part, the whole track is good, every verse.
Tech N9ne: Yeah man. That was three hardcore emcee’s doing their thing and to be able to hold your own with Eminem and have people say they love your verse too, that’s beautiful. We’re hardcore, what we do.
Tech N9ne: Right when I heard ‘Speedom’ I knew this is the one I’m gonna send Em. After me and Krizz dropped our verses, Travis sent Paul Rosenberg the track and said this is the one we want Em on, we want 16 bars and when Paul sent it back, it had 24. He loved it that much, you know? I mean, shit, go ahead bro, rap for 30 more minutes, we don’t give a damn (laughs).
But I always send out my verse with the track to motivate whoever will be on it, to motivate them to do the best they can do. That’s what our music does and I’m proud of that.
Your first album Calm Before the Storm is considered a classic now. At the time it was favorably compared to 2pac and the west coast sound. Special Effects doesn’t sound like much else out there, except for Tech N9ne. Who are some of the artists influencing you today?
Tech N9ne: Tech N9ne. I listen to Tech N9ne so much. Old Tech N9ne, new Tech N9ne, like it’s not me because I have to battle that guy every time I do a record. And that’s hard to do, I don’t like that task, but it has to be done, it makes me better. But the stuff I buy? I’m a big fan of Citizen Cope, I’m a big fan of System of a Down and Slipknot, I’m a big fan of Outkast, Jay-Z and Kanye. Eminem. Alabama Shakes. These are the albums I buy, I love good music. Lana Del Rey. I pay attention to beautiful music and it inspires me to want to do beautiful music, you know what I’m saying? No boundaries.
I want to talk about your label Strange Music a bit. What was your original intent for it?
Tech N9ne: The original intent was to do quality music, spread it to the people and create a melting pot at our shows. And when we set out to do this in late ’99, Travis O’Guin and I, put out our first record in 2000, to see it come to fruition after all those years, is such a beautiful thing, to see that melting pot at all of our shows, you know? The people from different walks of life: rockers, rappers, gangbangers, college kids, whatever a hipster is, cause I don’t know, but everybody. Different cultures, different religions, we wanted it all from the beginning. To bring all those people under one roof for beautiful music and that’s what’s happening. And it shows in the music in who we collaborate with, after being fans of these people for so many years. Everything I’ve been saying for years ‘Tech N9ne won’t go mainstream, mainstream will go Tech’, that’s what’s happening and that’s crazy to see, that prophecy. And that’s why I’m starting to work out again, because I cannot get fat this late in life. I need my knees, I need my ankles, so I can jump around on stage, cause we go hard up there.
Was there any specific label when you started Strange that you looked to for inspiration in how you wanted to run it?
Tech N9ne: Yeah, Travis was a big No Limit fan, with Master P and everybody. And I was a big E-40 fan. Sick wid It Records. E-40’s always been independent and still manages to stay afloat after all these years. I always wanted longevity, so I paid attention to E-40. I paid attention to Suge Knight, Def Jam. And here we are, the number one independent record label in the world thus far.
Music is in a weird place right now. It’s become so accessible and so easy to steal, that a lot of people don’t have the patience anymore to wait for a record to drop properly. They want it now, they want it for free, they want the leak weeks before the release date. How do you keep ahead of that shit, not only as an artist but as a label runner?
Tech N9ne: It’s hard when streaming services give it away nearly free, cause then the artists get paid pennies. Of course things can change, and we pray for that, because now we have to do even more music to be able to make what we were making just to fund the empire. Technology makes it easy and that’s fine, that’s what technology does, makes things easier for people, for the listener. But now you have people like Taylor Swift sending letters to Spotify saying ‘this will not stand’. And I love to see that, that movement, paying the artist what they’re worth, you know? People were wondering why Special Effects wasn’t on Spotify when we first dropped it and I was like ‘I will not get pennies for this beautiful body of work that I put all my soul into.’ So, it’s hard but no matter what path music takes, we will be there, Strange Music will be there.
If a kid comes up to you at a show and wants to get into the business, what’s your advice: go indie, or go major?
Tech N9ne: hatever suits you better. If you don’t want to do the work yourself and lose money and have to put money in, don’t do it independent, if you don’t have the balls for it. Good thing we did cause the reward is greater later. But if major is what you set out for, do that. I would prefer doing it yourself because nobody can tell you what and what not to do. But I would say that whatever route you take, do really good music. Take your time with it and pay attention to the fans because if they love it, it will last forever and it will inspire somebody to do something even greater and we cankeep this thing called hip hop moving in every direction, instead of one direction, you know? Just like Strange Music.
Tech N9ne has a ton of stuff happening! Currently he is on tour across Canada and the USA until the end of the year. So be sure to grab your tickets. Details and to keep up to date online at:
Also just recently announced is Tech N9n’s upcoming album ‘Strangeulation, Vol. II (Deluxe Edition)’ Out November 20th, 2015. and is now up on iTunes for pre-order.
If you love Tech N9ne then also visit his label Strange Music to listen to more talented artists: