INTERVIEW: A Moment with Tech N9ne
At 7 in the morning on the 17th August 2018, a 15-year-old me came back to life with excitement and absolute joy when I had the honour and opportunity to talk with and interview the legendary indie rap god Tech N9ne, ahead of his upcoming tour. Being a long-time fan, I admit I jumped when I heard his voice through the phone, but I kept calm and began my discussion with the one and only ‘Teccha Ninna’!
Tech N9ne: Yatzi!
A classic Tech N9ne entrance.
After getting over my star-struck mindset and telling him about how my friends and I constantly bumped his music in high school, we finally got to the questions:
Straight up, who are your top 5 dead or alive?
TN: Tech N9ne, Tech N9ne, Tech N9ne, Tech N9ne, Tech N9ne hahah — nah I’m just joking! That’s hard for me, as I love so many types of music. Of course, everyone’s gonna have Tupac and Biggie, but Eminem would be number three... These are hard to do!
You know, number five has to be me right, but number four’s gotta be Nas. I’m also a different age bracket you know; there’s a good chance I’ll say Tupac ‘cause I even did a song with him. I also went to a Biggie show and I was around when he released ‘Juicy’. Honourable mentions would go to Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, Pharoahe Monche, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and of course Big L.
What would be your most memorable collab so far throughout your entire career?
TN: In my whole career, I would say the late great Roger Troutman — the guy who sang the 'California, knows how to party' way back in Tupac's’ ‘California Love’. Before Tupac back when I was a kid, Zapp and Roger were what I was bumping! The next would be working with Roger Troutman on my first major album Anghellic on a song called ‘Twisted’. In Kansas City, we got together in a dirty studio.
We talked about Tupac way before 'California Love', but he died shortly after our collab. We had many, many plans for more music, but sadly Roger passed, but he has music waaay back. Of course, honourable mentions go to Eminem, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Korn, The Deftones, Stokely Williams, Floetry — I’m all over the board, you know!
A more personal question on my end! One of the first times I ever heard you was on Lil Wayne’s ‘The Carter IV’ and your verse absolutely blew my mind. What I’d like to know about is the process of getting in the studio with Wayne and Andre 3000. What was that like?
(These next moments are precious to me.)
TN: 'Hearts what it is, watch what the kid drops!’ Yeah yeah, I remember that!
(I proceeded to rap along with Tech for a portion of that verse. My life is complete.)
TN: I was in the studio with Wayne, he told me to come down to Miami, Florida and I wrote the whole verse in that studio and recorded it in the studio. Wayne was out of the room then, but when he came in and heard it he was like 'HELL YEAH’! I had no idea he was gonna put Andre 3000 on it, so he surprised me.
Wayne also surprised me when he came to Kansas City and he came straight to Strange Music HQ after a show. He showed me the full track with Andre on it and I almost fainted, dude! I had no idea he was gonna put Andre 3000, but I feared not! I feared not lyrically.
Before your distinct fast rap sound, who did you pull your influence from?
TN: I wanted to be Ice Cube. Ice Cube and Chuck D. I wanted the gangsterness of Ice Cube and the consciousness of Chuck D.
Do you think it's still relevant to the music you’re putting out now?
TN: No. As a young man I developed my own after wanting to be like Ice Cube. In fact, the second song I ever wrote I was me trying to sound like Ice Cube.
Here, Tech raps the second song he ever wrote, unfindable anywhere else. Trust me, I tried finding it. Nada.
What was it like working with The Doors for 'Strange 2013'?
TN: That was dream come true man, because there’s nothing written in blood that comes close to you working with the people that inspired you to call your label Strange Music. If I weren’t a Doors fan there would be no Strange Music. It would be something like Psycho Records or Nutbag Records.
Was there a generational gap between the two of you? Seeing as your music is much more current compared their music.
TN: Yes, definitely. I only found out about Jim Morrison way later in my life when I was living with my DJ partner Icy Rock in my early teens, listening to all their songs with him. Then after connecting to the music, the band kept getting bigger and bigger socially. Now I thank them for all this inspiration.
Later on in life, I managed to work with the remaining members and create a song from scratch. I was originally hoping to jump on ‘Spanish Caravan’ but then Robby Krieger said, ‘Let’s just do Strange Days’. I was ready with something else. I had to scrap everything I had prepared months ago and just write on the spot. I remember being in the booth and it felt like I was where Jim Morrison was supposed to be. Blessed.
Onto something else more specific to your rap style — I heard that you take some of your style from jazz scat rhythms. Is this something you do often?
TN: That’s what Quincy Jones said, I reminded him of a jazz musician!
Have you ever done that type of thing before and try to pull inspiration from other kinds of music?
TN: All the time man, that’s why I have songs with The Doors! That’s why I have songs with Korn, that’s why I have songs with Slipknot, along with Five Finger Death Punch, Mint Condition, Boyz II Men and even gospel. I pull from everything that I see and hear, except other rappers.
Now for your recent album, ’Planet’, was there anything you would like to say about it for the public to be able to gauge and understand?
TN: Yeah man, I think the fans already know — but for the people that don’t know, I left this planet. There's a lot of hatred going on, a lot of separation going on, and not enough love and togetherness. So I left this planet to build my own with all that love and togetherness that we were lacking on earth. I came back with massive music.
Now I had a question from a friend of mine, him being an even bigger Tech N9ne fan than me. What was a song that you wrote that you were most proud of?
TN: Now you’re asking a guy that has been in the business for 33 years! I don’t even know man, hahaha! But lemme see. I mean, I have songs with Tupac, Ice Cube, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, E-40 like what?! Like I don’t know man! Maybe I haven’t done yet.
Lastly, what would be your number one piece of advice for an up-and-coming rapper in the industry?
TN: My number one piece of advice? Be good. That’s what I tell people out here. Be good.
Through all the bullshit out there, be good, have a rhythm idea and musical idea before you do music. If you asked me ‘How would I get on Strange Music, Tech?’, I would say to be good.
‘That’s it?’ That’s a lot!’
And like that, he was out.