Backstage with Tech N9ne

Tech N9ne is a hard working hip hop artist from Kansas City. Unlike other talents who cultivate their skills in an environment that offers a scene for support, Tech N9ne worked to create a livelihood for himself in a place that didn’t warrant such a career choice. Never one to quit or back down, he’s lived through some admittedly down and dirty times. He’s taken his own path, which has included starting a very successful independent hip hop label named Strange Music. I interviewed him backstage at Rock the Bells at Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 12th, 2009.

Jeff Schad: so how old are you?
Tech N9ne: I’ll be thirty eight November 8th.

Backstage with Tech N9ne
Backstage with Tech N9ne. Photo c. Nicole Page

JS: You’ve been going at it a long time…
Tech N9ne
: Yes man, I started in ’85, writing rhymes when I was in seventh grade. I used to be a dancer before all that, um, know what I’m sayin, like pop break dancin’, MC Hammer dancin’, whatever. If it had rhythm I was into it. From rhythm came rhyme.

JS: at what point did you feel “okay, I’m gonna do this with my life, as a career?”
Tech N9ne: I didn’t start doin it professionally until 1990 when I met DJ Icy Rock in Kansas City. So I been doin it professionally since 1990, you know…

JS: That’s a long time. Is it hard to stay in the game that long?
Tech N9ne: totally man, ’cause when you’re coming from Kansas City, MO, like us, where opportunity is none when it comes to music.

JS: I was gonna ask about [the KC music scene]…
Tech N9ne: Yeah, ya gotta build your own. That’s how we came up with Strange Music, our label. That’s the name, Strange Music (Tech N9ne points to his medallion. A large collosus of diamonds in the rounded shape of an

Showing the SM bling
Showing the SM bling. Photo c. Nicole Page

interlocked S and M). And for it to turn into the number one independent label in the World, it’s like “huh”? You know, we just sold a million albums collectively. And that’s without video and radio. So a lot of people at [Rock the Bells], they just don’t know who I am. So they’re just lookin at me like what the phhh is that? And by the end of the set their all clapping. And that’s why this tour is wonderful. I don’t expect them to be falling to their knees like my fans do, like “oh my god, it’s that guy!”. But I want to turn them all on, so when I come back they’ll be ready to ready to come back and [go crazy].

JS: It sounds like you’ve tried and succeeded at growing a more organic audience, and people that really love and follow you. They hear you first hand, and that’s how it starts, rather than being just a craze from the radio.
Tech N9ne: It’s longevity, man. It’s actually building something grassroots. And we don’t have the hit on the radio just yet, but if and when…

JS: Is that what you want, or…?
Tech N9ne: What I want is for the whole World to know my story.

JS: Which is?
Tech N9ne: My story, if I had to sum it up? Tech N9ne is the perfect example of what not to do, you know what I’m sayin? When it comes to livin’ life. Losing your wife ’cause your [messin] with strippers. Takin’ fifteen pills in one night
and almost dying.

JS: So these are things you can and do face up to?
Tech N9ne: Totally man. I’m totally inside out and that’s what makes me unique. Because [there’s] no fabrication, no smoke and mirrors. It’s just me. If I’m feeling sad on the inside and wanna cry but can’t, I’ll talk about that. A lot of MC’s won’t, because it ain’t quote unquote hard. I don’t give a [expletive] about that. I give a [expletive] about opening all the way up. This is how I release.

JS: So you put your soul all the way in, and you want fans to see that and recognize that?
Tech N9ne: Yeah, I would love the World to see that. And if radio and video can help, then I would love that. But I guess I’m too weird for the radio or video? Ya know, I don’t fit in with a lot of their programs. But you can see me on tour with hip hop artists, on the same stage with Taleb Kwale and NAS…

JS: How does that feel?
Tech N9ne: It’s a wonderful thing, ya know what I’m sayin? Super Nat and KRS-One with all their lyrics. And they want me on the tour. So that means that they’re acknolwedging that “he’s crazy, but he has lyrics.” You can also catch me on tour with HED PE, you may hear me on a song with Slipknot. I fit in everywhere.

JS: How do you merge those types of projects and your interests? Are those things where they approach you, or do you go after it.
Tech N9ne: I chase it. I’m chasin Cory taylro right now, we’ve gone back and forth, that he would love to do it, but he’s been overseas. So I’m like, send it to me, you know? I love that kind of music, so I go for [working with] people I respect. System of a Down, Serge (Tankian) I would love to get something goin with him. I’ve been waiting for a long time, man.

JS: How do you get connected with these people?
Tech N9ne: Well my star is beginning to shine brighter. And people have taken notice. So on calls, people will be like, okay I know who you are now. I just read your shit in Billboard (Magazine). Oh! you’re the independent guy on Pollstar, makes all this money from touring. It’s JayZ then it’s Kanye then its you. Yeah, our story is becoming a bigger thing now, so it’s becoming a lot easier. As far as Cory Taylor, not so much, I’ve been in cahoots with them for a while

JS: So it’s kind of a natural thing?
Tech N9ne: Yeah…

JS: Is the Serge project going to happen soon, or you don’t know?
Tech N9ne: More likely Cory Taylor. We haven’t connected with anybody with Serge yet.

JS: So what’s next for you? You have an album coming out in the fall, right?
Tech N9ne: Yes yes, its called KOD. Out October 27th. I’d tell you what it stood for but its a secret thing.

JS: Anybody guessed it?
Tech N9ne: Yeah, a couple people have but they don’t know because we haven’t started the contest yet. Until the actual contest [guess what KOD stand for] is under way. First person to guess it once the contest starts, we’ll fly ’em out to a show, get ’em backstage with me and onstage during the show. Eat, drink and boom, see ya. Just a good time.

JS: I appreciate the time, and much luck to you.
Tech N9ne: Thank you for havin me brother. Now I’m gonna go get a drink…

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