Tech N9ne Talks Performing in Afghanistan, Eminem, Suicide
In a banner year, which saw Tech N9ne‘s star soar, thanks to a career-making co-sign by Lil Wayne and collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Yelawolf, T-Pain and Andre 3000, you would think that the father of three might take a break. However, Tech’s the indie King of Darkness, and there’s no rest for the self-employed wicked. In 2011, the Kansas City, Mo. underground kingpin’s non-stop tour schedule doubled, impossibly, as he followed up his unprecedented 82-city headlining run with his current 42-date trek, gearing up to release his second album of the year, ‘Welcome to Strangeland,’ which hits shelves on his 40th birthday, Nov. 8th.
The BoomBox sat down with Tech in a very far-from-evil location off the Hollywood strip to talk about achieving stardom at the age of 40, visiting injured veterans at Camp Pendleton, suicide, working with Eminem and his dark inspirations.
What was your experience like at Camp Pendleton?
Well, I recorded the song ‘The Noose’ because it reminded me of how good we have it. People with their limbs missing, f—ed up. Something man created. It f—ed me up seeing these young guys really loving my music, but no longer can they touch their girlfriend with their hand, it’s just a big ball of skin with no fingers. I never seen no s— like that before. I seen missing legs before, but this is young dudes 23, 22. We are spoiled f—ing brats dude. Don’t get me wrong, what we do has been hard for us, but we’re getting where we’re going. Even being in a war zone with crips and bloods — yeah, we been in war zones but goddamn, we ain’t got no limbs blown off. Thank God. Camp Pendleton made me think, they out there fighting for our freedom, man. And, because I did the song [‘The Noose’] so well, from Dec. 11-17, I’m a be in Afghanistan. Performin’ for the troops, four shows. I’m goin’.
Wow. But on ‘The Noose,’ you say you’re “hanging up the noose.” That seems like you’re putting it away.
I’m hanging it up because I know that man is self-destructive. I know of it. I wanna be the one to do it myself, because I don’t want my fate to be in another man’s hands, you feel me? So they hit me with, “So, you gonna die by suicide?” I’m like “No!” I don’t believe in that stuff, if you follow the Bible, you don’t. But I understand the mind state. I know these motherf—ers are self-destructive and everybody’s fighting over money, and we’re probably gonna have another terrorist attack and it is going to be f—in’ catastrophic. So “I’m hanging up the noose now, waiting for the end” because man is f—ed up. It makes sense to me.
In the past, people thought your music was suicidal or that you might die young, due to drugs.
They did, they did.
So to do this song, late in your career, when you’re clean…
Exactly. So, this is a different mind state. This is not suicide because of my career. This is not suicide because I miss my children, or I don’t have the means to do what I want to do for ’em. No, I have all that. This is like, “Man is gonna f—in’ blow this place up, and I wanna be in control of my destiny.”
And for your fans, it didn’t really hit me until I saw your show, that this is a room full of people — however they feel normally — that come together and they fit in.
It’s a strange land. They fit in. Krizz [Kaliko] had vitiligo since he was a younger. It’s a skin disease. When I first met him I was like, “Don’t cover that s— up. That’s you. Live that. There’s people out there like you, that don’t want to come outside because they don’t look like everybody else. You poppin’ off will make them feel proud. That’s you, whatever it is.”Motherf—ers call that a defect, I call that intriguing. Individuality, you feel me?
How do you get to the point where you’re thinking like that?
Nnutthowze was a group I was in back when I was like 18, 19 maybe. It was DJ Icy Rock, my deceased friend Brian Dennis, the mastermind behind it, and a host of other cats. The Nnutthowze was after I came here in ’93, and got a major deal with Perspective Records, with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. It went sour, so I came back home after it didn’t work. We were down an’ out. They was like, “Man, your name is Tech N9ne. They don’t like it. They want you to change it.” Our thing in Nnutthowze was like, we’d wear our hair any way, we’d wear scrubs and s—. Not tryna be beautiful, just express ourselves and not givin’ a f— what people think about us. That’s what bled over to Tech N9ne, you know what I’m sizzlin’? We still wear the scrubs in honor of Nnutthowze and Brian Dennis, and Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun don’t mind wearin’ it with me even though they wasn’t part of it back then. They know it stands for somethin’ beautiful, like, “F— the world. Let’s just do us and create our own world.” And that’s why.
So what does it feel like now? Lil Wayne said “Tech N9ne is the s—.” Everyone’s talking about Tech N9ne.
Well, the beautiful thing is that Tech N9ne is gonna always stay that thing that I have. Just because Lil Wayne made it cool don’t mean that I’m a start wearin’ the small pants, or I’m gonna start doin’ the dance songs. If I came up with a dance the Technicians would do — maybe I’m a do it, I don’t know. But I haven’t found that beat yet [laughs].
When I saw you in the BET Cypher rapping with these young kids, it’s so crazy to me.
Yeah, it’s weird because, we just had E-40 on the phone, and he said, “Tech, that’s good s—, but ain’t it f—ed up that they wait ’til you 40 years old, when you been doin’ this s— the entire time.” I’m like ,”Yeah, it is crazy, it is f—ed up.” Now I’m tired, I want to relax with my children, and now the other wave is coming, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a blessing, ’cause I could be totally not relevant in this thing, ’cause people finicky. It’s a crazy thing to me, so I say, “BET, better late than never. MTV, better late than never,” you know?
How do you choose your collaborators — is it a skill thing or is it a vibe thing?
The beats! It’s all the beats. The beats say everything. The beats say, “OK, this is Eminem.” That happens every once in a while, doesn’t happen all of the time. They say, “When you gonna get Em on a song?” [and] I say, “I don’t know, whenever the beats tell me to.” I’m not tryna just get people on songs to get their fans, or get recognition or “Oh, I got a song with Eminem, now I’m there.” No, mothaf—a! It’s because of rhyme skill. If I feel like I’m right there, I’ll say, “Let’s do it, let’s collab together.” The fans just wanna hear it to see who do the best. When they hear me and Twista on something, me and Yelawolf, they wanna say who did the best. I don’t give a f— about that s—. We’re equal MCs, and it’s wonderful to hear us all on the CD, but all the fans want to know is “Oh, Tech murdered everybody.” And it is cool, but I’m not doin’ it for that. I’m doin’ it to say I got the hardest mothef—ers on my team. “We got this s—, it’s like the Dream Team, mothaf—a!” You feel me? It’s like the Dream Team, it’s Eminem, it’s Tech N9ne, it’s uh, Busta Rhymes, Chino XL, it’s Crooked I, it’s Immortal Technique, it might be … who else….
Does anything ever freak you out?
“Anxiety, it freaks me out…” [singing]
I mean an experience? Since your music comes from a dark place.
Yeah, damn. You tapped into it. Tell you what freaks me out. My own s— freaks me out. I did an album called ‘K.O.D.’ It was because of my mom’s pancreatitis. She was dyin’ from it. I was like, “F— this, I’m doin’ a whole dark album, my fans are gonna love it. ‘Cause that’s the space I’m in. I’m just gonna say s— to freak people out.” [begins singing ‘Blackened the Sun’] “It’s jet black in my brain/ ‘Cause the hatred you gave me/ Has turned me to twisted/ You don’t like this/ Suck my d—/ All the kids with the sickness/ Been waiting for this s—.” I just wanted to say s— to freak people out, but as I got into the album, all these stories turned out to be real. ‘The Martini,’ ‘Show Me a God.’ Those were all real life situations. I didn’t know that I had all that darkness.
My verse on ‘It Was An Accident,’ talkin’ about havin’ sex with this chick and she wanted me to choke her and she kept on sayin’ “Harder!” while I was doin’ it, and as I was about to climax, I didn’t notice I was pushin’ so hard on her that she stopped breathin’. Real story.
Then when I wrote ‘The Martini,’ that was about three situations with people that are real close to me. They wanted to kill their partner because of infidelity and then my best friend Brian ended up gettin’ killed in a crime of passion. My best friend, he came up with the face paint, came up with the Nnutthowze, the whole mentality, everything. I was runnin’ from these songs, I knew it was gonna take me deeper down into the hole, and when I got through, I just had this beautiful body of work, but it turned out that the majority of it, with the exception of one song was my life, and I’m like “Whoa.”
It really floored me that I had all that darkness within me. My darkness. Everybody’s darkness is different. My darkness came from my mom having pancreatitis and almost dyin’. And what I noticed was that the darkness ain’t goin’ nowhere. I should embrace it because I have the light with the dark, ‘All 6’s & 7’s,’ you always have to have the good and the bad, ‘Anghellic,’ you know what I mean? I embraced it, it’s gonna be here no matter what, because I write my life. Mom is forever sick, I’m noticin’ and my heart forever goes out to her. The one and only pure angel that I know on this planet has been tortured all her life. I ran from it, but it’s a part of me, because I have a big heart, and with a big heart comes big hurt. You feel me?