Tech N9ne Talks ‘Special Effects’ Album, Kanye West’s Inspiration, How Quincy Jones Saved His Life and Why ‘Fat Bitches’ Are Essential to a Rap Career [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
It's not often that you get to sit down with one of the best to ever do it in their respective field. And when it comes to independent hip-hop, Tech N9ne is one of the most accomplished rappers to enter the circuit. He's been building a loyal fan base since the '90s, as well as a multimillion dollar operation with his Strange Music empire, which houses the likes of fellow indie stalwarts Krizz Kaliko and Murs.
With nearly 25 years in the music business to his credit and at the height of his popularity, Tech is looking to capitalize on his visibility and rap star status with his upcoming album, Special Effects, due May 4. The LP is the rapper's most ambitious release to date. The collaboration list is heavy, but doesn't detract from his signature sound. Tracks like “Aw Yeah,” “Dyin’ Flyin’,” the 2 Chainz and B.o.B.-assisted “Hood Go Crazy" and the long-awaited Eminem collabo "Speedom"with Krizz Kaliko are what fans can expect on the effort. Tech feels a sense of immortality during this leg of his career. According to him, he's similar to Nosferatu after witnessing the rise and fall of many MCs yet he's still going strong.
We sat down with the Kansas City representative recently to talk about the new album and the conversation took a wild turn. From spirituality and ghosts to being inspired by Kanye West and Quincy Jones saving his life, Tech opened up about a myriad of topics. He even shared some insight on why women of the BBW persuasion are essential to a rapper's career. Get involved in the discussion below.
The Boombox: How will Special Effects stand apart from your previous albums and what surprises can listeners expect?
Tech N9ne: In every genre, we have the top, the best in each genre. If it's metal, we have the top metal motherf---ers. If it's rap, it's the top rappers. If it's gangstas, it's gonna be Yo Gotti, s--- like that. If it's the darkness, it's gonna be Joseph Bishara of the Conjuring and Insidious and s--- like that. It's everywhere, brother.
It's a good album, man. It's got like 24 selections, man. I think maybe 18 songs, 24 selections with the skits. We called it Special Effects because we've been doing music for two decades. And to still be on the incline this late in life, man and having all your peers in hip-hop and all your peers in metal and all your peers in EDM or whatever agree to work with you and come together on this album is a blessing.
What we're trying to show people is now, we're starting to play with the music, we're trying to experiment more with it. We're gonna call it Special Effects, we're gonna f--- with the lyrics, we're gonna f--- with the beats. We're gonna bring musicians in and play the flute. We're gonna make our own samples and make 'em sound like they're old records. We just went the extra mile.
We had a nine-piece choir on "Aw Yeah." The album starts off with a song called "Aw Yeah ["InterVENTion"]. A nine-piece choir called Art Ordain, they're on the first two songs on the album.
The album is broken down like, Sunday morning is two songs, "Oh Yeah" and "Lacrimosa," which is Latin for "lack for weeping" because my Mom just died of Lupus on June 6. So it goes from Sunday morning to Sunday evening and that's where "On the Bible" with T.I. and Zeus is, it gets gangster, it gets really dark. There's other songs on there, in the darkness. It goes all the way from Sunday back to Sunday.
So it's like a seven-day passage of going through the motions?
Yeah. On Monday and Tuesday it gets kinda party [hilariously mimics ILOVEMAKONNEN's "Tuesday"]. [Lil] Wayne is in the party section, E-40 is in the party section, Yo Gotti is in the party section, motherf---ers came through, man. The last part of the album gets a little serious with songs like "Burn It Down" and uh, "A Certain Comfort." I find a certain comfort in this darkness that people been giving me ever since this Forbes list. Your family members turn on you over petty money and because you're busy and you're in the studio and you ain't got no cash on you, they think you're holding out on 'em and wanna fight.
Listen to Tech N9ne's "Speedom (WWC 2)" Feat. Eminem & Krizz Kaliko
When you're just trying to keep the ball rolling so you can even have something to bring to the pot.
Yeah, so there's songs on there that's speaking about that. I have a certain comfort with the darkness now because it's been so relevant in my life for so long, with my mom being sick and finally passing and the people changing as you get bigger and bigger. So "A Certain Comfort" is about that. You can bring all the evil you want, I'ma make it disappear.
With my mother's light in my chest, it's nothing evil that's gonna take me away, so my force is just gonna eradicate that and make it disappear. The last part of the album is kinda serious like that. I actually have an encore song at the very end [of the album] -- track 24 -- it's an EDM song that I had with a DJ named Excision called "Roadkill" featuring Krizz Kaliko.
It's a massive album, man, I wish I could tell you everything. It's so unfair, why would I f---ing come do press week and I can't talk about s---. It makes no sense.
It's all good. I understand 'cause you wanna keep the anticipation going.
I don't give a f---, I wanna brag, n----. My label, they have strategic things they wanna do to try to make the most of this and I get it, but, why not do press week after all of the deadlines?
Like "Aw Yeah," it's a beautiful video we just released when I was in ATL and fans are saying it's the best video I've ever done and I'm like, "You like that better than 'Fragile' with me and Kendrick?' Yeah, they do so I'm like f--- it. I shot "On the Bible" with Zeus and T.I. I shot "Hood Go Crazy" with B.o.B. and 2 Chainz. I shot "Roadkill" with DJ Excision and Krizz Kaliko. I done forgot all of the visual I done shot, man
Yeah, like I saw the little trailer that y'all put out with the footage of the band and the full orchestra. This looks like it's gonna be massive.
There's a DVD that comes with the album. It shows you how we made it, with all the live instruments, with all the choir members and everything. You know, people that's taking chances with music. Kanye [West] does it a lot. He showed us that you can have your own canvas and do whatever the hell you want to. I always knew that but just seeing someone like Kanye that has access to any and everything with the Roc so to see what he does with everything that he has to work with is beautiful to me no matter whether people think it's weird or not, it's art.
And we learn from that kind of s---. We are our own people, we are our own innovators, but there are other innovators out there that we admire, like "Wow," you know. And our time will come. I don't think [Kanye] really knows who I am yet, he probably knows of me through Twista or something, I don't f---ing know.
But it's gonna come definitely, man, because I see the incline you're on.
After this album, everyone's gonna f---ing know me. I just came from Australia; we did New Zealand first, all sold-out shows. Five sold-out shows in New Zealand, five sold-out shows in Australia. Ninety people from being sold-out in a big-ass club in Hawaii for my first show, first time being in Hawaii.
It was so much love. We were, like, 90 people from selling out, but we still got the back-end because it was so much people in there. It's a newfound love. All these major features I got on this album, these are people I've been wanting to work with since I've started.
Like your friend, Brian, the guy that you do the tribal paint in tribute to. I think that it's people from your past that pull for you from heaven. They may fade away, but that still shines light on you.
It is, man, it is. And I feel like since my moms passed, I got a real angel 'cause I've questioned.
Like your song, "Show Me a God"?
Like my song "Show Me a God." My moms was dying of pancreatitis back then in '09. So I was like, "Please, show me a God. Let me know something listening when I'm down on my knees," 'cause I'm 99 percent, but I need 100 percent proof that somebody's listening cause nobody f---ing knows. But we have faith. We can see the sun and the moon, we see the birds, etc. But Creationists say it's a higher power and Darwin says, "It grows like a plant." And all the s--- makes sense. If you think too hard on it, you'll drive yourself crazy. So nowadays I just try to stay focused on being happy as f---.
I heard the story behind that too, about how you met the guy and he gave you the "Happy as F---" wristbands.
And I sport that s--- everywhere I go because that's the level I'm trying to get to. I told [Lil] Wayne I got one for him when I see him again. And I give it to special people, man, because it's a place that we all need to be. We all need to be happy as f---. I find it with music, I find it through my children, I find it through love. I find it through touring, being with my fans, you know what I'm saying. I find happy as f--- and I want that bliss.
And you wanna spread that as well as having it as a reminder, for you and other people.
We have darkness as human beings.
A lot of people try to shove it under the table, but it's a real thing.
It's therapy; if you don't get it out you it'll eat you alive. So that's what I try to focus on now instead of what's listening, because I would love to lay in my bed and have my mom come visit me as a spirit, which would probably scare the s--- out of me, but then that would let me know that there's a spiritual realm for sure.
Like the ghost thing, I heard somewhere you was seeking out different haunted places and spirits.
I don't do it no more. A mothaf---a be trying to show me s--- [and I'm like], "Yeah, okay." People will have these stories like, "I've seen something." People try to show me s--- and I'm like "Yeah." And people don't know why I get upset when I start talking about the ghosts because I'm jealous.
Yeah, cause they've seen it, but you haven't.
I'm looking for 100 percent proof that there's a spiritual realm and I ain't seen nothing in my 43 years of living but humans. So until that day I'll be waiting. Scare the s--- outta me, please. I wanna know what my life's gonna turn if I see that there's a spiritual realm. I still pray everyday, you know. Even when I get on a plane, touch the plane like I'm some kind of angel. I even got it on me, a big ass tattoo that says "angel," which is what I really think I am. I still pray and sometimes I feel stupid because my intellectual [side] saying, "N----, you want something to be there."
So it's like a conflict within yourself?
Your brain and your heart. That's why "wordly" is over here [tattooed on me]. Wordly Angel. Good heart, but [you] adapt to the ways of the world and the ways of the world is not good. Drugs, money, women. You know, the liquor, and money; some of that s--- will kill you and I've been a part of all of that. I've been clean off drugs for three years though 'cause I was trying to find happy as f--- through drugs.
And then you find out that is a facade.
Thank God for my kids, if it wasn't for my kids, I'd be outta here. But I get to share that darkness with my fans so that brings us down on a level playing field. I'm on a stage so I'm elevated. So they're looking up to me, but my problems that resemble theirs puts on a level playing field like, "He has a wonderful life, but he actually has pain too just like me and I'm going through the same thing" and that's where we connect emotionally. Luckily that keeps me on the incline; it's crazy. This record that's about to come out on May 4, this is unheard of.
Watch Tech N9ne's "Hood Go Crazy" Video Feat. 2 Chainz & B.o.B
You worked with Kendrick on your last album. What's your thoughts on his new album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and fans' reception to it?
I've been out of the country so I haven't heard anybody say anything, I just heard it for the first time Saturday night at my home, full blast at three in the morning. It made me smile in a couple of places. He wasn't tripping off of no radio hits. It was super spoken word. Super Musiq Soulchild and Jill Scott. It was super George Clinton, slightly DJ Quick, and with a n---- just rapping his ass off, saying a poem throughout the whole album. And the Tupac interview blew me the f--- away. I think he really got off what he really wanted to do, his art.
And I think that's Kendrick and that's what I tell all of my artists: "Do music, f--- what everybody else is doing." This is something that you have to study, you know what I'm saying. [Raps] It ain't on that this time. You're supposed to excel, you're supposed to grow, you're supposed to evolve. I'm just waiting to see where he's gonna go after this because I love to see the evolution of an artist. And I think this is truly him, what he's doing with his whole style. It's always been there kinda, that jazz feel, but more so now. It's more spoken word, more abstract now. The message. I did not dislike it at all.
I want to go back to the start of your career for a second because I've read that you were signed to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and those were the first people that you worked with as far as the music industry. How did those situations come about and what did you learn from them?
I learned from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they told me, "Fat bitches buy your records, Tech. You gotta have a fat bitch." I'm like, "What?" They were joking, but they were for real. "You gotta have a fat bitch. They're gonna cook for you, they're gonna tell you what do [musically], fat bitches buy your records. You gotta be with a fat bitch, you gotta have a fat bitch, Tech." So I had a couple fat bitches, it was wonderful. Pretty fat bitches too. That's funny that I learned that from them though, that's what they taught me. Quincy Jones taught me the most in '97 though.
How did you meet Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in the first place?
It was a group out of Kansas City, an R&B group called Lo-Key?. And the DJ dude that was doing my music was the DJ for them. He played them my music and they took it to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and they was like, "Wow, this is different, I want it." But they were never there, they were working with Janet Jackson and s--- like that, so the people that they had working for them didn't know what to do with a rock/rap dude. You know, gangsta then rock at the same time.
And at the time, Wu-Tang Clan had came just out with "Protect Ya Neck," and mothef---ers tried to tell me to do that. No, I come from Kansas City. I'm trying to do what I do. I couldn't copy. I'm an innovator so it's like, I'm not gonna copy.
How did the Quincy Jones situation come about?
After '93 when the s--- with Perspective [Records], Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis got terminated, '95-'96, I went back to Kansas City and we created Nnutthowze. It was like a group that I put together with a couple of members Icy Roc that was the head that did the music and was the DJ And it was a crew that taught us how to think different. F--- it, we not gonna try to be all blinged out onstage and trying to be cute like everybody else; we're gonna f--- up our hair, wear workman's gear or hospital scrubs, just representing the psychotic life, being traumatized. Gang violence, everything religion. Soul-searching. And Nnutthowze was born, The New Narcotical Untameable Techniques. That's why I still wear the scrubs today.
So '95-'96, that's what we was doing in Kansas City when we left L.A. '97 is when some gangsta n----s I was working with in the hood, I had did some music with them, they got it to a chick out in L.A. and she took it to QD3 -- Quincy Jones' son -- and he loved it and played it for his dad and he loved it, some ghetto ass song I did called "Mitch Bade" and he called me out to Cali and I started to work with Quincy.
And what I learned out there from Quincy, he said, "Tech, rap what you know and people will forever feel you." And what I know is myself so I just started writing my story. What we have in common, even thought we're different creeds and colors and everything, we have emotion in common. So I just tapped into emotion and that's how I started gaining fans. So thank you, Quincy Jones. You saved my life.
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