Tech N9ne Interview
|Next Project:||Sickology 101|
|Twitter:||Tech N9ne on Twitter|
|Website:||Tech N9ne's Website|
It’s an unfortunate fact of the industry that, for every emcee willing to put in the work to become a monster on the mic, there’s at least one who skates by on lowest-common-denominator pop appeal—and it’s often members of the latter camp that are accepted into the mainstream. As an industry vet whose skill, dedication, and unbelievable live show made him indie rap’s first million-seller, Tech N9ne could be forgiven for hating on the game’s all-too-numerous underachievers, but that’s not his style—instead, the Kansas City native’s decided to teach them, teaming up with hip-hop’s best and brightest to school the masses in Sickology 101.
Those who heard the collaboration LP’s Crooked I and Chino XL-featuring title track, which peaked at #1 on our own Underground Chart, know the basics—as of today, April 28th, the full course is available to students everywhere (tune in for Nathan S.‘s take on the album this Thursday). Extra credit goes to pupils who take a field trip to one of the many venues N9ne will be visiting on his currently-running Sickology 101 Tour.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Tech N9ne steps into the Booth to discuss a few key concepts in the field of Sickology, his feelings on being the most successful indie rapper ever, and (for all the guys out there) how to fool females into believing you’re an expert pasta chef.
Listen to the Interview
Tech N9ne Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a fellow Midwest native whose brand new album, Sickology 101, the ninth of his career, is out today. A legend in the underground for roughly 10 years now, please welcome a Booth-approved emcee, my man Tech N9ne—how you doin’?
Tech N9ne: I’m kickin’ it like a donkey and swingin’ it like a monkey! All day, all night I’m in my bunk on my tour bus, in the midst of a tour called the Sickology 101 tour with myself, MURS, and Short Dawg the Native. I’m under my covers right now, ‘cause my bunk is cold as hell, but it’s a wonderful thing to be here right now with you, Z. Much love to you, bro.
DJ Booth: Well, thank you. This June, actually, for the first time, I will have the pleasure of seeing you in concert, when you perform live in Chicago. For those who have not seen the show, just like me, what is your secret to the performance success you have seen over your career?
Tech N9ne: I’m a fan of the old school, like KRS-One, BDP, Public Enemy, NWA—they actually had shows, man! LL Cool J, Run DMC, Eric B & Rakim, you feel me? Bein’ a fan and a student of the old school, I learned that energy is a big part of a live show. Not just walkin’ around the stage and grabbing your midsection, know what I mean? People actually wanna come get their money’s worth. And when you see a Tech N9ne show, it loud, it’s wild, it’s insane, it’s schizophrenic, it’s happy, it’s sad, it’s mad!
DJ Booth: So you’re sayin’, without a shadow of a doubt, it’s definitely one ticket that you yourself would pay for, to go see?
Tech N9ne: Totally, man! If I was goin’ to a show, I would wanna see the Tech N9ne show. I mean, that’s crazy, Z, ‘cause my wish is something that I’ll never get—wanna know what that is?
DJ Booth: To see yourself perform?
Tech N9ne: Yes! That’s exactly what I wanna do, man. And videotapes don’t get it done at all; I’m talkin’ about the actual sound, that I can feel like I’m right in the middle of the mosh pit during “Einstein,” and then move from the mosh pit and go up top in the balcony to watch “One Good Time,” so I can just see everybody light their lighters. Or “Red Nose,” and see everybody light their lighters up. To be there during “I’m A Player” at the very top of the venue or theater, to see all the arms in the air… If I could just step outside my body once, and just hear one song—if I could just get “Einstein,” if I could just step outside my body and get in the mosh pit for “Einstein,” or get in the mosh pit for “Riot Maker,” I think that would be my wish, man. But I’ll never get my wish.
DJ Booth: The only suggestion I think I could make would be, if the government is able to push cloning to the forefront, you could go ahead and clone yourself and then teach your clone to perform just as well as you do; then you could just watch the clone perform, ‘cause it would be like watching yourself.
Tech N9ne: Exactly. But, see, the clone, it would be good if he already had the talent to do the [breaks momentarily into double-time rap] That’s gonna take a decade or more—that’s gonna take three decades!
DJ Booth: [laughs] Yeah, that would take a while.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, that’s gonna take three decades, man—almost four decades!
DJ Booth: And by that time, you should be about 40 albums into your catalog.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, man! I’ll just remain the guy on stage, seein’ all the crowds go crazy and bonkers as I write my life and as I perform my life for them—every night it feels like a birthday party for the sold-out crowd.
DJ Booth: I’ll tell you, for right now, since it’s the best we can do, I think it’s gonna work. I know everybody who has seen your live show has never had anything bad to say, so, like I always say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Tech N9ne: No doubt. I’m just gonna keep it pushin’. Last night in Boise, I could actually hear everything, like, my every syllable! [breaks into double-time rhymes] It was just goin’!
DJ Booth: Well, I’m sure that the response that you got indicated as such. Obviously your live game is sick, but I’m interested in learning more about Sickology 101. I took lots of classes when I was in college, and there were plenty I wanted to take but I didn’t have time, ‘cause I wanted to graduate in four years. So, had my university offered Sickology 101, what type of class would I have had in store, had you been my professor?
Tech N9ne: First you would learn to count bars. The first lesson would be how to count bars: one, two three, four, two two three four… you keep doin’ it, four more, eight, four more, sixteen, and that’s a regular rap verse. That’s what you’ll learn first: you’ll learn bars. Then you’ll learn how many syllables you could fit in those bars if you wanted to. It could be real simple, like, [rhymes in single time], that’s two bars. But maybe you would learn to put double time: [raps two bars in double time] I just did two bars, that quick. You would learn that, you would learn harmony shortly after double time and triple time. Sickology 101 would be a wonderful course to take.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. I have a feeling, though, that while you might be able to teach it, I might not be able to learn it—see, something like double-time and triple-time rhymes, that’s not something that just anybody can do. How long do you feel like it took you to perfect what you do?
Tech N9ne: Okay, my first rhyme in ‘85, it went like, [breaks into double-time rhymes]. You know, it was going like, “babababababababababababa!” That’s back when everybody was into LL Cool J, and it was like, [raps in mocking tone] “I’m devastating, and I’m motivating, wa-wa-wa-wa!” And I was like, “babababababababa!” So it’s like, I’ve perfected it. [raps in double time] turned into [raps in triple time]. It sped up and got more crisp over the years, know what I mean?
DJ Booth: Yeah, I do. [laughs] I couldn’t duplicate it, but I know exactly what you’re talkin’ about.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, man, it’s like, why did God choose me? It’s crazy. You know, in the Twin Cities they voted me the greatest rapper alive, twice: this year and last year. It was like, “Wow!”
DJ Booth: Well, talking about titles, you’re touted as the most successful independent hip-hop artist ever. You’ve sold over one million units. Describe how it feels to achieve such a lofty accomplishment.
Tech N9ne: So I’m on my tour—I think it was the Strictly Strange tour, or maybe it was the Fire and Ice tour with Paul Wall, I’m not sure, but I remember bein’ at the back of the bus on my website on my little computer, and I got a call from Travis. He said, “Hey, what’s up, man?” I said, “Nothing.” He’s calling from Strange Music in Kansas City, I’m on the road somewhere like I am now. He said, “Hey, we’re over a million copies today.” I’m like, “What?!” It was shortly after Killer, Killer put me over, and my heart went up in my throat like, “Wow…,” and it doesn’t hit you till you hang up. After that, you start to hear all the calls comin’ into Strange Music, all the people from the magazines, the extra shows, or the more money it’s gonna cost to get you at a show… It was like, “Wow, man!” I did a song on Killer, “Why You Ain’t Call Me?” and since then MIMS has called me, I’m on his new album, Twista finally called me for his album and that’s an honor, Paul Wall’s new album I’m gonna be on this year, Crooked I’s new album I’m gonna be on, Chino XL’s new album I’m gonna be on this year, Yukmouth’s new album I’m gonna be on this year—it’s just crazy how many people are callin’ me now! It’s just a wonderful feeling to see everything blossom and spread like a forest fire, you know?
DJ Booth: Absolutely. I was excited before, but now that you’re talkin’ about it, you’ve got me excited on a whole new level!
Tech N9ne: Yeah, man, it’s crazy! Like, when you hear it from me, you know it’s legitimate, It’s goin’ down. It’s crazy, too, because I’m just [adopts exaggerated Missouri accent] a lil’ old country boy straight from Kansas City, and that stuff there just happened right before my eyes. I never thought—well, I’ll take that back, I always thought I should be on top, I always thought that people should really, really hear what Tech N9Ne does from Kansas City, Mo-sourri, and it takes so long for them to understand me, ‘cause I’m kinda to the left with it, you know, I just don’t do the everyday, run-of-the-mill rap bull-ish, and now they’re just lovin’ it, man, and I’m just gonna push it to the rest of the world and let the whole world know that this is one hundred percent pure, not fabricated, no smoke n’ mirrors, you know?
DJ Booth: When you released your debut, The Calm Before the Storm, where did you imagine you would be 10 years later? Is it here, on the phone with me right now, talking about all this success? Did you see all of this coming?
Tech N9ne: When Jim Carrey was the Joker—the Riddler, I think he was.
DJ Booth: Riddler, yep.
Tech N9ne: The Riddler, yeah, question marks. And they asked him, ‘cause I think he got 25 million or whatever, if he was surprised to get all that money, “Were you surprised at all your success?” He said, “No, I’ve been waiting on it all my life, ‘cause I always knew that I had something extra.” So that’s why the chip on my shoulder came, like, [fakes crying] “Oh, the industry, red nose, boo-hoo… why you ain’t call me? I’m dope!” That’s why those songs exist! “Where’s my happy ending, wah-wah, the world don’t know me, boo-hoo.” Because I always knew that I had it, and I just wanted the rest of the world to get it. And what makes my story so important? I always say it, in every interview, “What makes you so special, Tech N9ne?”
DJ Booth: I don’t ask questions like that! [laughs]
Tech N9ne: But I’m gonna answer it: the reason why I feel like the whole world should know is that I am one hundred percent inside-out. What does that mean? “Inside-out” means my insides are out there; I let the world see and hear my pain, my happiness, my confusion, my everything, no matter if it’s embarrassing, whatever.
DJ Booth: You mentioned going and going and going—you are basically the equivalent of the Energizer bunny, because you always are going between recording new music, constantly touring, and overseeing your own record label. Be honest with me: how do you find time to do the essentials like eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom? Is there any time for that stuff?
Tech N9ne: Yeah, I did too much of that stuff while I was doin’ Sickology 101. I was home since November. We were in the studio from 2:00 to 12:00 midnight every day. But when I do sneak off and have those sit-down dinners with a woman or whatever I ate Italian food, and when I didn’t get to go eat I’d buy Bertolli’s at the grocery store—it tastes like you went to an Italian restaurant, and if you hide the bag the girl thinks you made it!
DJ Booth: [laughs] I’m gonna write that down.
Tech N9ne: And then, next thing you know, I was eating the whole pasta bag of Bertolli’s. I gathered a belly!
DJ Booth: Well, touring has got to be one of the best exercises ever, with how much energy especially you put into your show.
Tech N9ne: Totally, and that’s gonna help me a lot, ‘cause yesterday, in Boise, we did it so hard, and the air conditioner broke so we were sweatin’ like pigs. I’m talking about, like, I could feel my stomach muscles working, and I was like, “Oh, it hurts!”
DJ Booth: I want to talk about a rather amusing skit on the new album, it’s entitled “Grammys,” where you clearly are poking fun at the type of rap artists who earn nominations for what is supposed to be this industry’s highest honor. Tech, was the inclusion of this skit for comedic purposes only, or is there more than meets the ear here? Tell me what’s up.
Tech N9ne: Well, we did it ‘cause, being underground artists, we have to watch the Grammys from home—they don’t invite us. I don’t hate, I congratulate, but it’s funny at the same time how a lot of the audiences prefer simplicity. A lot of people can’t keep up, and that’s cool, but the people that keep up we love. But [we were] just makin’ fun, and that’s why we did that skit: to let people know, “Yeah, this is how we feel, this is funny to us, you’re gonna laugh at it too, even if you don’t agree.”
DJ Booth: So you’re saying that you wouldn’t really care if I were to go ahead and petition the Grammy committee to make sure you have an invitation in an envelope in your mailbox come this time next year.
Tech N9ne: Listen, man: if I happen to make a song, and god forbid it be “Areola,” that makes me Grammy—what’s the word I’m looking for?
DJ Booth: Worthy?
Tech N9ne: Worthy. Then they’ll call me.
DJ Booth: Well, when the day comes, we’ll certainly have to open up a bottle and celebrate.
Tech N9ne: Totally, man! They still label me the weirdo—ha ha ha, okay, it’s only gonna get worse! I have a feeling they’re gonna love me for goin’ as crazy as I do. When I go all the way crazy, either they’re gonna really hate me now, or they’re gonna love me for not giving a damn!
DJ Booth: Hate is the new love, my friend—if they’re not hatin’ you, that means they don’t like you at all.
Tech N9ne: Totally, man.
DJ Booth: Well, listen, I know that nothing can hold you back from future successes, but something did hold you down, and that was the straitjacket you wore on the cover of the last album. Any idea how those contortionists were able to remove themselves so easily from those things?
Tech N9ne: Mentally you can break those straps, man. For real, lyrically, nobody can hold me down, not even a straitjacket, and I was still a Killer in a straitjacket, with my arms bound. It’s my mind that’s the weapon, it’s my mind that’s the contortionist.
DJ Booth: Not only are you tellin’ everybody, but you’re gonna be able to show everybody out on tour now through this summer. Your album, Sickology 101, is available to the masses. Give everybody a website or a MySpace page, something so they can find out more about everything—and you do have a lot going on.
DJ Booth: Well, listen, I appreciate your time greatly for joinin’ me inside the DJBooth for this interview. It’s a pleasure and an honor speaking with you, and I look forward to meeting up with you in June when you’re in Chicago for your tour, my friend.
Tech N9ne: Totally, let’s do it, Z! Maybe by then my stomach will be goin’ down a little bit and I can drink a Caribou Lou with you or something, and cheat.
DJ Booth: Sounds good, drinks are on me!
Tech N9ne: I don’t know about that, man! I’m the one with the million sales, so I’ve got you.
DJ Booth: Okay, well, if you insist.
Tech N9ne: Jesus, man… much love to you, Z!