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We’re really happy that our first episode of Microphone Check on Spotify is with Tech N9ne, because he’s an individual who isn’t afraid to talk about real life, things like divorce and disappointment and how to create from a perspective of care.
And because his career, which is now in its third decade, traces the evolution of the rap industry. He started out in his hometown, Kansas City, and then he caught the ear of huge, national superstars with major label backing, like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and then Quincy Jones, who have a lot of expertise in their thing, but whose organizations didn't really know what to do with somebody like Tech N9ne — somebody who’s an objectively superior technical rapper with really evocative stories, but who also has spiked red hair and a painted face and just is in the midwest. It wasn't until he formed his own record label, Strange Music, that he began to chart his own course, which has made him consistently, to this day, one of the highest paid acts in hip-hop.
His fanbase is vast and vocal, and Tech is so connected to them that sometimes their demands on his time and creativity weigh him down. As Ali know,s it can be a tricky balancing act to satisfy the people who love your work, and support the people who rely on you, but also take care of yourself.
Our interview winds through the highs and lows of Tech’s work and personal life, especially where those aspects intersect, and we end with Tech proclaiming his new album, called Planet, the best he’s ever made.
We hope you enjoy this episode — we definitely enjoyed making it for you.
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: It's good to have you here. Thank you so much.
TECH N9NE: Totally. Thanks for having me, man.
ALI: Man, you've been in the business for a long, long, long time.
TECH N9NE: Yes, man. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
FRANNIE KELLEY: '85?
TECH N9NE: '85 I wrote my first rhyme, but I started doing it professionally in '90. I got my first record deal in '93 with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. That didn't work. Got my second record deal in '97 with Quincy Jones. That didn't work. Got my third deal in '99 with Interscope and JCOR. That didn't work. So we had to show them what to do with a black dude with a painted face and red, spiked hair. Since nobody knew. And we created Strange Music, and we ended up being the number one independent label in the world.
ALI: I remember the first time I got my deal. I was incredibly happy. I'm sure you were too. Like, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. So when you say, "It didn't work. It didn't work." What did not work?
TECH N9NE: Well, of course, they're never there. It's just the people working for them had their own vision. And I've always had my own vision. So their vision was to sound like somebody else. '93, I think that's when "Protect Ya Neck" came out or something. Wu Tang was popping. They wanted me to sound like that. I'm from Kansas City, Missouri. I do me. I can't sound like that. And if I sound like that, then I'll be that.
ALI: Well, the best way to understand someone is to know about where they're from, so can you —
TECH N9NE: Exactly.
ALI: Can you tell us a little bit about Kansas City, Missouri?
TECH N9NE: Kansas City, Missouri, it's just like any other place, man, but smaller. We have hip-hop scene there. We have spoken word. We have everything. We have music. And it's been there for years. It's just, we don't have Interscope Midwest or BMZ Midwest or Def Jam Midwest. We never had that. So we had to build our own record label, Strange Music. And everybody there have their own labels and have their own little thing, own little labels, they put their music out through. We just happen to be one of the biggest that started back then. We started Strange Music in 2000.
FRANNIE: Was there anything like — because of the jazz scene in Kansas City, was there any of the performing infrastructure around that you could use?
TECH N9NE: Yes. Yeah, I mean, it was places down on 18th and Vine where we would go on Tuesdays. It's called Mardi Gras Open Mic. You could sing. You could do poetry. You could do everything. You could rap, singing. It's still there. The music is there. It's been there since Charlie Parker.
ALI: When you say that it's like every other city, every place else, but the music is different. You guys — well, there's similarities I guess. One would, if they had to, compare it to maybe some West Coast music, especially of a certain time period.
TECH N9NE: A great majority of people in Kansas City, they might do music that leans toward the Bay Area, because E-40 and them, Mac Mall and Spice 1 and Mac Dre and everybody, would always come to Kansas City to do shows. So it's like Kansas City and the Bay is connected somehow. It's so weird that Mac Dre would die in KC, you know what I'm saying? Because everybody loves him there.
FRANNIE: Why would they go to Kansas City so much?
TECH N9NE: I have no idea.
TECH N9NE: It's just Kansas City, I think, because they like gangster music. But also that's just not the only thing in Kansas City. There was like — Ces Cru was there. Ill Brew was there. It's lyrics there and, like, open mic. The guys who was doing the Bay Area-type music wasn't at the open mic sessions. So we always — I think every city always has a variety of styles, and ours was no different.
FRANNIE: Can I go back on one little thing really quick?
FRANNIE: So you kept getting signed by these legends. I mean —
TECH N9NE: They saw something.
FRANNIE: Yeah. So first of all, that. And then second of all, did it feel less huge when Quincy came?
TECH N9NE: It felt huge as hell when Quincy came. I couldn't believe it. Because at the time, '97, he had Vibe TV. He had the music with Qwest and he had something — he had the Vibe magazine or something like that.
FRANNIE: Right. Yeah, yeah. He definitely did.
TECH N9NE: And it seemed like the best thing to do. And I was working with his son already who was doing my music, 2pac's music, and Ice Cube. QD3. So it was perfect. But the people he had working for him didn't know what to do with us, and Pops was always — we call him Pops. Pops was always off somewhere with Oprah or something. And when he'd come back to town, we'd go up to his house in Bel-Air, and he's like, "How's my label treating you?" We're like, "Nope! They don't know what to do." He'll fire people. It was horrible.
FRANNIE: So how do you have that conversation with him or, like, Jimmy Jam and Terry?
TECH N9NE: Whenever you telling Pops about something about music and you're sitting right below that plaque, "50 million sold, Michael Jackson," he'll point at it like, "But we know what to do." I'm like, "Yeah, you know what to do. But those other people don't know what to do." It was really casual.
FRANNIE: Right. So he understood, basically.
TECH N9NE: I barely seen Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. I think they had Sharon Hayward running it then. It was a lady. She didn't really know what to do. They were busy with Janet and Sounds Of Blackness and stuff like that. I don't know if it was Sounds Of Blackness. I forgot. I get it all jumbled up.
But it was a wonderful experience. I wouldn't change anything, because I learned a lot from that whole journey.
ALI: Like what, for an example?
TECH N9NE: What not to do. Don't copy motherfuckers. Don't do what everybody else is doing because when that's over you're over as well. Take chances with new music. I wasn't signing people that reminded me of anybody else. Cause, you know, major labels are known to try to sign people that are similar to the thing that popped on their label. So if Jay Z's popping, they gon' try to make another one. You can't.
ALI: I worked for Quincy. I think it was from '95 to '96. I was at Qwest Records. It's interesting, cause I was an artist working for an artist, trying to really help artists but understanding that infrastructure had challenges. Prior to my departure, felt that they were aspiring to play more or cater more towards a pop edge of hip-hop.
TECH N9NE: Mm-hmm.
ALI: And at that time, pop is different than what it is now, so I want people to be clear on that. But —
FRANNIE: Meaning hip-hop and R&B kind of were pop, like, were popular.
ALI: Well at the time, Diddy was pretty much —
FRANNIE: Right. That's what I mean.
ALI: Yeah. Kind of controlling all the charts. But I don't think they wanted to chase that exactly, but they wanted that energy.
TECH N9NE: Yeah.
TECH N9NE: I was a little bit harder. I was a lot harder.
TECH N9NE: And it didn't work.
ALI: But —
TECH N9NE: It wasn't Quincy's fault. It was just the people couldn't connect. They didn't know where to put me. I had bright red hair, spiked, painted face, come out on stage with a bishop's robe. "C'mon, dude. Nobody looks like that. Where you going to connect?" It connected when we started doing it. It connected. But of course, the red dye burnt my hair out.
ALI: Well, had it not been for those adversities, those hurdles, you probably would not have figured out other things to really get you to pop it.
TECH N9NE: Exactly. That's why I say I wouldn't change anything, man. I learned a lot. I just learned what Quincy taught me: rap what you know, and people will forever feel you. We're individuals, but we have similarities in some way. We all have emotions in common, you know. Happiness, sadness, anger —
TECH N9NE: Madness, confusion, everything.
ALI: Yeah. Some people don't really know how to express it. And I feel like you do. I mean, you have a whole lot of records, a whole lot of — you got, like, a rolodex of songs. I don't —
FRANNIE: What is it? Like 18 albums?
TECH N9NE: I don't know. They trying to say that this one is probably — the one that's about to come out March 2. They said it's going to be my 20th, people were saying. I'm like, "OK."
ALI: That's a lot. For hip-hop.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. To still be on the incline, and people are still discovering Tech N9ne, and now they want me at festivals and stuff. They've started inviting me to the Grammys in the last couple years. Stuff I should've done like — but maybe I wasn't ready. I was learning.
ALI: For someone to have such a huge catalog and to have written that many songs, obviously there's a lot inside of you, emotionally, I would think.
TECH N9NE: Yes. I write my life.
ALI: What inspires you to still create after so many years and putting out so many emotions?
TECH N9NE: I'm still breathing. I'm still alive. Life is still happening to me. I'm still writing my life as it progresses, as it stays stagnant, as it — whatever it does, I'm writing it. I'm constantly going through things in life. And I just finally got my divorce Nov. 9, the day after my birthday, Nov. 8. And I've been separated since I was — since '05. Just got it. It's like, life is still happening. And after all those years, you end up on the Forbes list four times in a row. Things are happening. And as long as I'm breathing, I'll have something to say. Every day.
FRANNIE: Yeah, I mean, novelists write well into their 80s.
TECH N9NE: There's so many things — yeah. There's so many things you can do. You can rap your life or you can play with words as an MC. That's forever. That's forever. Your imagination is forever.
FRANNIE: Right. You're not going to get worse. You're just going to get better.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. I mean, if you apply yourself and you want to get better and you don't want to be stuck in a certain era, you know what I'm saying? If you want to keep going, if you want to keep competing.
FRANNIE: Right. But so since you are definitely still on an incline, you're having to introduce yourself to new people a lot, and to new fans, and kind of bring them along and maybe re-explain things, and that seems to me like a challenge that not everybody has. How do you do that? How do you not get sort of annoyed at having to say something over again?
TECH N9NE: I don't. I just write what the hell I feel.
FRANNIE: Oh, so you just let them come in where they do.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. I write what I feel, and if it touches somebody, then they'll connect. It's stories that I have in that little black box in the back of my head that I keep secrets. Every once in a while I might take something out and tell a story. I told one on my new album that drops March 2. It's a song called "Tappin' In," where I tell a story that might piss some people off from back then. But every once in a while I go in and pull it out.
On a couple albums before I pulled something out of that about my seventh grade teacher, this lady that I was in love with and I had affair with. In school. I pulled it out. I didn't say her name though. People were like, "Wow. I never heard that." After all these years. You can ration the stories.
It's true that some things are better off not said. That's true. So it's things in there that I'll never let loose, because —
ALI: Yeah. Well after 30, almost 30, years of recording, have you looked back on some of your writings and felt like, "Ah, maybe I should not have —"
TECH N9NE: No. Because I say what I feel. But the people that love me around that time, it's embarrassing to them to hear some of those stories. And you either have to have compassion and like, "OK. I won't do that anymore." Like my ex-wife told me, "Don't write no more songs about me cause they're not good." And I'm said, "OK. I won't." So I haven't said anything else since she asked.
But as I was younger, that's all I was talking about. "This Ring." I was talking about trying to deal with fidelity and being on the road and all that. I had song called "I Love You But Fuck You," and she was one of the verses. And she went like, "Don't rap about me no more." I'm like, "OK. I won't, out of respect." So yeah, some things are better off not said, I think. And you know what not to say, because the demons in your past may return to haunt your present.
FRANNIE: That stuff is so relatable though. I think it's a big fear of people around creative people in all fields, that someday it's all going to come out.
TECH N9NE: Yup.
FRANNIE: But you don't want to hide the messy parts and the scary, nasty parts, cause people need to hear that.
TECH N9NE: Yeah, no doubt.
ALI: I think people do need to hear it, and I guess it depends on your level of life experience, because you may be writing something cause you feel like it's your truth, and because it's your truth you have to get it out. But you might not realize how, for an example, it could be attached to anger and not healing, being in a healed position. And your ultimate intent is to get the truth out so that there will be healing by your experience and that there's an awareness. However, you're not healed, so it comes out in such a — aggressive maybe?
FRANNIE: It can cause more wounds.
ALI: That it could cause more wounds.
TECH N9NE: Yes.
FRANNIE: And there's no right or wrong way, but I was just curious about that. You know, just speaking about divorce, you don't hear about that much in hip-hop. One thing they don't teach us in school is about taxes and divorce.
TECH N9NE: Exactly. I had to go through — I had a crash course on taxes and divorce. Now I learned everything I need to learn, so I'll never fall into those problems again. Because they're great problems — I don't mean great in a good way — great and huge problems if you don't do it right.
ALI: Can we talk about — your new album is called Planet?
TECH N9NE: Why is it called Planet?
ALI: Why is it called Planet?
TECH N9NE: Yeah. My last album before this one was called The Storm. My first album in 1996 was called The Calm Before The Storm, pre-Strange Music. So I wanted The Storm to be — The Calm was the first. The Calm Before The Storm. So The Storm just came last year. I tried to go back and try to make it a little bit more grittier like my first record, and the response that I got wasn't the one that I wanted. So I was hurt.
I wanted people to respond to a weed song I did with Boyz II Men called "Buddha." Now who could get Boyz II Men on a song called "Buddha?" I finally got to work with Jonathan Davis of Korn. We did "Starting To Turn." It was so humongous. Finally got to work with Gary Clark Jr. and do a song. Very humongous. Nobody — I finally got to work with Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry. I've loved her music for years, since Floetry first dropped. When they wrote the song for Michael Jackson, "Butterfly," I was tuned in.
No response. Not the — I mean, my fans bought it. But it was like, "Eh." Broke my heart.
FRANNIE: 2016 was a weird year.
TECH N9NE: So I was so hurt by it that I just went someplace else mentally and spiritually. And I want to build my own planet with more love cause this one is lacking, with more care cause this one is lacking, for each other. And when I came back, I played it for my team and they all loved it. They all agreed. On the last album, The Storm, they found, like, one single. On this one, they found — and I don't just write singles. I just write music as the beats come. They found like six of them when I came back.
And "Don't Nobody Want None" was one of the first ones, and it was a dedication to all the DJs and dance crews all around the world. I took it back to 1983, "Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)," the "It's Time" version. "It's tiiiiime." Cause I'm a b-boy, breakdancer, pop locker, you know. And it's popping.
TECH N9NE: One week, it's like a million views. I'm like, "Jesus."
FRANNIE: It's crazy how that stuff sounds so fresh. It doesn't sound -- it's crazy to me. Magical.
ALI: For a moment, I thought you had it saying, "Tech N9ne." I was like, "Yo!"
TECH N9NE: I did!
ALI: You did?
TECH N9NE: Yeah.
ALI: Oh, so I wasn't tripping?
TECH N9NE: No. I just took the "It's Time" version and we did "Tech Niiiine." "Don't nobody want it, we hella hot at the moment, we're coming for all opponents, it feel incredible don't it? It really ain't a thang, who get 'em crazy going orangutan? Tech Niiiiiiiiine. Look at 'em copy me, trying to get top of the boss with a lot of mediocrity, stalkin' the properties, wanna get off in my monopoly, tell me who is the one they call Chakratease? Tech Niiiiiine." You know what I'm saying? It's perfect.
ALI: It is perfect.
TECH N9NE: We re-played it. We didn't sample anything.
TECH N9NE: It was hard to get the vocoder right, to get it thick like, "It's tiiiiime." It was so hard. It took us, like, weeks.
ALI: I thought it was sampled.
TECH N9NE: No.
FRANNIE: How did you do it?
TECH N9NE: My producer Seven just — I told him I want to remake this song. Cause I used to pop and break to it back in the day.
FRANNIE: How did he make it that thick though?
TECH N9NE: Cause he's a goddamn genius.
ALI: A geek. He's gotta be a geek.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. I just told him to make the drums hit harder, the same drum sounds but hit harder and smack harder, and add your thing to it. We added a bass buuuuuuuum up on it. Buuuuum. You know what I'm saying? Just make it a little bit thicker than the original.
And people love it. And the b-boy community is helping me push it. King Tech and Sway, they love it. They gave it a thumbs up — and the video. I'm like, "Thank you Jesus." Cause if they say no, it's not going to work.
ALI: Why is it important for you to kind of reflect back onto hip-hop's origin?
TECH N9NE: Because that's what I know. And that's where it started, and that's never going anywhere. No matter how much it's left in the dark, it's going to keep resurfacing.
It's not my first time doing it. I did it back in '97 with King Tech and DJ Revolution. We did one called "Soul Searchin'" with Jurassic 5 on it. And then in '06 on my Everready album I did — well, "Soul Searchin'" was Mantronix. "Listen to some bass!" You know, b-boy shit. Oops. Sorry.
ALI: It's alright.
TECH N9NE: We did that, back then in '97. And then 2006, I did Art Of Noise "Beatbox." And called it "Bout Ta Bubble," like I'm about to bubble up, you know? We did it then. Even on The Storm, I attempted to do, "eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, acht." "Numbers." But Kraftwerk said no. I was going to get Outkast on it. They said no.
TECH N9NE: So —
FRANNIE: I actually hate hearing stories like that.
TECH N9NE: It's just in the darkness. "Tech N9ne" is one of those ones I recorded just in the darkness, just my verse on it. Oh, it kills me. But "Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)," the "It's Time" version. He said yes. Murdered it. For all those b-boy songs I did back then, a lot of people didn't get. Now, boom, everybody's getting it. It's counting now.
ALI: Well, for me, I think the lesson for those who are listening, especially aspiring artists, I think it's really important to pay homage, but it's more than just paying homage like that. I think it's just searching for the origin —
TECH N9NE: Yes.
ALI: The beginning and where things come from, so that you know where to take it.
TECH N9NE: Exactly.
ALI: Appreciate how it fell into your lap, into your hands.
TECH N9NE: Exactly. Totally.
ALI: And that in order for you to — you benefit — obviously you're benefiting from all of the groundwork and the hard work that the pioneers put down. And so, you know, you're respecting that and then it helps you create from a perspective of care, and it helps you then continue to push it further because at some point you're going to be the voice of a whole 'nother generation.
TECH N9NE: Yes. It's necessary, man. I think it's necessary. And —
FRANNIE: I think fans also relate to it. Because that's how they listen. They're not in your ego.
TECH N9NE: Yeah, exactly. So that's what I came back with from my planet. And I'm proud of it, and I'm — after all the music I've done over all these years, it's the best record that I've done out of my whole catalog. And that's big to say. My fans are going to be like, "What?" But they're — the snippets we've been giving them, they're like, "Oh my god, this is going to be better than Everready." That's hard to beat.
ALI: Are you saying that because —
TECH N9NE: I'm supposed to say that. I'm supposed to say that, because it's my new record. I'm supposed to say that. No. It's going to speak for itself. It's like, I'm supposed to say that, but I'm going to — I would — if it wasn't, I would say, "It's a dope album that I put together. Wait till y'all hear it." But this is the best music I've done in a long while.
ALI: Do you feel that way not because you're supposed to say that and because you've put a lot of time into it, and obviously it's care, but I think maybe life is way different now, maybe for you?
TECH N9NE: Yes. It is. I feel like after the IRS take money from you and you get all that paid back, did that, within months. They took over a million dollars from me. And then now the divorce took a chunk from me. It'll kind of make you feel like you at square one even though you're not. You're sitting in this $3.3 million house thinking, "I gotta keep this. I can't lose this. I got people depending on me." I'm bussing like I'm back in the projects.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. I think that that will fuel you. And I think that it did fuel my planet. I know it did.
FRANNIE: Do you think anything also to do with sort of the political nightmare that we're in contributed?
TECH N9NE: Oh yeah, that's why I said I wanted to leave this planet because it's lacking love and togetherness, and I create mine with love and togetherness and care. Yeah. I'm seeing how some people are being ignited by some words by our leaders. And it's always been there, but if you feel like you have support from the leader, you might start running over people in Charlottesville. So, you know, yes. The way the world is now, why wouldn't you want your own planet?
TECH N9NE: That's right.
FRANNIE: And it comes out like a year after your album The Storm. You guys are close, interrelated in your careers and what not. Were you like, "That's my name" or whatever. Or —
FRANNIE: Oh, OK. Right. Yeah.
TECH N9NE: And they mentioned me.
FRANNIE: Right. And Elton John was like, "Yeah, yeah. Tech N9ne, one of my favorites too."
TECH N9NE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's crazy, right?
FRANNIE: It's so crazy. It's fucking great.
TECH N9NE: Yeah, it is. That means that the musicians are really paying attention.
TECH N9NE: I work with a lot of wonderful — I was about to say magicians. Musicians.
TECH N9NE: Nah, I don't think that — I didn't say anything like that. I just think great minds think alike.
FRANNIE: Yeah. Got it. You were saying you write your life, but you are a businessman. And so you must have a strategy toward what you release when and how you can contextualize it.
TECH N9NE: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We've been independent for almost 19 years, and at any moment, when I say, "Hey! I think we should put out an EP on Halloween," I can do that. And Travis will come to me like, "Hey, man. So you'll have this much time to do this record. This'll be a good time. You think you can have one?" And then we have three months to set up time and come out March 2. I'll be like — I just say yes. Like if I have this amount of time, I just say yes. I never say no. I say, "Let's try it. Let's go."
I've been late on some, like K.O.D. in '09, because I was running from dark stories that I knew I was going to write about, but I knew if I wrote them they were going to be real and it was going to take me down lower into that hole. And I was running from songs in '09. It's my only totally dark album. It's called K.O.D., King Of Darkness. It's when my mom — before she died in 2014, in '09, she was suffering from pancreatitis, almost died from that. So I thought she was going to die, so I did a whole dark album.
Like, "Nobody's darkness can be greater than mine cause my angel's about to die, so I'm the king of darkness." I was running from songs like "Low." If you listen to "Low," it's, like, so depressing. Like, Jesus Christ! When I started K.O.D., I said, "You know what? I'm just going to use my imagination and just write dark stories." It didn't turn out like that. I ended up writing real stories. "Low," and "The Martini," the last song on there, is about — ah, man. I ran from them. I ran from these dark stories, man, and I was late for it.
FRANNIE: It's understandable.
TECH N9NE: Yup. And when you got a lot of people depending on you, and the label is depending on you. It has to move like that. That's stressful. And you're trying to take your time, like, "should I write this song?" I got through them though. And now, since I've done it, a grip of my fans like, "We need another K.O.D." I'm like, "Nah."
FRANNIE: "Can't do that for you."
TECH N9NE: I'm sorry. I'll give them a dark story every once in a while. But to totally be — something would really have to happen, really big in a bad way, for me to do a totally dark album again. Man, I can't.
FRANNIE: God forbid.
TECH N9NE: Because I'm not no horrorcore rapper to just, "Ah, I'll stab you and I'll chop your head off." No. No. I'm talking about — this is not Gravediggaz. This is not Flatlinerz. This is not that. This is not the "King Of Horrorcore." "Psycho Bitch" was real stories.
Even when I used my imagination and did "Pinocchiho," it was like, "I just want to be a normal boy." And I told the story about this guy that wanted to be a normal boy and be with one woman, but he ends up biting this lady and killing her. That was the imagination —
FRANNIE: It was allegory.
TECH N9NE: But it was like how I saw myself. I really want to be a normal boy, but I'm Tech N9ne.
TECH N9NE: And I'm not normal, and it's weird. But I ran from all those stories. I will never do that again. It was crazy, because that's all they want. They're like, "We want you to do more dark" — they want you to die. I can't die. I have to eat.
ALI: What is it that — as you reflect you mention that there're people who're counting on you. What is it that makes you honor that commitment? Because that's a huge weight to carry. What is it that makes you commit and stick to it and follow through.
TECH N9NE: Well, I think that we should share the inspiration, and I wanted to bring more people that were talented, like me, or even more talented. That's what you're asking?
ALI: Well, just in general about completing. Because you could have just walked away and just gone quiet.
TECH N9NE: No. We have a job to do. We gotta talk to these people, whether it be dark or there be light or there be a mix. I feel like that if I stop, everything stops. I can't stop. Not yet anyway. I have a team full of skilled musicians on Strange Music, you know? And this planet blows up, man, everybody's coming with me. Everybody's coming with me, man. I'm talking — not this planet, I'm talking about my planet.
ALI: Nah, I'm clear.
TECH N9NE: I'm not talking about planet Earth. I hope it don't blow up, but, man.
I feel like I have an obligation to my fans, and they waiting on it. They wanted K.O.D. I gave it to them. Now they want more. I can't give them — but I have a dark song on Planet. It's called "Brightfall." It's about me trying to detach from the darkness. But whenever I detach it always try to find me. What I said earlier, the evil you did in the past can return to haunt your present. It's true. And every time I try to go this way, something from the past still connects to me.
And it's called "Brightfall." It's like, totally detach from the darkness, and a grip of my fans like it so much they like, "Don't. Please." I'm like, "Y'all don't understand though. You can talk yourself into the grave." I don't want to do that. You can bring dark spirits to you. And I'm trying to lighten my life.
FRANNIE: So I've heard you say, and you're saying it right now, that people want things from you and kind of — people do I think sort of put you in the horrorcore category sometimes.
TECH N9NE: They tried to.
FRANNIE: And there do seem to be some sort of odd conversations around your music. But my question is what conversation do you want to be happening around your music?
TECH N9NE: I'm three-dimensional. I'm the king, the clown, and the G. It's going to always be the king that feels like that nobody can beat him rapping. He's the best. The clown, he was the one with the drugs and the wild partying. The G can be gangster, gentleman, been through everything and respects life.
So I just want people to take from me that I am for everybody. Now they say music, it ain't for everybody. But I got something for almost everybody, I always felt. But the problem with that is that some people gravitate toward one dimension. A grip of my fans like the clown more than anything. Maybe small amount of them might like the king, cause he's — he's a mental giant, just bussing, you know? And the gangster side, it's even smaller percentage.
But I would be fake as hell to say, "OK. This is going to make me the most money, so I'm just going to do this one thing." That's when I die. So I'm going to do me, and my face is still painted every once in a while, and that's all me. The people that see it and like, "OK. That's horrorcore," nah, that's my real life. That's my real life stories if you listen. It's my real life. It's not fake.
ALI: Is there ever a time that it's not fun, making music?
TECH N9NE: It's the funnest part. The most fun, that is. Making the music and performing it for my fans. I said it in one of my new songs called "Comfortable." I said, "I'm comfortable doing work in the studio. I'm comfortable giving fans an unruly show. Even if I got to take a voyage like Coolio to rock it, I'm with it, but outside of that shit is bootyhole." You know? That's how I feel.
ALI: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Indeed.
TECH N9NE: So creating it is like, "Wow. This is going to beautiful," and put it on your little recorder so you don't forget the pitches and everything. Go in the studio with your paper and you're listening to it, and you're like, "Ah, if I can this off of here in there, it's going to be wonderful." And my engineer say, "You say that every time you're going in, and it comes out good," and I'm like, "You never know, man."
FRANNIE: Do you have voice memos?
TECH N9NE: Yes. The dictaphone recorder. I'll sleep right next to it, wake up, "I'm a riot maker." I don't want to not have it. You dream things, and you forget them like, "I had a dope idea in my dream I forgot."
FRANNIE: Yeah. It's actually the worst feeling.
TECH N9NE: I've lost so many ideas before I started using those dictaphone recorders. But anyway, that's the most fun part, creating and performing it.
FRANNIE: Is there an unfun part?
TECH N9NE: Yes. I don't want to talk to nobody for real. I just want to do the work. I can talk to people really well. I don't want to. I don't want to talk. I just want to say hello and people say, "I like your music." "Thank you so much." And just keep on doing music. But you have to do press. It's cool, but I still get nervous. I don't get nervous when I'm on stage. I get nervous when I'm talking.
FRANNIE: Right. Well, it's weird. It's not the thing. It's not even tertiary. It fucks with the thing.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. I just don't — I like talking to people that know.
FRANNIE: Yeah, of course.
TECH N9NE: Some people — that's why I wrote the song "Comfortable." "No interviews with Tech Nina unless you're well-versed on what I done after so many years how we sell work. Even in this climate we climb as high as inhaled purp, but you don't know that. I'm the new and a throwback. So wack. I hate doing radio but I do it well. And it's done for the pushing for N9ne and crew to sell."
It's like, I want to talk to people that know about the journey.
TECH N9NE: Some people just do it because it's their job. I tell people, "Let me just get my following all the way up and people will want to call us to talk to us." That's just how I feel.
FRANNIE: Well, two things. One is I think that's sort of why people say that they're surprised that you keep ending up on the Forbes list and that you have all these fans or whatever. It's cause they didn't go out and find out.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. Yeah.
FRANNIE: But then it's also: this is why we do this show. Because Ali was like, "It's not good enough, what's happening."
TECH N9NE: Yeah. Yeah.
TECH N9NE: I see the crowd changing. They're getting younger, which is a beautiful thing. New life. I'm not ready to leave yet. I still have to let everybody know that I belong here, the strange individual that don't fit in with regular people. I'm regular right now. I'm just an irregular mindset. I need everybody to know that. So I'm not done yet. I feel like I'm being preserved for something. I'll be 47 this year.
ALI: Welcome to the club.
TECH N9NE: That's nothing. Already 47 I feel like I'm 24.
ALI: Yeah. You sound like it.
TECH N9NE: You know what? I wasn't supposed to say that. I'm 24, dude.
TECH N9NE: Yeah.
ALI: You sound like you're 19, man.
TECH N9NE: Yeah. That flow is going to be — is going to continue to be fresh, cause I work on it. I'm steadily keeping myself around gunners, young gunners that keep me on my toes.
ALI: Can you talk about some of those young gunners on the new record?
TECH N9NE: Oh yes I can. I only chose a select few gunners for this album since my fans were crying about me having too many features. So I chose Gunner, which is MGK, Machine Gun Kelly. I chose female gunner, Snow Tha Product, to be on my planet. I chose the illest n**** in Nebraska. His name is King-ISO. I chose Swisher Sleep from Seattle. I chose Joey Cool from Kansas City, and I chose JL.
Now, JL and Joey Cool are the newest signed on Strange Music, my homies from way back when. The others just been choppers that I respect and love. And of course my partner Krizz Kaliko, not too many people at all. Just the people that I think are beautiful, lyrically.
ALI: How long did it take to make this record?
TECH N9NE: I think since June maybe? Then I had a Canadian tour in the middle of it and then I came back — what?
ALI: What? I mean, I sit here, and I know that I work a lot. But your reputation of working is just — it's out there. You do a lot.
TECH N9NE: It's been done for a couple months now I think. So I don't know how long it took cause it's a month here and a month here and month here. Maybe three months? I don't know.
FRANNIE: Well, it sounds very alive, like, very vital. And the first single is perfect.
TECH N9NE: Yes.
FRANNIE: Thank you so much for coming here and telling us about it.
TECH N9NE: Thank you for having me. Yes.
ALI: You just have such an interesting journey, just listening to your life in music. And where you are now is pretty incredible, so —
TECH N9NE: Thank you, man.
ALI: Thank you.
TECH N9NE: Still going, man. Still going. I still thirst touching every part of this sphere before it's over. I still want to connect with more people.
ALI: Yeah. Thank you so much for kicking it with us.
TECH N9NE: Thank you, man. I appreciate it.
TECH N9NE: Now I'm going to go eat something. I'm so sorry, you guys.
ALI: Yeah. Please.
FRANNIE: No worries.
TECH N9NE: My stomach was doing an interview, too.