One of the most insane, influential, and impactful legacies in hip-hop belongs to Tech N9ne. He has consistently accomplished the impossible from outside of the system. He’s bucked every trend, overturned all expectations, and not only built a culture, but a whole damn world with Strange Music.
There’s only one way to describe a rapper on the eve of his 50th birthday with a bigger audience than ever, wilder shows than ever, and crazier flows than ever—and it’s the title of his twenty-second full-length album, ASIN9NE [Strange Music].
“It’s asinine for Tech N9ne to be rapping like this going into his fiftieth birthday,” he laughs. “All of the fear is gone. It’s just stupid as fuck, as we used to say back in the day. It’s weird. It’s wonderful. It’s crazier than ever, man.”
The craziest thing is how far he’s come since co-founding Strange Music back in 2000. The Kansas City, MO rapper has gone from packed Midwest underground shows to the annual Forbes “Cash Kings” list multiple times, the cover of XXL, the playlists of Sir Elton John and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and national commercials for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Beyond tallying billions of streams and views, he has scored four platinum singles (“Am I A Psycho?” [feat. B.o.b & Hopsin], “Worldwide Choppers” [feat. Ceza, JL B.Hood, USO, Yelawolf, Twista, Busta Rhymes, D-Loc, & Twisted Insane], “Hood Go Crazy” [feat. 2 Chainz & B.o.B], and “Caribou Lou” [feat. Krizz Kaliko]) and three gold singles (“Fragile” [feat. Kendrick Lamar, ¡Mayday!, & Kendall Morgan], “Dysfunctional,” and “The Beast”) as well as a gold album (Everready). He has notched 23 entries on the Billboard Top albums Chart and remains the record holder for “most Top 10 albums on the rap chart.” Not to mention, he cracked the Top 5 of the Billboard Top 200 four times. His collaborators have ranged from Eminem, The Doors, Lil Wayne, Tupac, Boyz II Men, T.I., MGK, Flatbush Zombies, and Gary Clark, Jr. to Slipknot, System of a Down, Deftones, and Logic. Mainstream went Tech when he ignited ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! Meanwhile, Complex mused upon “How Kendrick Lamar Became a Star With Help From Tech N9ne.” He has sold out hundreds of shows as part of a relentless schedule. Not to mention, he introduced his own craft beer Bou Lou—in partnership with Kansas City’s own Boulevard Brewery.
Throughout 2021, he wrote and recorded ASIN9NE. Posting up millions of streams in advance, he teased the album with a string of fan favorites, including “Kickiter” [feat. Shao Dow], “Close Your Eyes” [feat. Kiddo Al], “Take Your Halo,” and “I Been Thru A Lot” [feat. Stige]. Of this marathon run, HotNewHipHop attested, “Tech N9ne just keeps blessing us with dope music.” Now, the album opens with the statement-making “The Herder.” Ominous funeral organ groans underneath back-masked vocals before Tech launches into a succinct salvo of staccato rhymes. Over a rock-infused soundscape, he speaks on his place in the game with the perfect metaphor…
“I am the ‘G.O.A.T. Herder’,” he grins. “I’ll take that title over ‘The G.O.A.T.’, because I’m making all of the ‘G.O.A.T.’s’ move. Whenever I send my verses to these ‘G.O.A.T.’s’ like Slim Shady, Wayne, T.I.P. or K. Dot, I push them to go harder. I’m not trying to outdo people; I’m just trying to do my best every time I drop.”
On “Too Good” [feat. Lil Wayne & Mumu Fresh], he delivers one quotable bar after another, living up to the title in the process. Mumu Fresh blesses the track with otherworldly soul, while Wayne—on his third track with Tech—devours the beat.
“Wayne followed the theme of the song, and it was perfect,” he goes on. “The synergy between Mumu Fresh, Wayne, and myself was such a surprise. It’s three quasars on one track. ‘Too Good’ is its own planet.”
“Clydesdale” [feat. E-40] gallops towards a hilarious hook “about big booties.” He goes on, “I think all women are beautiful no matter what, but my preference is thick and juicy.” Then, there’s “Zaza” [feat. Marcus Yates]. Tech’s little cousin Marcus lends his simmering R&B croon to what he describes as “a sexual record, because I’m three-dimensional.”
“No See Umz” [feat. Snow Tha Product & Russ] brings together three independent forces of nature. “In Puerto Rico, St. John, and the Caribbean, I always end up bit by bugs at night, and the locals refer to them as ‘No See Umz’,” he explains. “We’re using this metaphor to talk about keyboard warriors who talk shit, but won’t show their faces. Y’all know where we’re at, come talk to us.”
Incisive raps slash with Michael Myers-esque bloodlust over shuddering John Carpenter-inspired production on “Heightened.” Marking a full circle moment, “What Rhymes With Threat’ll Kill Ya” [feat. NNUTTHOWZE, Zkeircrow, Phlaque The Grimstress] sees Tech reunite with his NNUTHOWZE brothers for the first time since the nineties.
Everything culminates on “Special” [feat. Ashten Ray with accents by T-Pain]. Bright guitar and finger-snaps shine alongside Tech’s vivid storytelling before Ashten croons the hook, “The power is within you, just reach in deep inside.” It’s all uplifted by T-Pain’s instantly recognizable harmonies.
“I always try to end albums on a positive note,” he says. “I wanted to say ‘Thank You’ to my fans in another way after all of these years. I’m telling them, ‘I feel special because of you. All of this music is because of you. I want to show out for you’.”
Speaking of showing out, Tech welcomed quite possibly the most unbelievable, unexpected, and downright asinine guest possible for a secret track bound to shock and awe in the best way. You’ll have to listen, but you’ll smell what he’s been cooking up when you hear it.
In the end, Tech may be decades deep, but he’s just getting started…
“No matter what’s hot in the streets or how the modern era of music is changing, I’m not going anywhere,” he assures. “I’m still right here. I’m still Dracula. We’re not slowing down. I want you to listen to the album and know that I’ll never stop. This one takes you on a rollercoaster ride. It makes you want to hear more—and I’m going to give you more.” – Rick Florino, September 2021.