As the world prepared to welcome 2012, it seemed like there was no avoiding Tech N9ne. From being mentioned by the likes of The Rock to being named HipHopDX‘s Emcee Of The Year, Tech N9ne found himself at the center of the industry’s attention.
Adding to Tech N9ne’s notoriety in 2011, comedian and actor Chris D’Elia surprised fans when he interacted with Tech over Twitter and went on to call him the “best rapper alive.” Best known for his role on NBC’s Whitney, Chris D’Elia has made a career out of stand up and various television appearances, including roles on Workaholics, Monk, and Glory Daze. Following his interaction with Tech N9ne, we reached out to Chris D’Elia to discuss just how he came to discover Tech N9ne’s music and why he considered him to be the best rapper alive. Speaking on everything from Rick Ross to hip hop’s influence on comedy, Chris made one thing clear – nobody can fuck with Tech N9ne.
Most people wouldn’t think of you as a fan of hip hop. How did that develop?
I’ve always been a fan of hip hop. Ever since I was growing up. I was a huge – I still am, a huge Tupac fan. I always thought that it was cool that even though he lived such a different life than I obviously did, I felt like I could identify with what he was going through and what I was going through. It made me like him so much more because we were so different from each other. I started in totally 90’s, listening to a lot of Tupac right when he died. Since then, I’ve just been into a bunch of different rappers. There hasn’t been anybody – I think DMX’s first album, I was really really into that, but since Tupac, I haven’t been really too excited about a guy. Since I got into hip hop, I started knowing about Tech N9ne. When he came out with the Killer album is when I was like, “Forget it. This guy is the best rapper. This guy is the best rapper alive.” The Killer album, to me, is one of the top five greatest hip hop albums of all time.
Tupac was kind of what really made me like hip hop. Since he died, I’ve been searching for another guy that I could really get behind. I finally fell on Tech N9ne because, and maybe it sounds corny, but he’s so real–he talks about what he feels, you know? If he wants to make a song about food, he makes a song about food. It’s just that and he talks about sex addiction and all the other stuff, it’s what other rappers are kind of afraid to do. Everybody is rapping now, especially about what they have. It’s lame. It’s good to do that stuff too but I need to listen to some real stuff. I like hip hop too because the artists say more during a song rather than just singing. I also like that Tech uses his voice like an instrument.
The first time I heard about him was during a freestyle. It was on one of these compilation things that I was listening to with a bunch of freestyles from different rappers. That was the first time I heard of him. I remember thinking that he was intense, but I didn’t really think about it because it was just a freestyle or whatever. I didn’t really look into him, but this was back in ‘97. Before the Killer album came out is when I first heard one of his singles. I was like, “Damn, what is this?” He’s always had such a dark thing about him where he’s speaking in a dark way. I feel like his style didn’t change, but it just became what it was supposed to become. On the Killer album, I heard one of his singles – dude, I think every one of those songs, I mean I listened to that album when it came out, I couldn’t even tell you how much. It was just in my car. That made me go back through his catalog and just listen to all of his CDs from the beginning.
What made you mention Tech on Twitter that day?
You know, I’m a comedian dude. I know people are like, “What, Chris D’Elia from Whitney is a Tech N9ne fan?”, but that’s my job man. I’m playing a boyfriend, but if you look at my stand up, I talk a lot about hip hop. So, Twitter is just an outlet for funny jokes. It’s funny that people know me from Whitney because I’ve been doing stand up for six years. Obviously, people know me because I’m on a network now. I don’t know, I follow Tech N9ne and I don’t follow very many people. I was listening to him on the radio and I don’t know what show it was on, but it was on Sirius. When he said the thing about “If anything happens to my loved ones, especially my kids, there will be no more music.” I was just like – I know how intense he is about his music. I’m a big fan of his and I know he’s so into what he does. To think that way and to have that love for his family to say that he won’t be doing music after that is so–I mean, I don’t know, that really hit me hard. I feel that way about my family so that was really cool to hear. So, I tweeted about it. Sometimes it’s cool to let the people who follow you know what you’re into. I normally just do jokes. Honestly, an artist that I respect enough, I feel like they deserve to be known. I know a lot of people that follow me, they probably don’t have Tech N9ne albums. You know, a lot of people follow me just because of Whitney, and how many Whitney fans have Tech N9ne albums, you know? So, I want them to know about him.
Have you ever had the chance to meet him?
The only time I corresponded with him was on Twitter. A few years ago I had tickets to see him at the House Of Blues. I was at the Comedy Store and I had to go on stage, so I didn’t get to go there. Apparently something happened where they had to shut it down or something. It was a few years ago, I ended up not seeing him. I’ve never even seen him live. I’ve looked up all the stuff on YouTube and he puts on a live show. That’s the other thing too, rap is terrible live. It’s so bad, but not his shit man. I’ve been watching some of the footage on YouTube and it’s an insane show. I’ve never met him or anything, I’d love to.
Speaking of Twitter, I know you mention Rick Ross a lot. Are you a fan?
I actually do like Rick Ross yeah. I mean, I make fun of him just because it’s funny and I think he’s funny. I feel like some rappers are really good at saying really silly or corny things, but good at meaning it so you buy it. I think Rick Ross is really good at that, I think Jay-Z is really good at that and then there are some rappers that aren’t really good at that. I like Rick Ross because I feel he really thinks he’s for real a boss and I think that’s hilarious. It’s also true, so I do like Rick Ross, yeah.
Rick Ross v. Tech N9ne, who takes it?
Well, Tech. Nobody can fuck with Tech N9ne, I don’t think. I mean, no way.
A lot of our fans recognized you as Topher from Workaholics. Do you think Topher would be a Tech N9ne fan?
I don’t think that character could possibly even be smart enough to listen to music. I’d like to think yes because I like Tech N9ne, but Topher is just completely an idiot. I think he would like to meet Tech just because he’s famous, but I don’t know if he would like his music.
People like to draw comparisons between being a comedian and being a rock star. Do you think that’s a realistic comparison?
I think that depending on the type of comedian you are, that can be true. I don’t think it compares at all. You see rockstars do rockstar shit. Comedians do stand up and then they like go eat at a diner with all their standup friends or go home. There’s a lot of similarities because I think a lot of comedians are into drugs or have a crazy weird addiction. I don’t know man, girls want to fuck rockstars, but girls are always like – the comedian gets on stage and they’re like, “Oh my god you’re so funny, bye!” It’s not really like a rockstar. That’s one of those things that I hear a lot that I think is bullshit.
What kind of impact do you think hip hop has had on comedy?
I think there are a few comedians that really dress that way. That take pride in their shoes and take pride in the way they look in that respect, the way rappers do the same thing. I think there is an influence in that. Hip hop is just one of those things that has become so present in the mainstream that it’s hard to ignore. If you’re looking for different material, you’re bound to touch on hip hop and whoever is present. It’s also the music that me and a lot of my friends listen to, so you talk about what you know on stage. So yeah, I think it has affected it and influenced it a little, especially with some comedians.
If you had to choose any hip hop track as the new theme for Whitney, what would it be?
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. It would be the weirdest thing ever if Whitney had a hip hop theme song. Oh, how about “Hit Em Up”, that one’s hilarious. Yeah, I’ll go with “Hit Em Up”.
Fans can see more of Chris D’Elia on Whitney on Wednesday nights at 8PM/7PM Central. Be sure to look out for Chris D’Elia’s hour long special airing later this year and visit ChrisD’Elia.com for more!
-Victor Sandoval, Assistant Editor Strange Music
Follow Victor on Twitter: @VicMSandoval