From the corner bodegas to the desktops of kids in the suburbs, mixtapes have long been a staple in the hip hop community. Mixtapes can launch the careers of up and coming rappers or resurrect the careers of rap veterans. MC’s like Drake have become overnight sensations through their mixtape success. When properly taken advantage of, the mixtape circuit can open doors that an MC never would have stepped through otherwise. Searching through the hundreds and hundreds of free tapes, many names pop up often: The Game, Bun B, Scarface, Lil Wayne, and Lupe Fiasco are just some of the most common names in mixtape circles.
One name though, has eluded the scene for years. Tech N9ne.
In his decade long career with Strange Music, Tech has always been adamant about his stance on mixtapes. Instead of releasing a free low-budget tape, Tech would always go all out and release his version of a mixtape: the Collabos. Perhaps it was the stigma of it being a “cheap and free” release that was off-putting. Tech N9ne has one of the largest followings in hip hop. His loyal, and sometimes rabid, fan base support every one of his releases. Tech N9ne can always be sure to move a certain amount of units solely on his core audience. It’s this self-contained world that has made it so easy for Tech N9ne to avoid mixtapes altogether. The demand may have been there, but fans were happy enough with the music that Tech kept pumping out. The strategy had to change in order to expand though.
In 2010, Tech N9ne spilled out into the mainstream consciousness. Lil Wayne’s request to collab with the Kansas City King caught the attention of the entire hip hop community. The timing could not have been better. With Tech’s next album up to bat, it was the most sensible move for Strange Music. The time had come for hip hop’s red nosed MC to cross into the world of mixtapes. When it comes to Tech N9ne, the name of the game is to “spread the infection”.
There was no doubt that DJ Whoo Kid was the perfect partner in the creation of Bad Season. The superstar DJ and radio personality has helped launch a long series of successful mixtapes with artists like 50 Cent, Lil Kim, Lloyd Banks, and Snoop Dogg. The G-Unit records label mate has all of the necessary tools in pushing a strong mixtape project. When news first broke of his joint venture with Tech N9ne, no one really knew what to make of it. Could Whoo Kid fashion a mixtape to fit Tech’s style? Could Tech deliver a strong performance over something he did not have complete control of?
The plan was simple. Whoo Kid would pick out the beats and Tech would do his best to rip them the only way he knows how. The tricky part was that Whoo Kid wanted to challenge Tech. The point of the mixtape was to introduce Tech to a whole new audience that had never heard him before. It’s no secret that Tech’s main demographic does not include the hardcore urban audiences that Whoo Kid could reach. The self-proclaimed “hip hop heads” have long shunned Tech’s music because of his unconventional raps. Between his famous red spiked hair and his over the top theatrics, urban fans have never really connected with Tech N9ne. Tech’s partnership with Whoo Kid and XXL was a step in the right direction. Whoo Kid’s contribution to the project guaranteed that Tech would receive that right nudge into more urban East Coast production. Tech admitted in several interviews that most of the beats on Bad Season would never have made the cut through his own judgment. Tech is infamous for being very picky with the production on his albums. The production that did make it onto Bad Season was exactly what Whoo Kid promised fans: different. Tech needed that outside perspective to really see what he could do on more traditional production. The outcome was quite surprising. Tech delivered his signature flow, but because of the East Coast influence, he sounded just polished enough for mainstream hip hop fans. Bad Season makes it seem as though Tech N9ne has been conquering mixtapes his whole career.
With Bad Season’s staggering success, XXL has proven to be quite a powerful asset in Strange Music’s corner. The premier hip hop magazine swings a large influence in the urban market. Mixtapes are often presented by XXL in an effort to ensure a wider audience. With XXL’s backing of Bad Season, Tech N9ne was put in a proper avenue for exposure. Traffic records were broken on XXLmag.com as fans rushed to the website for their opportunity to download Tech’s free mixtape. With all of the fevered fandom, the regular mixtape crowd was caught up in Bad Season’s takeover. Reports now indicate that since the release of Bad Season, Tech N9ne’s iTunes sales have skyrocketed. There is no denying that these sales are pouring in from new listeners. The effect that Bad Season has had on the world of Strange Music cannot just be measure in sales. XXL released their list of 2010’s “100 Best Mixtapes”. Narrowly missing the top 10, Bad Season dropped in at no. 11. For an artist who has long been criticized for neglecting urban audiences, this is a huge power move. Tech N9ne continues to prove that he can kill it in any format, album or mixtape.
Flying high from one of his best years ever, Tech N9ne is on track to deliver his biggest album yet. All 6’s And 7’s is now positioned to be heard by a much more diverse audience than ever before. With planned collaborations featuring Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Nas, and The Deftones, Tech is breaking out stronger than anyone thought possible. Bad Season has given Tech N9ne an entirely new and fresh world to push his message to. In a world full of self-proclaimed “Monster MC’s”, Strange Music and Tech N9ne have sunk their fangs into the mixtape industry.
-Victor Sandoval, Strange Music Blogs Contributor