From founding Strange Music with Travis O’Guin over a decade ago to hitting Billboard’s Top 5 with All 6’s And 7’s, Tech N9ne has experienced a career that most hip hop artists will never live through. His ability to connect with a die hard audience has translated into a personal empire with Strange Music, and one individual has been there to witness it all.
Soren Baker is known in most circles as an accomplished hip hop journalist who has been published in magazines like XXL and The Source. His experiences in and out of the industry have given him a a unique perspective on the world of hip hop. Over a decade ago, his career led him to cross paths with the Kansas City King during the Anghellic era. Since then, Soren has worked closely with Tech N9ne having written and produced The Tech N9ne Experience and Psychumentary DVDs, and even contributed music to some of Tech’s biggest albums. Most recently, Soren Baker published his new book, I’m The White Guy: The Tech N9ne Edition. The book examines Soren’s experiences with Tech N9ne and gives readers a behind the scenes look at the career of the biggest independent artist in the world today. Speaking with Soren, we asked him to share some insight on his new book and what it has been like to work so closely with Tech N9ne over the years. In a revealing interview, he opens up about his personal experiences with Tech and what it has been like to watch him grow into the star he has become.
When did you first encounter Tech N9ne’s music?
Sometime in the mid 1990’s. I heard about him on some underground tapes my friends got me. I knew him from reading the magazines and knowing who was signed where, so I knew he was at Perspective Records. In the mid 1990’s is when I really first heard of him. I was on their mailing list and got a lot of their advance albums. I had gotten some of his early stuff.
Why did you choose Tech N9ne for the first edition of your series?
A few reasons. One, I had a lot of good photos of myself and Tech that showed I had been familiar with him and interacting with him since 2001, which is when I first met him. As it explains in the book, I talk about how I went to the Anghellic photo shoot. I talk about that experience, meeting Tech N9ne there. Then beyond that I have worked extensively with Tech, both writing and producing The Tech N9ne Experience, and writing, producing, and co-directing the Psychumentary DVD. So I had a lot of good insight on Tech, I had several good photos of Tech starting in 2001, and he’s also one of my favorite rappers.
What can you tell me about your experience working on those DVDs?
As I discuss in the book, the one that was more striking was when I worked on the Tech N9ne Experience. That was in 2004 when I was working on the Tech N9ne Experience. Tech N9ne had this perception that only white people liked Tech N9ne, and he didn’t have a following in the black community. But when I was doing The Tech N9ne Experience, writing and producing it, it was just amazing to me that everywhere we went in the hood, in the ghetto in Kansas City, people would be coming up to him, “Oh, Tech man, you’re the man. I love your new music, I remember when we used to rap on this corner or at this house party, at this event or when we used to dance together.” All these things really shed a good light to me, that he had tremendous respect in the underground in Kansas City, and that he was really respected by black people in Kansas City. In 2004, people had kind of lost sight of that, that he had such respect in the black community in Kansas City. I think people, because of the things people looked at like painting his face, spiking his hair, or that “It’s Alive” had kind of a Techno beat, and that he did have a lot of white fans, I think there was a misconception that black people didn’t like him much.
In the book you mention your contributions to Tech N9ne’s music. What did you contribute and how did that occur?
On “My World” for Everready: The Religion, I sold Tech the beat for that. That came just from trying to do more with people whose work I really admire. The rapper E.C. Illa from Chicago and the producer Legendary Traxster, also from Chicago- I lived in Chicago for a time, and when I was living there I got to be friends with E.C. Illa and Traxster. I just knew that Traxster had phenomenal production from back in the day when he worked with Twista, Snypaz, Psycho Drama, Do Or Die, etc., and I always really liked his production. As I became more successful as a writer, I didn’t want to limit myself to ways to further my career or ways to make money, or try different things. I realized that Traxster had a whole bunch of music that he hadn’t sold or wasn’t actively trying to sell out of his immediate circle. I knew that I was around rappers all the time, and I was around guys that who listened to me and trusted me, to where they would actually listen to the CD. I knew Tech was one of those guys that fit into those categories. Tech N9ne and Travis O’Guin always supported me and listened to me when I came to them with an idea. I was confident that they would open to listen to the beats. From all of my conversations with Tech over the years, I knew that he liked Twista and I knew he liked Traxster’s beats. I figured it would be a good match for him. As I discuss in the book, when Absolute Power had run its course and we were doing The Tech N9ne Experience, I had some beats from Traxster, I just thought it was perfect timing. The beat for “My World” was purchased at that time, in 2004. That was just a phenomenal feeling, I talk about that in detail in the book. I had gone from meeting Tech N9ne in 2001 on the Anghellic photo shoot to then writing and producing a DVD on Tech N9ne, and then also selling him a beat for what would be a part of Everready: The Religion. That was monumental for me because I love that so much. I hope that comes through in the book, but rap is my favorite thing in the world. Just to be able to work on such a tremendous scale with an artist I really like and admire, like Tech N9ne, it was a phenomenal feeling.
Having had a hand in Everready, where does that rank for you in terms of Tech’s albums?
I think Everready is in the top half of Tech’s albums. I still think Anghellic may be my favorite. I thought thematically it was the most cohesive, sonically it was the most adventurous, and lyrically, I think that was when Tech was most hungry and most determined to become who he is now. I think with Anghellic, he had a different mindset.
Soren Baker’s I’m The White Guy: The Tech N9ne Edition is now available on Amazon.com in a paperback edition.
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with author Soren Baker!