The creator of Strangeland himself was able to give us an in-depth interview about the making of his most intricate Collabos project yet, Welcome To Strangeland. We talked to Tech N9ne about the sound of the album, what it means to him, and what success has brought to his life. Tech shared with us what was put into the album, the approach he takes towards making music, and the unfortunate things that fame has caused. As usual it was a no-holds-barred, funny, and thought-provoking interview from The King Of Darkness.
On Welcome To Strangeland it seems that you guys worked hard to create a cohesive sound. Why did it finally come to be that you wanted this record to have an overall feel to where as most your other records are clusterfucks?
Well…I wanted to connect everything because this is my world. This is Strangeland. I say “Welcome To Strangeland”. I want people to know what’s in it so I created a path. This path is not horizontal, this path is vertical, it goes up, you know what I’m sizzling? We’ve been shooting for the stars ever since we started this shit so why wouldn’t it go up? That’s where we’re going–to the top baby, wherever that may be. I don’t know if there’s an end at the top. I don’t know if there’s a pinnacle. I don’t know if there’s a hilt. I don’t know, but we’re going, and we’re shooting for the stars and we’re right here with the stars right now. You see me with the stars on BET? I was with the stars. You seen Busta Rhymes, B.o.B., Eminem, Ludacris, Tech N9ne. You saw all these people. I’m right there with the stars and I’m still going up! My path is vertical in Strangeland so on my vertical path I’m going to shoot into God Status. It’s happening.
On this album I wanted to create this vertical path that I’m on. On this vertical path I meet CES Cru because they’re on the same path. I meet Jay Rock, Kutt Calhoun, Krizz Kaliko because they’re on the same path. I meet ¡Mayday!, Young Bleed, Stevie Stone, Brotha Lynch, and Prozak because they’re on the same path. This is within Strangeland as of right now. Big Scoob is on that motherfuckin’ path but I couldn’t find my nigga. My nigga’s been somewhere else! I gave him the beat to “Kocky”. He was supposed to be on “Kocky” with Jay Rock and Kutty. I don’t know what happened. He got busy, which is fine. It’s all Jesus. Beyond music that’s my motherfucking nigga but he’s still on our path even though he’s on another path right now.
I created a vertical path so that’s why I connected it all. I wrote all these rhymes and recorded all these songs before I went and put in all these intros in rhyme form, so I had to write seventeen more rhymes after I recorded these songs. (spits the intro to “Unfair”) I introduce all these songs in rhyme form. When I was doing it I told the wife I was like “When you hear it, it’s kind of on some Dr. Suess shit.” And she said “Don’t tell anybody that!” (Laughs) I was like “It’s either going to be super-corny or genius,” and when I did it, it turned out genius! It was hard to do but I did it in a timely fashion. No one knew what I was doing. I didn’t let anybody know because I was feeling that it might be corny but…it’s not fucking corny.
If these motherfuckers don’t stop calling my phone! The worst thing to do is to do an interview on my phone because ALL these motherfuckers call my phone like they don’t know that I’m doing interviews every day. You got bitches callin, niggas callin…God damn! When my words are dropping out it’s because motherfuckers are calling me like crazy wanting to talk about the cypher and shit. Nigga I aint talking to nobody except for people interviewing me!
Well we appreciate that. You’re coming in alright so…
How did you arrange the album to have this overall feel? What did you do to make sure that this album was cohesive?
Here’s what I did. I told Travis “I want these beats to sound enchanting. I want it to be like Nightmare Before Christmas meets Beetlejuice but still has that down-South bass.” Always gotta have that knock because without no pulse there’s no life. Seven was the first one that sent me shit that worked. I was like “Whoa!” He got it. He sent me “Unfair” and I said “Oh my God that sounds enchanting!” It sounds like some Beetlejuice shit (hums violin melody). It’s fucking irregular man. It’s so fucking wonderful. The second motherfucker that sent me something that was that way, he actually go the title track–Jomeezius the Genius. I never met him. I guess he’s from Colorado I’m not sure. They said he came to some of the signings that I’ve done. I guess I met him. I don’t fucking know and I don’t remember but I can’t wait to meet him again when I go to Denver. He got the title track “Welcome To Strangeland” (Starts singing chorus). It was perfect. It made Krizz just click like “Boom. This is what it’s supposed to say.” I never met him but he gave me some really enchanting shit. I can’t remember all the producers that came through. I know I did one with Pretty Boy Beats at the end. It’s a really nice one that I did as a dedication to my fans called “Overwhelming”. David Sanders did “Kocky”. I still have others that I haven’t recorded to that I got from David Sanders. “If I’m Lying I’m Dying” I was supposed to have Scooby on but I couldn’t find him so I had to take it off. There weren’t a lot of producers on this one. Oh, ¡Mayday! They did two of them. Fucking wonderful producers. Plex and Wrek are hardcore. Wonderful group. I’m glad they’re on my label. They did “The Noose” and “Retrogression”. Seven did a bunch of them though. He just got it.
Speaking of the production do you ever feel like sometimes the production can’t keep up with your expectations?
I’m blessed to have producers that know what I like. Sometimes it’s hard to find what I’m looking for. For All 6’s and 7’s it took awhile. My instructions for All 6’s and 7’s was like “Make them like you would make for Kanye but I don’t want them to sound like nobody on the radio! I want it to sound like me but make them big!” “He’s a Mental Giant” came out and I’m like “OH my goodness!” “If I Could” and “Fuck Food” came out and I’m like “Whoa!” I’m blessed to have producers that can say “Okay What about this?” and I’ll be like “Fuck yeah that’s it!” I always have instructions. Like for K.O.D. I said “I want them dark as fuck. My mom has pancreatitis. I don’t give a fuck I just want to be the King of Darkness. I don’t care what nobody thinks. Dark as fuck nigga. I’m talking about your worst nightmare!” Then Matic Lee did “Demons”. I was like “Hell yeah!” (Growls the horn melody) “Yeah nigga THAT’S what I need! I’m going to put Three 6 Mafia on this motherfucker!” Then Elmo I think he did “Blackened The Sun” and I was like “Oh my motherfucking God.” It just tapped into me. It just brought it out of me. Then Matic Lee did “Alucard”. It sounds like I’m about to fucking chew somebody’s neck out! I’m lucky I can have producers that can tap into me. In Welcome to Strangeland they tapped into me. You hear how excited I am when I’m talking about it? It’s because the beats are everything.
Working with your labelmates on Strangeland, did you found the process easier than previous collabos albums?
it was way easier because I sign artists. I don’t just sign niggas to back me up. “This is the one you’re on”–”Boom!” right back. “Lynch Hung” “Boom!” right back. I got Lynch Hung on two of them: “Sad Circus” and “My Favorite”. Kaliko: that motherfucker will go home and come back with three of them motherfuckers. Kutt Calhoun, same thing. Stevie Stone was chilling at my house. We were kicking it, drinking, bitches–it’s whatever, and we do that music. “Won’t You Come Dirty”. All of us gel. I know what we’re doing when we sign these artists. Young Bleed…we sent it to him and he was right back on it. It’s easy! What was hard was going back and writing songs to introduce these motherfuckers. I had to write rhymes to link them all. The ones that didn’t have rhymes to link, I linked them with the sounds from the previous song to the next like some Pink Floyd shit. There’s a lot put into it.
Some psychedelic flourishes.
When you record something like Strangeland how much pressure to you put on everyone else during the process?
No pressure over here man. We’re professionals. I’ll play everyone my verses, if you consider that pressure. I don’t know whether they do or not, you’d have to ask them if that’s pressure. I think that’s motivation. If I play you my verse and it’s going (raps “Worldwide Choppers”). If I’m doing all that that’s going to make you go “Puh-puh-puh-please whuh-whuh-whuh-what” (laughs) It’s going to make you do that nigga! Fuck yeah! It’s motivation. We’re supposed to push each other.
What would you consider the mission statement behind Welcome To Strangeland?
The mission statement is: “This is the world I’ve created and these are all the talented motherfuckers that are within it. Look what’s coming in hip hop. That’s what it is. All this talent I have right here within my empire. Look at what’s coming! Liz Suwandi is coming. CES Cru is coming. All these niggas are coming! They say Tech N9ne is opening the doors well look what’s coming behind him! Kutt Calhoun, Krizz Kaliko, Stevie Stone, ¡Mayday!, CES Cru, Brotha Lynch Hung, Prozak, Young Bleed, Jay Rock–all these motherfuckers are dope!
Do you think your flow and ability is still improving?
Fuck yeah. When you listen to this album. This is what i did. We released Beautiful Music first. All you got to do is listen to that! (Raps opening verse to “Beautiful Music”) That’s me doing it slow just so you can hear. Nigga I’m rapping circles around them niggas on this! Ha! And that’s the first song we released! We’re not supposed to give that away! I was just letting you know “I’ve got more. Just listen to this.” The next song that comes out is really sentimental and controversial and it’s called “The Noose”. The single is “Who Do I Catch”. It’s like, ha. If you don’t know if I’m improving on that–and after you listen to All 6’s and 7’s you’re going to be like “Damn…how much more can he do?” Wait until you hear what we do with CES Cru on there–all four of us, Krizz Kaliko, Ubiquitous, Godemis, and I. The first motherfucking song on the album is going to let people know: “We’ve Landed!” The whole story of this album is that I’m a star that fell–because I’ve been up there with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Quincy Jones, JCOR and Interscope, and all that–and after that the star fell…six feet under six feet, under the underground. Nobody knew who I was. It fell and created this land. He didn’t know, he fell so hard he was like “Where am I?” She’s like “You don’t know where you are?” “No.” “You’re in Strangeland!” “How did I get here?” “Well that’s simple Mr. Yates…your’e the creator.” It does it at the beginning again because I’ve landed. That’s the first song: “Stars” subtitled “We’ve Landed.” We start with the stars and then shoot up to God status. The first song alone: I’m busting on these niggas!
Why do you think you’re still improving while there are a lot of artists who plateau and remain stagnant?
Practice makes perfect. I’m doing a lot more music. It’s simple–and I’ve always got something to prove. There’s a lot of rappers out there rapping circles around niggas. Look at Eminem–c’mon man! That’s the ability to really go! Look at anybody in Slaughterhouse. When there’s motherfuckers out there rapping like that…you can’t be in the back! You gotta be right up there with them like “Come on let’s do this together! Let’s kill these niggas together”
Why do you think I’ve been trying to get Eminem on a song this whole time? I want all the hardest niggas on my team nigga! I’m making an alliance homie! I done already did songs with Slaughterhouse: Crooked I and Joell Ortiz and…I think I did a song with Joe Budden. I can’t remember. I toured with these niggas though like…the rawest niggas are in my corner man. Chino XL–that’s my brother. He’ll fucking chew your head off nigga! Headhunters, headhunters! I ain’t trying to work with Eminem to fucking get recognition so I can get record sales. If that happens that’s cool but nigga I just want to rap. I want the hardest niggas on my team!
I’m…I’m…why is somebody from Strange Music calling me when they know I’m on the phone with you dog!? That’s fucking crazy! You niggas need to communicate! (Laughs) You know what I’m saying? But uh…you know…I’m steady looking for my evil nemesis. There’s too much love out here. I don’t want an evil nemesis but I sure don’t want it to be anyone I just named! (Laughs) I want the hardest niggas on my team. Eminem is the last one standing until I find some more motherfuckers. Blind Fury is on my team. Hard! B.o.B. is on my team! Busta Rhymes is on my team! We all in each other corners! E-40…my team. 2Pac: my team motherfucker! He’s gone! MY team nigga…I’m on the new Outlawz album. That’s my team holmes! Alliance homey! I won’t stop until Mr. Shady is right there with me like “pah pah pah puh-pah pah!” We get to show out–because people just want us to get on a song to see who does the best anyways. I don’t give a fuck about that shit. I just want to say that I’ve done that shit and it’s beautiful. We make some beautiful music. We’re not just trying to outrap each other on a fucking track. Everyone knows we’ve got lyrics. That nigga has insane wordplay. I listened to him on the cypher like “What the fuck!?” I hope they’re listening to the second verse on Mental Giant like “What the fuck!?” I hope they are because I’m trying to channel these niggas like “Let’s go!”
How does an artist conjure up the inspiration to make great music on a consistent basis?
Man…I’m going to tell you what I do. I live life. I write my life. The beats dictate how you’re going to attack it. So…the beat made me say “NAR-cissistic…HARD to grip it….DARK and wicked…ART’s prolific…” you know what I’m saying? It’s gotta move! I live life. That’s why I don’t believe in writer’s block. I say go out there and let something happen to you or read a book. I don’t have time to read like I used to like Illuminati and Message To The Blackman and Celestine Prophecy, now I just live life. “What’s going on now? Oh really?” The troops are coming up to me like “I wanted to commit suicide over there but your music got me through.” I go over to Camp Pendleton and see the wounded soldiers who aint got no limbs like “God damn!”
The only thing that’s left to block is the style–how you want to deliver it. You just ride the beat. Whatever it tells you to do you do it. That’s what I do. If they call that making consistent music then that’s tight! That’s a blessing to keep doing good shit. I listen to Welcome To Strangeland every day on my bus. Banging that shit like when “Stars” comes on I’m like “Daaaamn! I’m busting on these motherfuckers!” but it’s that midwest flow though like “pah-pah-pah-pah-pah-puh-pah-pah-pah!” It’s going! I thank God for it. I thank God for it because I’m 40-years-old and it seems that I’m getting better at it. I know practice makes perfect so I’m trying to see where my hilt is. I don’t know if there’s a hilt.
Last night when I was performing, I was about to go on right after Krizz. In my head I was like “I wish I could just be their hype man!” but the demand for me is just humongous now so I can’t just fall off and say “I’m done now, I’m just going to hype for Krizz and Kutt.” That’s my dream though! I just want to be on the side, filling in, jumping in the crowd, and partying nigga! I gotta remember a lot of words up there. I was thinking “Damn…I would’ve never thought just to do that.” But I doubt it. My fans are getting younger and younger and I’m like “this is what you asked for!” They’re starting at two and three: (child’s voice) “Tech N9ne! Tech N9ne! Tech N9ne! Ah-woo! Ah-woo!” I’m like “Oh my God! It’s a blessing.”
Prozak went on Twitter and said that this was his favorite Tech N9ne CD period. Do you think that a lot of other people will feel the same about this album?
I don’t know…I don’t know…All 6’s and 7’s is hard to beat but this is some good fucking music. I do all my albums like I’m doing a Tech N9ne album, I don’t just say “Okay this is just a collabos so I’m going to slack.” I didn’t slack on The Gates Mixed Plate, I know motherfuckers talk a lot of shit but I just did shit I don’t regularly do, just let go of the wheel. Let everybody else do the hooks. “Oh we don’t like it that much” but after awhile they were like “Damn, Gates Mixed Plate is tight for real.” I’m like “Yeah nigga.” I don’t do no punk ass shit. It might not be your preference. Some people might like the darker shit more. They say “K.O.D. is my shit…Seepage is my shit…Lost Scripts of K.O.D. is my shit.” Yeahhh I know. It’s just a piece of me though.”
Every album has a little bit of darkness of darkness on it. Welcome To Strangeland is just like all my other ones. It starts off super-aggressive and after that it gets super-sexual. After super-sexual we get to doing drugs and then it gets sad. There’s a part in the album where it says “Too drugged out, now I’m bummed out.” And all the sadness within me just pours onto you until the end, but the end kind of lifts you up because go into God Status. We come out of sadness on a song called “Slave” with Krizz, Kutty, and I. “Fight the pain, inside the rain…” You know? We’re trying to fight the pain coming out of the sadness. After “Slave” comes “Overwhelming”. I’m telling my fans “All this love you all are giving me is fucking overwhelming! I didn’t have nothing and now look!”
Then it goes to “Gods”. God Status. Just saying “I got people with tattoos of my face on them for the rest of their lives, they follow our tours…it’s Godly…beyond the stars. When I listen to Watch The Throne with Jay-Z and Kanye it was just so crazy how niggas be on the same shit. They’re singing “What’s a God to a non-believer?” In the second song they say “We’re going to take it to the moon, take it to the stars. How many people you know could take it this far?” with Beyonce. “I’m going to take this whole thing to Mars!” “Oh they’re going to take it to Mars, huh?” Niggas be on the same shit without even hearing each other’s shit! We on the same shit! They’re going to take it to Mars! Well we kind of took it beyond mars…God Status (laughs). They’re richer than us, they should’ve took it to God Status. It’s just crazy because there’s no place to go but up when you’re doing beautiful shit, and Jay-Z and Kanye do beautiful music. I can’t wait to hook up with them niggas either.
It’s like seeing DMX on the awards: “Oh my God my nigga’s out! I can’t wait!” We did a tour together, we prayed every night together. It was wonderful! I can’t wait to work with the dark man. The King of Darkness and DMX! They asked him on 106 and Park “What do you think of the state of rap right now? What do you think of rappers?” And he said “I don’t. I don’t think about rappers. I think about what I’m doing.” I was laughing like a motherfucker. I was like “I love that nigga!” If you don’t have anything good to say don’t it all. That’s wonderful. That’s what my Mama taught me. That’s why I was laughing so hard–it’s perfect. It’s not PC. That nigga aint PC. I love it because I’m the same way. I can’t wait to see what we conjure up. I know Machine Gun Kelly is the first to dabble into it because he’s trying to get him and I on a song together. I’m ready man. Niggas be on the same thing. We’re going to take it to the stars and everything. My album starts off on “Stars” and ends in “Gods”. It’s beautiful.
There’s a bit of an ironic twist about God Status: before people were calling you devil worshipper and associating you with that, and now that you’ve come out to say God Status, some people are feeling uneasy and criticize that. How do you react to that?
Well if they paid attention to “K.O.D.”, they would know that I said “most of my spirit comes from up above. I’m mostly angel, but sometimes we fall. Living under God and I hope it’s listening when I say ‘I love you all!'” That’s love. That’s telling you I’m godly right there. I’m trying to let them know that if they thought I was evil, and if they thought “Cult Leader” and all that shit is evil, nah man. I’m teaching love! Off With His Head if he aint–O.W.H.H.!
These are demons that I’m talking about! Fuck the demons! That’s what I think and that’s what I’ve always felt! If a demons penetrate our circle we have to do whatever we can to survive. We don’t want to bump heads with nobody, but we will! If it threatens us having lives with our children–are you crazy, you think I’m going to let you take me away from my children? I’m going to take your fucking head off you motherfucker! That’s how I feel, and that’s an angel speaking, a worldly angel! I know demons are down here and I know jealousy really plagues them. They’re seeing us grow…and these are guys with good hearts! There’s demons out there like “We gon’ fuck with them niggas!” Please, don’t do that, because we are fucking prepared. We are fucking prepared. We don’t need no problems.
I’m trying to make this thing so big, that at any point of the fucking Earth that we walk, we’re protected, because we have love and the demons are outnumbered. I told you “I can feel the trippin’ coming.” Then MJ had to die in Reno…the trippin is coming with fame. Fuck fame nigga! But this is what we asked for when we put our lives out there. It’s just like winning the lottery, you don’t want anyone to know you won because everybody will call you. The shit is happening to me to where everybody is calling me. I can’t answer my phone anymore because people need shit all the time.
In a time when people can’t get jobs and shit…it’s fucked up to be in a position to be able to give out a job but you can’t really give a job because we’re all booked up–everything’s taken! I got family members that need jobs. It’s fucked up out here. It’s just like winning the lottery man: “It said here in the book that you made $11-point-something million…and you can’t?…” Nigga I’m working! I put that shit back into my company! Like i I was sitting on $11 million at that moment, like I wouldn’t be doing bigger things. You’ll see $11 million if I got it. I don’t want you to see it but it’ll show! Look at my empire…that’s the $11 million motherfucker…and more.
But that’s what this is doing, it’s going to make demons come out. We don’t want it but it’s like we look for it in the midst of love. That’s how on-point we try to be. MJ would still be here. There’s a lot of things that went down in Reno that day. Krizz Kaliko stopped breathing on stage. They had to rush him in an ambulance, took OG Muggs with him. A lot of things happened that days–it was crazy. I got into it on the street earlier that day with some motherfuckers that thought I had something to do with Mac Dre dying. I’m like “What? Nigga I know what you’re doing and you didn’t hear no punk shit like that.” And I ended up giving them motherfuckers tickets to get in and they was talking shit nigga–the angel in me. Shit was all fucked up that day. And that shit happened with my nigga just being outside on the phone talking to his wife. We ain’t letting that shit happen again. Fucking demons. A plague on all their families motherfucker, a plague on all their families.
Click here to purchase Welcome to Strangeland.
Jeff Nelson, Senior Blog Editor Strange Music
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffreyPNelson