‘If You’re Not Up To Par On The Cypher I Was Not Going To Put It On’ – Tech N9ne Talks The ‘Strangeulation’ Cypher [Strange Music Exclusive Interview]

Apr 21 2014

Tech N9ne Cypher Talks

Since the BET Music Awards cyphers became a thing, hip hop has seen a massive resurgence of emcees who gather around a beat and try to outdo each other. For years now, fans have been clamoring for the stable of elite artists on Strange Music to put together their own cypher, with the idea of who’s going to bring it the most being a discussion point every time the topic comes up.

Now, thanks to Tech N9ne Collabos – Strangeulation, fans have gotten their wish, as 13 elite artists have hopped on one of Seven’s hardest-hitting productions to date to deliver a string of bars that leave competition in their wake.

We talked to Tech N9ne while we interviewed him about Strangeulation to get his take on the cyphers and what they mean to the Strange Music catalog.

I want to talk about the cypher because to a lot of people that’s worth an entire discussion.

It is man and it goes deeper than what it is. What makes it so deep, and I’m telling you this because you’re Jeff, nobody knows this. The beat that we used for the cypher is the first beat that I ever rapped on from Seven, before I ever even knew him. There was this thing in Kansas City back when I was young called 50 Emcees put out by DJ Fresh. DJ Fresh reached out to all producers in the area, from Wichita came Seven. From Kansas City came a lot of producers and rappers and I was one of the rappers in Kansas City. They said that they wanted me on a song with Ray Dee The Reaper. He’s dark. From my Pure Dope days. We was in a group back in the day called Pure Dope. Ray Dee. I’m like “Hell Yeah! I ain’t rap with The Reaper in a long time!” And we did “Ready For The Meat Wagon” and it was dark (hums beat). It was dark. Seven produced it. It was the first song I ever did with Seven man.

I was like “Who did this beat?” “This white boy from Wichita named Seven.” I’m like “Oh that’s dope, that’s dope.” After I did that song, it was in the mid-90s or something, I don’t know, and I didn’t work with Seven again until “Come Gangsta” in 2007 or 6. So I always told Seven back in the day, I was like “Man I wanna redo that beat ‘Get Ready For The Meatwagon’ and put the ‘Approach To Danger’ drums on it,” from NWA. (Hits drum beat on table) So we finally did it man and put “The Meat Wagon” on top of it, re-did it and the beat is monumental to me because of that. It’s the very first time me and Seven ever worked together. It means so much to me because that was our first song we ever did together and we’re still working together after all this time. That’s why the cyphers mean so much to me because I got to get all my artists on a beat from when me and Seven met. We didn’t really meet back then I just knew that he did it.

But that was the first union of Tech N9ne and now Strange Music’s in house producer Seven.

This is the motherfucker that does all my music and I’m really picky when it come to beats and the fact that I have a producer that can play me beats that I like over and over and over again. I don’t get like “Nah, nope. I don’t want that one. Nope.” Every beat he play me I’m like “Damn!” I’m lucky. I’m blessed to have that and this cypher beat is our beginning.

When doing a cypher, what’s your approach mentally? Usually I’d ask if there’s competition against others but in this case everybody did it blind. No one heard anyone else.

No that was my rule. I didn’t want to hear anybody’s and I didn’t want nobody else to hear anybody’s as well. I wanted this cypher to be what you can bring to the table. I didn’t want you to have to hear anybody else’s shit and like “Okay, I’m going to say this since he said that.” I don’t want that. Maybe a couple people said the same thing because nobody heard anybody’s verses. I think Stevie Stone was the first to do his. I didn’t want to hear it. I left out. They said “You wanna hear it?” I’m like “Nope!” I didn’t hear anybody’s cyphers until after I did mine. I was the last to do mine. I was the last to do the cypher. No, Scooby was the last. Scooby was the last after me. I didn’t think he was going to do it but he came through and murdered it. That’s how I wanted it man.

There were a couple niggas like “Naw, I wanna hear some other peoples so I can murder,” but I was like “No, that’s not fair! If you’re going to murder then you’re going to murder on your own. You’re not going to murder off of what another motherfucker said.” I wanted it to be fair. I wanted you to bring whatever you can to this lyrical gunfight and everybody brought it. Prozak’s on it. Lynch is on it. Big Scoob is on it. That’s crazy. I wanted it to be pure and it’s reassurance that everybody I signed is an emcee. MURS is on it.

This is a song, I think since you were on that BET Awards Cypher, that fans have been really wanting to hear. How much self pressure or anticipation went into this?

People been wanting to hear a Strange Music cypher for a long time. We’ve been planning it for a long time. Everybody on the BET Awards and all that, they all wanted to see a Strange one after they saw TDE, after they saw A$AP Rocky, after they saw Ludacris and Disturbing Tha Peace and all that, whatever. They wanted to see Strange. Now we’re going to give it to them. We’re going to shoot a video for it too, you know? This is just some of what we can do. Mine is just talking about what’s happening now. “Strange Days, when you’re favorite rapper’s poppin’ but is he on top of something you can’t gauge? Especially when he’s topping the charts and you see Macklemore and K Lamar sharing the same stage?” You know what I’m saying? Some shit like that.

What do you think of the cypher now that you’ve heard everybody on it?

I wouldn’t have put it on the record if it wasn’t good. I wouldn’t have put it on there. I don’t care if you’re a part of Strange Music, if you’re not up to par on the cypher I was not going to put it on. Thank God everybody made it. Thank God I didn’t have to call somebody and say “Nah man, didn’t work for the cypher. I’m sorry.” I didn’t have to do that, thank God. I was on pins and needles after I did my verse and I was like “Okay, play me everybody else’s.” “Yes!” Every time they played me something, I’d wait until the end of it: “Yes! Okay, okay okay…play me another one…play me Lynch’s…yes!…okay, okay, okay…play me Prozak’s…yes!” It’s like I’m on pins and needles because I want everybody to be up to par! “Play me ¡MAYDAY!’s…yes! Play me CES Cru…yes! Stevie…yes!” It all came through man, it all came through. Travis was on pins and needles for me. He know I had to say the right thing. He said “Play me Tech’s” and I saw him listening and (laughs) he jumped up and gave me a hug! He said “Play that shit again!” I did it!

Travis O’Guin listens to Tech N9ne’s cypher verse

I was there for that. That verse was incredible. One thing I really like about that verse and the stuff you did on Kaliko’s “Titties” is that you pull out the punchline game. That’s not something that you really do often and so to a listener you’re like “Well maybe he just can’t do that.”

Yeah, I can do it.


I was on the Wake Up Show man, for years.

I evolve. I feel like life situations make me feel better. Songs like “Fortune Force Field” and “Love Me Tomorrow” and all those. “Low” and shit like that. I evolved into “I want to write my life,” but when the emcee shit comes I’m on board. That’s what I know. I’m a battle rapper for real. I’m not, but I am for real. My style is forceful so that makes it battle-worthy, but that’s not my profession to be a battle rapper. If that was the case I would’ve been in the Blaze Battles when Wrekonize won and shit like that. I would’ve been battling the Tech 9 dude that’s everywhere, but that ain’t my field, but my style is forceful like that so that puts me in the range of the niggas that asked to bust live on Sway in the Morning and bust at the drop of a dime because of my Wake Up Show affiliation. So it’s there, it’s just that I evolved into this nigga that really want to let people in. I realized what makes fans and that’s connecting.

Totally. That kind of stuff runs a little deeper than the “Ooooh!” face you get to a nice punchline.

Yeah it does man. It’s like, you can’t beat that, for the people to say “You got me through the war. ‘Riot Maker’, we played it all the time.” “‘The Noose’ touched us.” I went over there to say thank you to them muhfuckas. I broke my ribs before I went on stage and everything and still went on stage. I figured that they put up with so much pain with shrapnel hitting them. Losing limbs from that shit. I figure if they can be in pain and still go on, I’ll still go on.

When you are able to tap into that style of punchlines and clever shit, how does that feel?

It feels like I’m doing my style from back in the 90a (laughs). It’s there. I have to reach back. I don’t have to reach forward for that shit, I have to reach back. I’ma style type of dude. Some of the shit I did way back in the day before I was on people’s radars, I revisit. I need to revisit my style that everybody’s doing now. That Tech N9ne jam up style, what I was telling you about. “There will neva be anotha tecca nina when I quit.” Everybody’s doing that shit now. I’m like “Yeah, I did that.” I move on. They always said I was ahead of my time. That can hurt you sometimes, but I don’t give a fuck. If the beat calls for me to jam up, I will.

What can fans expect from this? Will it meet what they’ve probably built up in their heads?

I don’t think they have an idea of what’s in their head when it comes to our cypher. I think it’s going to surprise them because it’s live music. It’s like live music with 808 kicks in it. Live guitar, live drums, 808 kicks, scratching. Real hip hop shit. This beat wasn’t tailored for motherfuckers who do the styles like we frequent (Imitates chopping). I wasn’t going to tailor it to do that because we know that everybody on this label can do that for real. This is some real hip hop shit right here. You gotta be able to rap on this if you’re an emcee and everybody did it.


Tech N9ne - Strangeulation (Deluxe Edition)

  • Who do you think will have the best verse on the Strangeulation cypher?

Leave your guesses in the comments section below.