With Special Effects having been out for nearly a month, we’ve finally had time to digest what many are calling Tech’s best project to date.
The features are huge and diverse, the music is gigantic and eclectic, and the conceptual elements of the album tie everything together to make Special Effects the mammoth release that it is – but I noticed that despite the major players at work on this album, many of its best moments belong to Kansas City talent.
With that in mind, I decided to take the giant spotlight currently shining on Tech’s intricately-painted face, and point it back on the hometown for just a moment. These are Kansas City’s Special Effects highlights.
I obviously have to start with Krizz Kaliko, because in many ways he provides the backbone to Tech’s magnum opus.
It’s crazy to me that Krizz Kaliko has been such a staple in not only every Tech N9ne project for the last ten or so years, but every tour, many projects from other Strange artists, and his own solo work and has managed to keep things fresh and innovative the whole way through.
Krizz’s vocal work on this album is unmatched. Some of my favorite Krizz Kaliko hooks of all time appear on this album in the form of “Give It All”, “Life Sentences”, and “Shroud”. His range, not only vocally but artistically, make him an invaluable asset to Strange and his strengths are more apparent than ever on Special Effects.
Then there’s “Speedom (WWC2)”…don’t even get me started. Tech has admitted in interviews that Krizz owned that track, and Eminem himself offered humble praise during he and Tech’s interview on Sway In The Morning. Krizz has always been a mastermind on the hook, but this track will definitely play its part in further enforcing Krizz’s dominance as an emcee as well as a vocalist.
“Holy shit, Big Scoob is on this album!” Those were my first thoughts when I first had the opportunity to scan the track list of Tech’s latest album, and man, was my excitement warranted.
One of the many tracks boasting crazy features, “Bass Ackwards”, has Lil Wayne and Yo Gotti slaying over a beat that’s literally backwards, yet the highlight of the track (aside from Tech’s mind-bending appropriation of pig latin variants) comes in Big Scoob’s snarling gangster-isms.
Scoob reminds listeners that his tongue is as sharp as ever, and touts himself as a purist – someone that never gave a fuck about fame, just murking every instrumental presented to him and staying true the entire time. We’re left with a verse that perfectly embodies the no-bullshit street lyricism that made KC a force to be reckoned with in the first place.
When you’re the cousin of Tech N9ne, you’re expected to have some pretty big shoes to fill, but Marcus seems to have thrown the shoes to the side in exchange for some comfortable sandals, weaving in and out of the “Yates” beat with superhuman ease.
Marcus’ stream-of-conscious verse on the ode to Tech’s namesake really adds a distinctive flavor to Special Effects that wouldn’t be there otherwise. The song finds Marcus dodging all the possible pigeonholes that could be awaiting someone from Tech N9ne’s family tree, while he adds a refreshing (yet still incredibly sharp) feel to the incredibly dirty beat he produced with Seven.
With an album already packed tight with A-list features, who would Tech N9ne use for a heartfelt female-sung hook? Rihanna? Jhene Aiko? Beyonce?
Nope, Tech N9ne threw yet another curve ball to listeners by introducing their ears to Kate Rose, a 15 year old Kansas native with vocal talent far beyond her years, on “A Certain Comfort” which is quickly becoming a fan favorite.
Kate’s raw passion and (we’re assuming) years of hard work are apparent in her beautifully sung pieces, adding the perfect dash of solemn reflection to a couple already stellar Tech N9ne verses.
I was kickin’ it with some local artists one night – emcees, b-boys, & DJs all included – and decided to ask them “Who’s the best emcee in KC…that’s not Tech N9ne or CES Cru?” Joey Cool’s name came up damn near every time, and I totally get it.
Joey keeps expert command of his flow on “Life Sentences”, a personal favorite on the album, and wittily hands out shade to fake friends and freeloaders while keeping a poetic tone to his verse.
When you have a moment, go back and listen to the last few lines of his verse and tell me he’s not killing shit. I’ll wait.
Kansas City is in the presence of a future superstar and I’m not even sure they realize it yet.
Gee Watts blends the infectious baritone bars of someone like Jay Rock with the street-inspired wisdom of someone like Lupe Fiasco into, in this writer’s opinion, one of the best appearances on the album.
Alongside fellow KC up and comer Joey Cool, Gee Watts lyrically straddles the line between street corner pondering’s and monk-like clarity, with a few extra nasty punchlines in the mix (“Now the fame close and the name boasts / I’m ‘posed to break bread? Bitch taste toast” Whaaaaat?!).
I’m gonna go ahead and say it. SEVEN is the real star of this album.
Now let me back this up before you start hating me. Tech N9ne has been a superstar. Even when numbers didn’t quite reflect his larger-than-life presence, people recognized and knew that it was just a matter of time before the world was turning its collective head.
SEVEN on the other hand, has been steadily building a catalog of incredibly diverse, always dope, ever-evolving instrumentals, and yet if you tell someone (who’s not a legitimate audiophile) outside of KC you have a beat from SEVEN, they’ll ask you why you sampled that weird Brad Pitt / Morgan Freeman movie.
As Strange Music’s de facto in-house producer, SEVEN has been tasked with creating multiple sounds while still retaining his ability to make a song incredibly catchy without chasing trends, and he continues to master this craft on Special Effects, even reaching a pinnacle of creativity and efficacy on tracks like “Lacrimosa”, “Shroud”, and “Worldly Angel”.
His music is beautiful, his methods are unorthodox (yet incredibly effective), and his talents seem to show no signs of ever running dry, which is great because we have plenty of emcees to compliment his plethora of sounds.
So, there you have it. I’m not here to make the case that Tech N9ne just now started showing KC love – he’s always had the ability to seamlessly integrate local and international talents into his warped musical world. I’m just saying that on this album he did it better than ever, and I think the world is starting to take note that there’s plenty going on right here in the middle of the map.
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