‘I Have A Roster That’s Untouchable’ – Tech N9ne Talks Strangeulation Vol. II [SM Exclusive]

Nov 12 2015


With Strangeulation Vol. II, Tech follows up a bold first all-roster Collabos album with another. This time , with the stakes higher than ever, the emcees on the compilation were asked to deliver on a higher level than ever before.

We talked to Tech N9ne to get some insight into the making of the Tech N9ne Collabos – Strangeulation Vol. II. Along the way he touches on future plans and tells us just why this roster is untouchable.

Strangeulation: the concept is putting all your artists on one compilation. Some rappers, they get crews – and they’re alright sometimes – but you actually have a stable where they can steal a track at any given moment.

I make sure that my artists are elite. I don’t want to just have a crew that just raps mediocre, you know? I want it to be somebody that can actually take over, and I feel like every one of my artists has the ability to take over – or the talent and skill. That’s why I’m so gung-ho about our Collabos installments, because I have something to show off. It’s amazing. It’s amazing that we keep getting better and better with time.

It is kind of crazy, because there are a lot of instances where I hear dudes still coming up with new patterns, and they’re growing. That seems to be a thing that doesn’t happen everywhere, but it happens here. And I’ve seen it happen with you. We’ve seen you grow, but now that some of these other artists have been in Strange for like three, four, or five years, seeing them grow too is pretty incredible.

Oh yeah, the competition is thick here. So if you’re coming off “Speedom“, “Wither”, and all these things, you got to come with it. You got CES Cru: that’s unstoppable, you got MURS, you got ¡MAYDAY!, that’s unstoppable. It’s everybody. You got Rittz, you got Krizz Kaliko. That’s some competition. Stevie Stone. It’s crazy.

So you have to grow, because if you just stay stagnant in this one area, people are going to know. It happened to some artists on our label, recently. If it doesn’t match up, then it doesn’t make it. It hurts me because I’m the muh-fucka that goes after these guys, and if you don’t progress, we’ll all know it, because we’re all progressing.

We’re all getting better, not rusty or complacent, because we still have something to prove. So when you know you got all these ferocious mother fuckers on your label, why wouldn’t you want to put out a CD showcasing that?

I know you look for craftsmanship from these emcees when you sign them, but what are some other qualities that really grab you?

You gotta be able to convey all that you do in the studio, on stage into a mic for people. Because that’s what we do here. We tour. That’s the only way you’re gonna make fans stay, if you have a wonderful show.

That’s how I found Rittz. He was doing a show in Nashville. Went to his show – “Oh my goodness.” ¡MAYDAY! opened up for us in Orlando. I was like, “Oh my goodness!” Going to see CES Cru over and over in Kansas City, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m like, “I need these guys on my label.” Same way I found Krizz Kaliko and so on and so forth. Stevie Stone, way back in the day in Fulton, Missouri – before Anghellic, I think. He’ll be able to tell you what date it was.

I find these guys doing shows and conveying that energy on stage, and that’s longevity to me. It’s more than just somebody having one hit. It’s to have many hits. That longevity – being able to have the promoters want to book you for a show, because that’s forever, if you like it.

Definitely. There are a lot of guys who come in and out with hits. Now, you were in a position once where you were on the streets, struggling. Your talent was undeniable. People, like myself, were bumping your shit. People knew who you were, but you were still not where you could be. Now you’re able to foster the growth and development of artists that you admire and artists that you believe in. How does that feel to be able to do that?

It’s crazy man. Being at it this long and being able to reach out and help other families prosper, that’s a blessing. Of course, I look for elite emcees who can do this and that on stage and get people to come to their shows, but the fact that I have the means – or we have the means here at Strange Music – to be able to reach down and pull up some really good talent, and put them on the road to where they’re up there with me, and possibly go beyond me, that’s a blessing. I’m happy as hell that I can say that I have a roster that’s untouchable.

I think it shows on this. Let’s talk about Seven real quick too, because he’s the guy who’s providing the soundbed for all you guys, and he has this daunting task, sometimes, of turning shit around. I just read the liner notes that you made this album before you went out on tour, so you had to put shit together very efficiently and fast. At the same time, when I listen to it, it’s very quality – which is crazy to me. What can you say about how quickly he can turn shit around and what he is as a producer?

Editorial Seven

Let me tell you something about Seven: I don’t know how he does it, because I am so picky when it comes to beats. I don’t know how he keeps on giving me beats I like, one after another. There was a minute there where I wasn’t choosing his beats, because I’m so picky. After “Come Gangsta” it took so much time to get into that groove with Seven. That was 2006. That was like our first song. The fact that he can do “Wither”, then “Bass Ackwards”, then do “Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)”, then “Lacrimosa” and then do “A Certain Comfort” and “Burn it Down”, that’s unbelievable. So many different styles of music with a dude that does so many different styles of rhyme.

I think that was heaven-sent – Seven sent. Seven is heaven sent. That’s the same way I feel about Krizz Kaliko, how we mesh. To find a producer of that caliber that can do all those things for me, then Krizz Kaliko, then Stevie Stone, then ¡MAYDAY!. To go down the line, that’s amazing. Especially Tech N9ne, because Tech N9ne is forever changing. So you have to change with him. He did “Michael Myers Mask” and then to turn around and do “Slow To Me”. It just goes on and on and on. Wait till you hear “Praise KOD”.

I love that song.

You heard it already?

I have heard it already. We listened to the album one time in here, and that song is epic.

Oh yeah, “epic” is our word. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to have a producer of that caliber to where he can keep on doing…I already know, he said “We have to make The Storm even bigger. Your next LP, it has to be bigger than Special Effects.” [Gasps] How you gonna do that? How you gonna do bigger than Eminem? How you gonna do bigger than Corey Taylor? Bigger than 2 Chainz? B.o.B? Hopsin? And guess what? We’re gonna fuckin’ do it.

You guys haven’t backed down yet.

We’ll never back down. Nothing is scary. We admire music from Kendrick Lamar, Drake, We admire music from J. Cole – hella. We admire music from Dr. Dre. We admire people’s music. But nothing is scary to us, lyrically or musically. We admire Kanye. We’re like, “Wow we wanna work with this guy.” We’ve already worked with Kendrick and we’ve already worked with Tupac. We’ve already worked with all these people, you know? We admire Jay Z. We admire his beat selection and this, that, and the other. But nothing is scary. Like, “Oh my god, what are we gonna do after this album? They just put that out.” No man, we do us. We do us like no other. Nobody can beat us doing us.

What kind of space are you in when you have so many songs to write?

This is the thing. When they say, “This is the deadline,” I have no idea if I can do this or not. I don’t. Not Special Effects. Not Strangeulation Vol. II. I don’t know until I sit down. And then “MMM” comes out. Like, “Whaaaat?” [raps some verses]. WHAAAAAT? NO FUCKING WAAAAY! There’s just so much that needs to come out of me. I never know. I just take on the challenge. Travis will say, “We have to have it by this date or it’s gonna be fucked up.” And I’m like “We’re gonna have it.” I’m not knowing if I can do it.

Just like when I took that Alpha Dog movie from Nicholas Cassavetes. I never scored a movie, but I was gonna take that job, and I took it. And QD3 taught me how to do it, with ProTools. I take the challenge. Just like when I took the challenge, scared as fuck, for the Devil’s Carnival Hallelujah. I don’t act. I’m not an actor. I’m a rapper. I’m a writer, but I took that job.

That’s just like the writing process. Travis will give me the dates and I’m like “Oh yeah, he said we cannot miss 09/09 on the storm.” I’m like, “We cannot.” I have no idea what I’m gonna do. I don’t know what beats are gonna come in. It’s scary as fuck when it comes to that. I’m like, “Shit, man.”

I’m about to be 44 in two days and I’m getting better. I’m happy, but I’m just so excited to see what’s gonna come out of me next. Strangeulation just came out of me. 23 songs with me on – or maybe it’s 22 songs. I did that. I’m so proud of it too, because it’s so top notch. Going into it, I didn’t know I could do it. I got all these videos that we shot. It’s all this work that’s coming out of me. It’s this thing I say that’s in the back of my notebook that says “Just Sit Down”.

They say the hardest part is just sitting down.

Because I want to party all the time. I’m a party animal. I want to go drink. “You want to go to a bar? You wanna go here? Let’s go to the movies! Let’s do this!” Because I work all the time, I’m like “What’s up? Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” So, if I just sit down and listen to the beat, then it comes out, but I got ADD. The fact that I meet these deadlines – I met this deadline, Strangeulation. I don’t always meet them all the time. K.O.D. took awhile. I’m sure Special Effects did too. I don’t know. I’m sure Travis can tell you those nightmares. The fact that this thing is coming out of me still and it’s still fresh and people still want to hear it and it’s not dated and it’s super Strange and super hip still, it’s just like, I can’t wait to see what else is going to come out of me, because you never know until you sit down.

The back of Tech N9ne’s rhymebook

You dedicate a lot of time to your craft, but you still retain this element to where you don’t know what’s going to come out. In this record I heard old Tech N9ne flows merging with your new polish to create something new. Back in the day you had a lot of playfulness in your flows and it definitely surfaced on this record.

It did. I don’t know how to explain it man. It’s like an energy that came forth after the passing of my angel, my mom. I sit back and I listen to it and I’m like “Damn!” and everybody who’s gotten to hear it has been like “That’s that old Tech N9ne that I’ve been looking for.” I’m like “It’s been there.” I guess the beats have to bring that out in me, you know what I’m saying? I think we struck some shit on this last couple of albums.

I’m ready to go somehwere else. I’m ready to go somewhere else, that’s why I’m trying to do this EP with Marcus Yates, called Orbit – an EP. I’m ready to do it. Travis said that we got to start on the other album now, so I’m with that, but I know that Marcus Yates, my relative, can take me somewhere else. Him and Seven together is just murder. I’m ready to see where Marcus Yates will take me. He sent me nine beats when I was in Canada. It was on a zip file and I couldn’t open it on my phone. I really wanted to hear where he was going to take me. I haven’t heard it yet. So I talked to him today, he said “I just figured out you couldn’t open it up on your phone.” So, he’s going to find another way to send it to me, all these beats. I’m anxious to see where it’ll take me man, because beats take me away. It gives me another style.

I go on patterns too. Like a train (imitates train). I go with it. A clock (imitates clock). Whatever. Whatever pattern or rhythm. If it’s a phone that’s off the hook and it’s getting on my nerves, I’ll make a beat to it (Imitates CES Cru’s “Off The Hook” beat) and it sounds wonderful. CES Cru just did the “Off The Hook” song.

That’s how that came?

Yeah. It was a Tech N9ne idea and it fit in perfectly with CES Cru.

But yeah, it’s about patterns. I can go so many places. Destructo sent me a beat that I had to do and it’s going to take me a different place. Excision sent me a different beat to “Roadkill” and it took me to a different place. Now, Marcus Yates is going to send me something and me and Seven are going to go somewhere else with The Storm. I just want to know where we’re going so I can strap on my seatbelt and just fly. Just to have the music take me and whatever I’m going through at that time is going to come out.

Have you ever been stumped by a beat?

I have to feel the beat to want to sit down to it. I can’t be stumped with a beat or an idea. The beat gives me ideas. The only thing that might be challenging is “How do I want to execute this? How do I want to style on this beat? What does this beat require?” You know what I’m saying? (Sings “Know It” from ¡MAYDAY!) I’m listening to it, but the beat is moving like Roxanne Shante. (Raps “Roxanne, Roxanne”) “Back in January, or was it February?” I did that in the song. That’s why I did that, you know what I’m saying? It was moving like “Roxanne”, you know what I mean? So, it told me what to do and how to flow on it. It’s fucking beautiful. My first love letter that I wrote in a song, inspired by ¡MAYDAY! It’s fucking wonderful.

But the beats tell you what ot do, so I don’t ever get stumped, it’s just the style, and the beat tells you what style.

Do you have any personal highlights on this record?

Shit man. There’s some songs that didn’t make it that I’m like “Wow!” A song called “Holy Shit”. (Sings chorus) It just didn’t fit because the album is too long. I don’t know what we’re going to do with it. Everything we did man is like “”Whoa!”

I’m thinking about the lineup…there’s so many of them man. “Praise KOD” is my shit. It just makes me smile. (Imitates the flow pattern) Where does that come from dude? I don’t understan.d It’s moving like Coming To America (imitates Coming To America openng music) I’m like “Damn. How and I goin to rap on this!?” (Imitates rhythm of instrumental) I guess I was supposed to play the drums, be a percussionist, but we couldn’t afford it when I was young – bongos or whatever, so I just beat on the table and my chest. My flow comes from that, rhythm, being a dancer and shit. Just hitting on niggas.

That captures the ear.

Yeah man, it should. It should capture more ears, you know?

You’ve never been good at picking favorites on the albums you make. You’re always proud of the record as a whole.

It’s my baby! It’s like (sigh). I gotta look at the lineup man. It’s all jumbled up.

I think, as far as a display of elitism, this Strangeulation exceeds the first one.

Oh yes.

It’s pretty incredible. If you listen to this thing from front to back, it’s rather intimidating how good everyone is.

Man! They’re treacherous. They’re fucking treacherous man. We’re painting pictures on a song called “Tell Me If I’m Trippin'” with shit that really happened to us. From me, to Lynch Hung, to Prozak: painting pictures for people. That’s a beautiful thing. There’s so much going on on that record. It’s all over the place.

I think the biggest thing is, Tech N9ne being able to adjust to any musical situation with all of his artists. Just think about it, he can do “Blunt and a Hoe” with Ubi and MURS on some hip hop shit. He can do the dark shit with Lynch Hung and Prozak with “Tell Me If I’m Trippin'”. He can do the bright, weedhead shit with ¡MAYDAY!: “Wake and Bake”. The list just goes on. He can do the sexual shit with his brother Krizz Kaliko with the song “Muah”. It just goes down the line. He can do the R&B shit with Darrein “Real With Yourself” or “We Just Wanna Party”. It just goes on. I’m adjusting to every musical situation. He can do the gangster shit with Big Scoob, “Push Start” which is one of my fucking favorites. (Raps verse) I’m adjusting to all these fucking musical situations and all these dudes are different! So bravo to Tech N9ne for being able to do this so late in life and be good at it! I’m thinking about it like “Look how many different styles of music is on this record: R&B, dark shit.”

Pop too!

Pop shit! With Mackenzie O’Guin! Dude! And that’s one of the songs that made me realize: “What the fuck can’t I do?” Ain’t no big head shit to say, it’s just a proud thing to say. We’re so used to Tech N9ne. You expect him to do good. “Aw yeah, that’s nothing. That’s Tech.” But when you actually look at the fucking work – if I was to die today…alcohol poisoning or something (laughs), people will look at this work and say “He was a fucking genius!” and some people did not know. Then they would all know and it would be too late, but that’s not going to happen because I been enjoying the fruits of my labor. I just want people to sit back and look at that body of work and look at every musical situation I adjusted to. I can do it at ease.

That’s beautiful.

  • What are your expectations for Strangeulation Vol. II now that you’ve read Tech’s interview?

Let us know in the comments section below!