The name Tech N9ne means many things to many people. His tight-knit gigantic network of fans might know him as the leader of the Strange Music empire, complete with an arsenal of bars that are far beyond the formulaic hip-hop quotables. Number crunchers might know him as a financial anomaly – having no consistent commercial success yet raking in millions and being one of the most successful independent artists on the scene. As for hip-hop, well, Tech N9ne is legendary; slept-on but never sleeping and continuously prolific. Life+Times candidly spoke with Tech N9ne and it turns out he’s a big JAY Z fan. Like his most recent album, Tecca Nina sure is Something Else.
Life+Times: Hi Tech! How are you doing?
Tech N9ne: I’m wonderful!
L+T: First off, congratulations on the album.
Tech N9ne: Thank you so much, man! Everybody loves it. It was like, JAY Z at number one and me at number two!
L+T:Yeah! That’s crazy.
Tech N9ne: This is so crazy that we’re talking for JAY Z’s Life+Times, because for the last week I’ve been telling people that I need to talk to him to ask him some questions. I’m intrigued by how, after all these years – and he’s always been a hit-maker – but when I was out in New York the last time, “Tom Ford” and “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” were playing in the club and everybody’s loving it and banging to it, I really wanted to ask him: does he feel like I feel? Does he feel like Dracula? Because he’s been here for the rise and fall of a lot of MCs, just like me, and he still – to this day – can choose the beats that make people move! He’s insanely talented, man, and people who don’t like him, who say that they don’t like JAY Z, I don’t really get it. Because the boy can sell out The Garden! If he wanted to charge $700 for a ticket, people would pay it! You know what I mean? I want to talk to the hip-hop president, once again. He talked to me years ago, like in ’99 or something like that, ’98. On The Wake-Up Show, we were there together. Then I did the tour with him after that, the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour with him, Hoobastank, 311, Nappy Roots, N.E.R.D., Talib Kweli – we were all there! I was going on at 2 o’clock in the day, and I’d see him backstage and I’d give him the Black fist. You know what I’m saying? And he’d give it back to me, but I just want to talk to the hip-hop president, man! Because he is the hip-hop President, you know that right?
Life+Times: Yeah, I know.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, that’s what I call him. Because I’ve always said, you know, if you want to be hip-hop President, you have to get out there and politic. And how do we politic through hip-hop music? We get out there and tour and sell merchandise and this, that and the other. But this guy, you can see him next to the president more than once! He is the hip-hop President. I just want to ask him. And when they told me that I was going to be doing JAY Z’s Life+Times, I had questions. I didn’t know what you were going to ask me, but that thing I just said about him being able to rap over the beats or choose the beats, it’s just so wonderful! His beat selections, they’re made to make people move, and like, just so late in life. You know, I’m 41, I’ll be 42. I don’t know how old he is, they say he’s older than me but I’m not sure.
Life+Times: I think he’s turning 44.
Tech N9ne: Okay. Just so late in life, he’s still so young in it! That’s how I feel too about me. I feel like I’m getting younger and better. I’m listening to his album daily, him and Kanye’s albums because I just bought them like a couple weeks ago. So I’ve been going back and forth and every time I listen to the JAY Z album, at first I couldn’t get past the first six because it’s beautiful. Now I’m up to number nine. It’s like I’m working my way through the CD, you know? I’m tripping off of them, because he still has the power to move people even harder this day, from back doing Reasonable Doubt when everybody knew like, “Okay, Reasonable Doubt is dope,” and everybody was on The Blueprint & 2 and all that kind of shit. Everybody was on it hard, and now, Magna Carta… Holy Grail, it’s like even more people are on it, and everybody’s banging it, baby! I’m talking about everybody. I want to ask him, “Do you keep young dudes around you? I mean, what is it, man? Or is it just in your blood to just do really wonderful music?” From the first song with Justin Timberlake singing [sings], it’s like he knows how to make a hit as well. I mean, that’s what he does. He fucking makes hits! Street hits, Top 40 hits, all that, JAY Z got it. I want to fuck with him, you know he got it! I really would like to talk to him. I’m using you. So, I hope he gets to hear this or reads this or something. You’ve got to promise me. You think that he sees these kinds of things?
L+T: He definitely does. I mean, you and Jay Z in a way are like kindred spirits, because you’ve almost decoded (pun intended) hip-hop in a way. Like, you both have cracked a code that has given you such longevity in the game, that so many artists beg for.
Tech N9ne: Yeah man! Yeah, that’s crazy and that’s why I say I feel like Count Dracula. I feel like, immortal because we’ve seen the rise and fall of many MCs and we’re still on the incline. That’s a lot to be said. Keeping it original like Levis 501’s, Jordan’s I, II, III, IV and V, you know what I’m saying? Original! It’s like Dickies, dungarees, original stuff. I think that he’s just a genius. That’s what I think, man, and I don’t say that about a lot of people. He says that on his album; he says, “Genius!” on one of his songs and I went, “Okay, he recognizes it!” He recognizes it and I was going to call him at the end of Something Else to put him on a song called “That’s My Kid” because he’d just had Blue and I’m like, “He’d be perfect!” But I ran out of time. I had a line close to him, an old friend that’s his engineer, Mike Dean. That’s an old friend of mine. I hit Mike Dean up when they were in Africa and I said in the email: “Mike, if I sent you a song to give Jay, could you play it for him?” and he was like, “Of course I will!” and I never sent it!
L+T: But you’re Tech N9ne, just get on the phone and call him!
Tech N9ne: Yeah, that will come, but we’ve got to meet each other face to face again. I know he remembers me. I know they he’s seeing my chart position on Billboard and everything. I’m independent with no video, no radio, so that’s like almost impossible, you know? It’s just making me think like, “What if I was on the radio and TV like them? I’d be dominating!”
Tech N9ne: It’s coming! Me and my partner Travis, we’re like, “Okay, fuck it. We’re going to try and play this radio game once again.” Because we did it back in 2002 and it just hurt us so bad. We lost millions of dollars and so we started putting our money into something else. Like, “Let’s put it into merchandise. Let’s put it into our stage set. Let’s put it into other artists. Let’s grow this business. Let’s buy another building instead of playing this radio game, because radio game costs money!” I came with a lot of records on this one, like “See Me” with Wiz Khalifa and B.o.B.. Drumma Boy did the beat. I did one with Kendrick Lamar, I did one with The Doors and then Serj Tankian, you know what I’m saying? It’s like I just did so many! I did one with Cee-Lo and Big K.R.I.T.. There’s so many things we can do! So it’s like, “Okay, we’re going to play the radio game on this album. Okay, let’s go!” We’ll see. We’re getting some traction and everything but, if anything catches, it’s like I’m going to charm the whole world. But, I’m going to be the King of Darkness doing it. I’m always going to be me. I’m never going to conform for no amount of money, but the fact that we’re still here after all this time, me and JAY Z, even Nas, all these people, all these vampires like myself, these immortal people, these day-walkers, night-riders, it’s like all of us are still here, man! Still gaining younger fans! Music is the fountain of youth, and JAY Z tapped into it. That’s why I want to talk to him. I want to make sure that Young, which he calls himself, and they say, “If you keep it young, your song is always sung!” And he knows that, because he calls himself Young. I say that a lot, “If you keep it young, your song is always sung!” and that goes for JAY Z too. But I just want to talk to the hip-hop president and make sure that he doesn’t have that potion that they had in Death Becomes Her. I don’t know if you know that movie, with Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep. They went to this lady that makes them stay young and all that kind of shit. I’ve got to make sure JAY Z ain’t got one of them potions because actually, it feels like I took it! I’m about to be 42 on November 8th, and I’m looking in the mirror like, “Damn, when are my wrinkles going to come?” It’s like the Lord is preserving us for something big.
L+T: I think that’s called the Pharrell potion.
Tech N9ne: [laughs] Yeah it is! I just popped up in Forbes, so everybody know I got it now! Like, “God damn!”
L+T: I know, how does that feel?
Tech N9ne: This is the second year that Forbes is telling everybody what I done made in a year. I’m the kind of dude that, I don’t want everybody to know I won the lottery. All my ex-girlfriends be calling me, texting me. “Hey, when you get back home, let’s kick it!” I’m like, “Are you crazy? Did you forget that you swung on me and busted my nose in the club?” That didn’t happen. I’m just joking. I kind of exaggerated that.
L+T: So you say.
Tech N9ne: [laughs] But the girls be calling me after the Forbes list. I’m like, “Ugh!” And you have no control over the Forbes thing! They interviewed me this time and they let me know when I was out in New York doing my rounds. They’re like, “Okay, listen. We’re about to go to Forbes.” I’m like, “What?!” “We have to do an interview with Forbes.” I’m like, “God dammit!” So when I got there, I tried to just talk regular, like, “Yeah, I’m just so amazed that the fans are still coming and it’s just so beautiful.” They’re like, “How much do you make in merchandise?” What about JAY Z and them though? They’re going to the Basquiat show?! They going to an art show! Him and Frank Ocean are going to art shows, my nigga? That’s another level to the game!” I’m picturing it when he’s saying it, like, “They must be in Jamaica somewhere!” I ain’t even know who Basquiat was! I had to look it up, because he was saying it on another record. He was like, “Basquiat!” and I’m like, “What the fuck is that?” So I looked it up, I Googled it, and I said, “Oh, he was a Jamaican artist!” I’m like, “Whoa!” That’s another level of the game! That’s some other shit that niggas is doing. I had no idea. JAY Z taught me something. So I’m like, “These niggas are going to Basquiat shows? Art shows and buying portraits and shit? I can’t wait!” But me, I’m a little bit different. I’m the King of Darkness, so I’ma be going to horror conventions, buying shit. [laughs]
L+T: Too funny!
Tech N9ne: I’m serious! Baby, I already have a big, big, big, big portrait of the Devil’s Rejects like they’re sitting at the Last Supper at the table and they signed it for me. Everybody signed it for me: Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob Zombie, Sid Haig, all of them signed it for me, dude! I’ve been having it for years!
L+T: Oh my God!
Tech N9ne: Yeah, it’s been sitting in my garage. I never hung it. I’ma hang it when I get my bigger house, when I put my new movie theatre in my basement. That’s where I’ma put it. I’ma be like, “Yeah!” I got some shit to do. And I just found out about Comic Con too. I just did my first Comic Con. I’m like, “Ah shit! I’m about to buy all kind of shit!” Nigga I bought Carrie posters, I bought Michael Myers posters, everything! So, I ain’t gon’ have the Basquiat shit like JAY Z; he’s ritzy as a motherfucker. That’s dope, and I’m glad he taught me that because I didn’t know what the fuck Basquiat was. But yeah, I’m taking notes.
L+T: Your taste is reflected in your fan base though…well except for the Juggalos. That’s a whole other kind of fanbase for rap that people often sleep on.
Tech N9ne: Totally!
L+T: How did you get their attention?
Tech N9ne: This is what I think that happened: When you call yourself the Killer Clown since 1994, you’re going to attract some weirdos I guess, like yourself. Because I am a weirdo, you know. The Technicians started in Kansas City. The Juggalos, that was like in the mid ‘90s. The Technicians, probably started like ’92, ’93 because I just started doing it professionally in ’90, ’91. 2001, after Angelic, was when the Juggalos and Juggalettes started popping up at my shows, and I had no idea what it was. The Hatchet gear they were wearing, and they were always the people in front of the line! After all a whole tour, like 56 cities or something, at the end of the tour, we’re doing Lawrence, Kansas, 2001 some time. I went out before the show in the front, early before…I think this was before we were doing meet and greets. I say, “What is that?” and they had their face painted like me and shit, and everybody’s like, “Oh, this is Hatchet gear.” I said, “What is that?” and they say, “We’re Juggalos and Juggalettes!” I say, “What the fuck is that?” and they say, “Oh, you don’t know? We’re ICP fans, we love your music!” You know, my music has dark undertones, religious overtones or undertones, whatever you want to call it. They connected with my face-paint, they connected with my pain and they connected with my darkness. That shit’s scary, growing up learning about the Holy Ghost and everything, so that’s why I think all of us from the Midwest, like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Ouija Board, Twista and even Eminem, it’s like a lot of that shit is dark and I think that they latched on to that shit and they accepted me. But what I say, is that my music is for everybody, and if everybody wants a certain type of music, I’m Technique Number 9, the complete technique of rhymes, so I’m going to hit everybody and the Juggalos are a part of the human body, so why wouldn’t they enjoy my music? We have a lot in common; our face-paint, and a lot of them have pain, and I share my pain, and a lot of people from Juggalos, to metal heads, to gang-bangers, to soldiers over in Afghanistan and Iraq and everything, they come to me and they say, “Your music saved my life! I wanted to commit suicide!” So, it’s not just the Juggalos that appreciate me sharing my pain, because when they hear somebody that they look up to in pain, that puts a little level playing field because they are as well. They lost a friend, or they lost they mama, and when they hear “Mama Nem,” it made them feel better. So, that’s how the connection with the Juggalos happened. They came in 2001, after Angelic.
L+T: You mentioned earlier that you’re trying to figure out what it is that you can do to crack radio. After all of this success, what does achieving that mean to you?
Tech N9ne: Well the thing is, my quest is global or world dominance, world domination. What that means is that everybody around the world knows my story through my music. I spent five days off in Barcelona walking around and nobody knew me. I hated it! I spent four days in Monaco off, just kicking it. Nobody knew me. I hated it! That means that these people don’t know, and I figured out, I always knew the only way they’re going to know is if I’m on radio and TV and I’ve done all this, to this point, up to the Forbes list and everything, two years in a row…making more this year, they say. Because I would never say, but they say. I did all this without radio and video, so I’m just imagining like, okay, if I want Barcelona to book me for a show, they’re going to have to see me somewhere. They’re going to have to see me on TV or hear me on the radio or something they like. And I’m not going to conform, it’s going to be me, “Putting all the face – I can put on, put my black jeans and black hood on, that’s your TV I just stood on,” like myself! No room for conforming to nothing, you know what I’m saying?
L+T: I do.
Tech N9ne: So with that being said, I know that if a radio campaign worked for us, more people would come to the shows. I know that if they saw me more on television that it would bring more people to me, and that’s where global domination will begin! Because I will be going to Dubai to do a show like they want me to. India’s calling right now. I’ve done Europe like three times in a row. I’ve done Australia, I’m doing Australia again in January, but it’s a lot of places I haven’t been, baby, so it’s like, it’s going to take a little bit more. Yes, we’ve done a lot without radio and video, but just a bit of Tech N9ne on the radio and video? That’s going to be disturbing! That’s going to be wonderful! Look at Lady Gaga, man. She’s totally different and dominating! Dominating! I feel like that all of my artists could dominate radio and television, and I don’t think nobody wants that [laughs]. We’re going to take all their women.