Tech N9ne is not satisfied. Despite leading a diverse roster of multi-talented artists with all the money, power and respect that years in the game and an awesome catalog have earned him, the MC is still after one simple thing.
“I’m still working on my people, black folks,” the Strange Music CEO says in earnest. “I’m doing research out here on the road right now. My music is for everybody man. And when it’s just my people missing? Now, don’t get me wrong, a lot of my people are trickling in now, but it’s not how it’s supposed to be. My music is for everybody, so everybody is supposed to be there. True, indeed my shows are melting pots but they could be more of a melting pot. There’s a lot more I haven’t reached.”
Since 1999 the Kansas City native born Aaron Dontez Yates has been terrorizing stages and beats with his signature “Killer Clown” flow and energy. He’s released over a dozen albums and half as many EPS, selling 2 million units in that time span. He’s rhymed alongside everyone from Emimen and Busta Rhymes to Lil Wayne, B.O.B. and Kendrick Lamar, but his name has not achieved their level of ubiquity.
With his latest project “Strangeulation” being released on May 6th, Tech took a break from the “Independent Grind” tour he’s on with Freddie Gibbs and others to talk about what keeps him motivated, what he’s been missing in music, what other avenues of entertainment he’s trying to conquer next and which artists he sees as his successor. Come get familiar with the stranger side of Hip-Hop.
TUD: You own your label, merchandising, warehouses, cars and homes. You’ve made a ton of money, gotten all the respect and been around the world. But with you there’s always another album and always another tour. What’s the motivation? What keeps you going?
Tech N9ne: It just boils down to something real simple, man. I love music and without it I’d die. You gotta look at the people who said they were gonna retire; Jay-Z, Too Short… they said Wayne’s been planning it. It’s hard when you have this in your veins. It’s just the love of Hip-Hop. The love of seeing people smile when you walk out on stage, even though you’re looking sinister. It’s a rush like no other just being able to come up with new ideas for your fans. It’s a blessing to be able to do it. It’s that simple. I love music. When I hear a dope beat, no matter how tired I am, sometimes, it just motivates me and I gotta go in. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t retire, because it’s in their veins just like me.
Has it ever crossed your mind to retire? Have you ever gotten close?
Aww man, yes man, all the time! Back in 2009, I think? I just know I was done, you know what I mean? In my brain, I’m like, “Okay, I got all these artists on my label. I can just lay back and just chill. I can do verses for their albums and just chill, relax. You know what I mean?” No way man… I’ve thought about it so many times man. Like “I’m cool, I’m cool, I’m cool…. Nah, we ain’t cool man.” I still got a lot of people to touch. We’re not cool, we are not complacent, we have so many more faces to heal. So no.
WATCH: Tech N9ne – Fragile (ft. Kendrick Lamar, ¡MAYDAY! & Kendall Morgan)
Who haven’t you gotten to yet? What’s this other frontier you’re trying to get to?
When we go down south and we’re doing shows, I go onstage and I see my crowd, there’s white folks, there’s Mexican folks, there Asian folks and… it’s just a couple of black folks sprinkled. So when I go to a mall and these places in the day, it’s all black folks saying, “Tech9! Tech9! What are you doing here??” They don’t know. So it’s something that I’m doing or not doing. So I’m figuring this out.
I’m probably not supposed to be talking about this, but I’m a real one. I study everyday to see what it is that I’m doing wrong that I don’t have my people. Like the urban side of our promotion, maybe we need to enhance it because everybody been knowing about me. They’re knowing me through face recognition even though I have on face paint on stage. When I’m out here in the mall shopping for shoes and stuff in these towns like Birmingham Alabama and Mobile–the first couple of shows we had and these black folks are loving me and taking pictures with me the whole time I’m at the mall. But they ain’t at the show? I have work to do.
It’s funny that your ambition is to get more black people at the show when I’m sure there are plenty of label heads who’ll want their artist to crossover and get the fans you have.
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s real. That’s what people are on. But I’m not selfish like that. A lot of people say the black folks don’t buy CDs and that they don’t come to shows. That’s a lie. I’ve been to a Jay Z show. I know in Hip-Hop the number one consumer is probably a white person. But I’ve been to a Young Jeezy show; I’ve been to a Waka Flocka show. I know they go to shows. I’ve been there. So yeah, that’s cool that you want to get the white crowd, but that’s just business. People want to go where the money is. I understand that, but me, I’m an artist. I belong to everyone.
WATCH: Tech N9ne – Am I A Psycho? (Feat. B.o.B and Hopsin)
But in 2014, when all the genres are blending and people are doing their best to not see color, you can say you’ve been inclusive from the door. Are you worried you might be hustling backwards?
Nah, cause when I started out, the black folks was with me. In 2001, I came out with “Angehellic,” I was on the cover as a fallen angel and then I told a story about a good guy gone bad. When I expressed my spirituality a lot of black folks thought I was a devil worshipper and I had to work really hard ever since to get that back. If you do your research, like on my “MLK” album years ago, I had a song called “Message To A Black Man” where I’m talking about I’m doing all this wonderful music and y’all missing it. I need my people here.
Last year came “Breaking Into Colored Houses (BITCH)” with T-Pain. Like okay, I’m tired of knocking. I need y’all at my show. So my quest has been to get everybody at my show. All people, all creeds and my people are the only ones missing and I’ve been knocking for a while. Since we started, we’ve always had the support of everybody else but I am not complacent. I am not done with my people, I will not write my people off.
Do you worry about this quest alienating the groups of people who’ve supported from the door? I know you don’t want that…
My music is for everybody. They’re gonna be there. And there’s more of them coming. I’m not saying eliminate what we’re doing, I’m saying enhance what we have. We add somebody who can touch these other people when it comes to the promotions side, that’s all I’m saying. I don’t want to take away anything we have, but I’m a real one so my music is always gonna resonate to real folks. And a lot of black folks know that my music is real. They listen to it, but just getting them there is the quest. No, I would never ever alienate my fans. When I say white folks, that’s like college folks are coming, the ICP fans are coming, metal-heads are coming, some gang-bangers are coming, it’s everybody. I just need that other demo right there at my shows.
Ok, from a boss standpoint. Jay had Bleek as a successor. Wayne has Drake…
You’re right, Nicki too. Do you think you’ve signed the person who can step into Tech N9ne’s shoes and run the kingdom for the next 10-20 years?
Every time I sign an artist, starting from Krizz Kaliko, I feel like he’s a supreme artist who can do what I do plus more. Every time I sign a Ces Cru, I sign somebody who can do what I do plus more. Every time I sign a Mayday! Band, I sign them cause I think they can do what I do, plus. Stevie Stone, same thing. Murs, Jay Rock, whatever. I do that. And we’re not done. That’s what I mean; we have a lot of work to do. It ain’t just me getting black folks to my shows; it’s my artists that we’re working on as well. Trying to get them on tours, trying to get them seen because it’s all about being seen in front of all those people you know what I mean? So we’re on a forever quest to blow this thing out of the water and it’s happening slowly but surely.
So the answer to that question is yes, every time I sign somebody. Like when you listen to Krizz Kaliko, he can rap, he raps his ass off, he’s a lethal lyricist. But then he can sing! He can really blow if I can get him on a tour with Janelle Monae or Black Eyed Peas or Cee-Lo Green or whoever, he can do it! Or Kutt Calhoun, if I can get him on a tour with T.I. or Wayne… or Mayday! If I can get them with a Sublime or… whoever! I just want to push hard for Strange Music. That’s what we do here… we push all the artists and believe in them equally.
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