Sitting on a tour bus on his way to Colorado, Tech N9ne called the AS Review for a one-on-one interview.
AS Review: In your song, “I'm a Playa,” you say that you adopted the name Tech N9ne in 1988. Why Tech N9ne? Why that name?
Tech N9ne: The reason why is because of this guy named Black Bart from a group called Black Mafia. He already had a guy in the group named Mac-10 and he heard me rap and said it was like rapid-fire, like “da-da-da-da-da-da-da.” And he said, “Man I think your name should be Tech N9ne.” I said why? He said, “because you're rapid fire.” I said that was cool and he said that was my name until we find something else. Then it just stuck permanently.
ASR: You mention Kansas City (KC) a lot in your songs. What do you think the city has given you as an artist?
T9: Oh my god man, KC is my comfort zone. It's my reason why. It's where my mom is, where my kids are. That's where my love is and my family. It's given me all the things you hear me go through in “Psycho Bitch” and “This Ring,” and “T9X.” It gave me all of that. It gave me experience. I love that I'm able to write about my life and this city, and even people in Washington want to hear that.
ASR: Tell me about your record label Strange Music. Why did you start your own label? What was the provocation behind that?
T9: Strange Music came about because I had been within the music industry for years. When I was 19 I got my first record deal with the guys that produced some of Janet Jackson's records. But that went sour because they didn't know what to do with my style of rapping. They didn't know what area to put me in…I know that I belong to everybody. My music doesn't just go to one person, it goes to everybody. I know everything I want, so what better person to do me than me? Later I ran into this cat that felt the exact same way about my music, Travis O'Guin. He approached me in like '98 or '99 and said, “I've been a fan of your music for a long time and I look at MTV and BET and you're better than what they're running on TV.”
I was just trying to get mine [his label] off the ground and so we joined forces and Strange Music came about. The reason why we called it Strange Music is because I'm a big Doors and Jim Morrison fan. I love their music, you know because people are strange. I love that song “Strange Days.” It's one of my favorite songs. I've always been a strange individual, you know with the red hair, the painted face, the Bishop's robe on stage and all that. Strange is so wonderful and Strange music is what it was.
ASR: What is the most difficult and most rewarding part about making music? Where do you get the ideas for your beats?
T9: Well, I let the beats tell me what to do…I sit down and listen to the music and I come up with the chorus based on what the beat wants me to do. That's what [the “T9X”] beat sounded like when I got that beat (humming the chorus). So what I do is I get the beat, and I sit down and come up with the chorus and then I write my life…the best part is creating it[the song]. The even better part is performing it for your fans after they know the music. It's so wonderful just to hear them singing the lyrics back to me. It's just a wonderful thing. I mean they want to pay to come hear you be you.
ASR: As you start to grow more successful and acclaimed in the industry are you finding it hard to maintain your own unique, personalized sound? Do you find it hard to be Tech still?
T9: No… I write my life and it's me evolving same as my life is evolving. You know, my pain is still there; it's how I was raised. A lot of people say Tech's music is getting happier and I say, “Nah, I want it to get happier.” I want to play more. It's a way to escape this spiritual pain. A lot of people are in pain.
I write my life and that is a wonderful thing because it's not hard to maintain Tech N9ne because this is going to be who I am until I die. This is going to be me. I'm going to tell you my stories no matter what. I don't care if they think it's brighter than my old music; it should be brighter than my old music.
The question was, is it hard to maintain Tech with all this pain and strange stuff? Nah man, I am me. It's so wonderful that people always say, “Tech's going to go mainstream and blah, blah, blah.” And I'm like: no, Tech will never go mainstream, mainstream will go Tech.
ASR: What lies ahead for Tech and Strange Music? Where are you guys taking it from now on?
T9: What lies ahead for Strange Music is what we're doing as of this moment. We're on a tour bus on our third tour this year. We're just going, we're going. And the future for strange music is the stars.
That's what's coming from Strange Music. We're shooting for the stars right now. Its happening and its moving quicker now, but where I am right now, and what I'm talking about, I respect it and I love it. But we're making our way out of purgatory finally and we're staring right at heaven and its a wonderful thing. So what's the future for Strange Music? It's happening right now.