If you're a diehard hip-hop fan, you've probably seen the name Tech N9ne appear quite a few times, most recently with the #4 album in the country, Special Effects. His next album, The Storm, is slated for September. The Kansas City native has been one of the hottest names on the independent scene for over 15 years, growing his fanbase with each passing year, most recently reaching the point where his status as an underground legend and his tip-toeing on the precipice of being a full-fledged mainstream superstar is increasingly blurred.
He's been everywhere from a featured guest on a Lil Wayne album to the Gathering of the Juggalos to often being the only hip-hop headliner booked on some of the world's biggest metal festivals. Basically, if you've yet to become a fan of the staccato Kansas City spitter, chances are you're feeling both left out as well as somewhat intimidated by his absolutely daunting catalog. As prolific with releases as he is with his arsenal of flows, there's no shortage of Tech N9ne for fans to obsess over, but for newer listeners it can seem like an ocean of releases with no clean coast to jump into.
To remedy this, we at the Weekly put together this list of five starting points for the Tech-curious to sample what the MC is all about before his gig at the Observatory on Sunday. While we know narrowing down a beginner's guide to Tech N9ne is going to run the ire of countless Tech-nitions, we're sure if you like these five tracks you're going to find plenty more in the comments. The following were selected based on notoriety, accessibility, diversity and presence as part of Tech's unbelievably strong live show. This is our Beginner's Guide to Tech N9ne.
“I'm A Playa” 2002 Tech N9ne's most famous song is for many longtime fans the first track a friend of theirs just had to play for them. One of the bigger underground hip-hop word-of-mouth successes, the closing track from Tech's 2002 Absolute Power album is not only outstanding for its brilliant reworking of Falco's “Rock Me Amadeus,” but it's breakdown to Tech's career up to that point. Absolute Power was the first nationally released Tech album to find a major fanbase when Tech decided to release the project as a free download at a time when major labels were running from file-sharing culture. As a result, fans supported by buying the album and the Tech phenomenon began.
“Psycho Bitch” 2001 But before Tech struck globally, he acted locally by becoming an undeniable force in the Kansas City hip-hop scene. His local hits at this time became staples of his live show for years to come, as well as reference points in his later songs. As essential part of the Tech catalog is “Psycho Bitch,” which is one of the many songs that tackles Tech's complicated relationships with complicated women. While the identities are often extreme and exaggerated with poetic license, the characters aren't mere one-dimensional props, but rather catalysts for emotional exploration and storytelling.
“E.B.A.H.” 2012 Of the many, many reasons why Tech N9ne is a can't miss live show, a big part is the insatiable fun of his call-and-response hooks. While tracks like 2000's “Einstein” have become calling cards for fans, tracks like “E.B.A.H.” have used the hip-hop party rocking device as a means of conceptual framing. Standing for “Evil Brain Angel Heart,” “E.B.A.H.” explores the frequent Tech N9ne theme of dichotomy, both as a balance as well as the inner-conflict that exists within all of us.
“Worldwide Choppers (featuring Busta Rhymes, Yelawolf, Twisted Insane, Ceza, JL, Twista, U$O & D-Loc)” 2013 One thing Tech N9ne fans, whether casual or hardcore, agree on is how staggeringly impressive Tech N9ne is with his ability to rap at incredible speeds. Flexing his talents, Tech's devoted some entire songs to showcasing not only this ability of his, but some of his fellow fastest rappers in the world. With the original “Midwest Choppers,” a fast-rapper posse cut, appearing on Tech N9ne's collaboration album Misery Loves Kompany in 2007, the most celebrated of its sequels has to be 2013's “Worldwide Choppers.” Boasting such fast rap luminaries as Busta Rhymes, Yelawolf and Twista on the track, “Worldwide Choppers” became a must-hear for fans of the style and a landmark moment in Tech's career.
“Speedom (WWC2) (featuring Krizz Kaliko and Eminem)” 2015 How did Tech N9ne top the previous “Worldwide Choppers?” By adding the biggest rapper on the planet to join him. Tech N9ne and Eminem had once shared a track before back on 1999's “The Anthem” posse cut on Sway and King Tech's collaboration album with DJ Revolution at a time when both of their careers were kicking into high-gear. Over a decade-and-a-half later Tech and Em reunited, joined by Tech's multi-talented right-hand man Krizz Kaliko, for “Speedom,” allow for the dream team to see who can slaughter a beat with the hyper-kinetic lyrical style better.
Tech N9ne performs at The Observatory on Sunday, May 15. 11 p.m. $35. For full details, click here.