It’s barely past lunchtime in San Francisco and the “Technicians” are already waiting. The show isn’t for another seven hours but they want to catch any glimpse they can of Tech N9ne and company and they’re in luck today. Krizz Kaliko walks around the corner and greets them individually before walking into the ballroom. Neezle, sporting a white tee, red Jordan Brand shorts and matching shoes, just hopped out of a car holding bags from Niketown, and other local shopping landmarks. He gives the crowd a quick wave and briskly walks to drop his things off in the tour bus.
Tecca Nina’s next stop is a magazine shoot for Murder Dog. His first costume change of the day has him now rocking denim from head to toe, shades and the vivid, eye-popping diamond-encrusted Strange Music emblem hanging precariously from his neck. The camera flashing six inches from his face doesn’t intimidate him. He snarls at the lens as a reporter drops to his knees in reverence, hanging onto Tech’s ankles, spewing endless praise. The emcee remains nonplussed.
“Rock The Bells opened all kinds of doors for me. It let me know the people are paying attention,” Tech said while casually glancing at his cracked phone. “It got people like Raekwon coming up to me and saying ‘Hey I love what you’re doing’ and Slick Rick and EPMD and Busta Rhymes saying ‘Nobody can fuck with you on stage, y’all niggas cold blooded.’ I was like ‘wow’. Busta and Spliff said that. They can’t be touched. Coming from them, it meant a lot to me.”
Now it’s time for the VIP meet and greet. Merchandise is flying off the racks; CDs are being hustled; pictures are being snapped and autographs are signed. Then Neezle quietly creeps in, this time wearing another costume: a white Air Jordan jersey with red Jordan shorts and an appropriately shiny pair of all red Jordans. His arms are like a display case for his multiple “6” and “7” tattoos.
After accepting a fan-made crystal plaque for “album of the year,” Tech smiles, acknowledges and keeps it moving. He’s been in the game a long time, he’s seen all of this before. In fact, he turns 40 this November, but as one fan observes, he doesn’t look older than 25.
“I’m like Johnnie Depp in the new Pirates of the Caribbean,” Tech responds. “I found the fountain of youth; it’s pussy. Captain Jack Sparrow, homie.”
Half an hour later, just as quietly as he came, Neezle slips away. To the public’s eye, he’s retiring to his tour bus now until the showtime. But actually, he’s taking interviews and heading to local radio station 106.1 KMEL to do a plug for the show without a second to rest in between. The tour left Kansas City on May 8th and had the first show on May 10th in Canada. The tour ends August 6th and in those three months they had three days off.
On the bus, the rapid-fire emcee seems a bit preoccupied. His eyes dart from one corner to another. It’s clear that something’s definitely amiss as he keeps playing with a hangnail.
“I would say I’m crazy in my own head,” he said while still fidgeting. “Maybe not to most people. I say ‘why did I let this stripper burn me on my arm with a cigarette/ in the same spot ten times in a row, when I feel that burn I palm the clitoris’ It’s real. It happened. Maybe it’s psycho to some other motherfuckers. Maybe it’s psycho to make my fucking thumb bleed right there. Damn I didn’t even know I was picking it like that. That means I’m nervous, what am I nervous about?”
He flashes his arm with the burn mark, and starts to rap to himself at lightning speed.
“Cuz’ we smile at the bitty braggin’ wack rapper’s
Who happen to be the best at the gat master
But down to the simple fact here’s a strap past ya ta blast at ya
That after, the gap put him in the casket, last chapta, that’s laughter
Half past move fast? imagine a black Dracula
Smashin’ ‘em with a gat to bust atcha”
“My show is so intricate, I worry about fucking up. You know what I’m sizzling? You gotta do that right every night. I write my rhymes to do them live. For that stanza of “He’s a Mental Giant” I have two breaths that carry me all the way through. It has to be perfect.”