After a half-hour long conversation about everything from major label success and becoming an independent billionaire to the settled opinion on his latest album Something Else and what he considers his best project to date, the typically boisterous mental giant made sure to personally see me out of his tour bus – which doubles as his traveling home, bedroom and living room. Considering he double-checked to ensure there weren’t any fans lurking within 50 feet, his rationale was obvious. However, what struck me was what he said upon opening the door to the drizzling Detroit streets.
“Where are we?”
As he thought, I paused, wondering if he was joking or legitimately didn’t know which venue he was rocking later that night. Before I could react, he looked up at the brick-encrusted side of the Fillmore – which has no indication of anything other than sturdy craftsmanship and said, “The Fillmore. Used to be The State Theater.”
As I confirmed, said my peace and walked away, I realized that was the first time he had been outside that day. It was 2:30PM. As a traveling one man show, he lives and breaths touring, letting the music lead his direction. His schedule isn’t dictated by an alarm clock. It’s dictated by interviews with people he doesn’t know, coming into his living space and fans at meet & greets, lurking outside his bus. Then, after interacting in character all afternoon and performing throughout the night, his day ends half-way through the AM, driving off to another city to start it all over again. Tech N9ne is more than an artist. He lives and breathes his music.
To understand how someone can single-handedly fulfill their own destiny and turn a penchant for creation into Forbes-level success with only an independent rap career, soak up some game as we proudly present Smoking Sessions with Tech N9ne.
TSS: All good business models have goals and lately you’ve been crossing off quite a few.
Tech N9ne: Totally.
TSS: Your ninth studio album Something Else scored your second highest Billboard debut to date. You made Forbes hip-hop list two years in a row. You’re about to embark on your third tour this year. You’ve been across the world and back.
With those same accolades, many artists might become complacent.
Tech N9ne: Not me.
TSS: What drives Tech N9ne?
Tech N9ne: I have to tread every piece of this Earth before I go, brother. I still haven’t been to Hawaii. I still haven’t been to Japan, or China. I haven’t been to Abu Dhabi, or Dubai. I still haven’t been to Turkey. Budapest. Africa. There’s like too many places I have to go, to get everybody to know my story. My music. And, we’re not there yet, you know what I’m sizzlin?
We just built a four million dollar studio and now, it’s brand new. We call it Strange Land and we’re taking the steps to get better and better at this music, to keep on spreading it. When I went to Spain, I had four-five days off. I ate seafood paihia everyday and I love it. But, nooobody knew who I was. I didn’t like that shit. I don’t like that shit. I have a lot more work to spread this Tech N9ne thing. Tech N9ne’s not on TV and radio, you know what I’m saying? We’ve been doing this thing on the streets and on tour.
What drives me is that I want everybody to…I want global domination. Global dominance, is what I want.
TSS: That’s setting the bar pretty high, which I guess is what you should be doing.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, if you’re going to do it, you might as go all the way.
TSS: You’ve been rapping professionally for over two decades and touring just as long, presumably. How do refine your craft at this point in your career?
Tech N9ne: I feel like Dracula, man. I feel like Vlad III, man. I feel like I’ve seen the rise and fall of a lot of MCs, over the years. And, I’ve been a student…and I’m still on the incline. The way that I rap, I guess, I wanna’ say it’s timeless, because when you listen to some of my older stuff, it’s still good.
TSS: Oh yeah.
Tech N9ne: Don’t get me wrong, when I listen to an Eric B and Rakim album, Paid In Full, it’s still good. Or, when I listen to a BDP album, it’s still good. There’s something about Tech N9ne that has the word longevity right next to it.
I was listening to the Snow song I did, the song I did with her, it’s called “You’re Welcome”. The way that I was rapping, it doesn’t sound like anybody. Maybe that’s it, I don’t know, man. I’m blessed to have…I’m blessed to be a fan of music. Because, I know what I want to hear out of an MC, or an artist, period. And, that’s what I go for. I want to hear something elite. If the beat is slower, I want to hear something laid back. I want to adjust to the beat, to the situation. So, if the beats are changing – rhythm is my thing – then I’m going to adjust to that rhythmic situation.
TSS: It’s adapting to what’s coming at you.
Tech N9ne: Yeah.
TSS: Not even to what’s current, whatever comes your way, at any given time.
Tech N9ne: No, not what’s current. Because, what’s current, I’ve passed it already. It’s like, a lot of the beats that are on the radio right now, I did it back on MLK. So, my beat selection now, for Something Else, it’s “Straight Out The Gate” with Serj Tankian and stuff like that. Fred Wreck, coming with the Doors track. It’s like, something else, man.
They said, “See Me” with B.o.B. and Wiz Khalifa sounded like a radio record. That’s ‘cause I got it from a aggin that does radio hits. Drumma Boy and B.o.B. You know, B.o.B. is my homie. ‘Send me some more beats….Oh, I like this one!’ You know what I’m sayin’? So, naturally it’s going to feel like something you’re used to. I guess that’s good. I don’t know. I do it, because I feel it.
TSS: Three months since the release, the dust has settled on Something Else. Where do you feel your latest LP – your ninth – stacks up against the rest of your studio albums?
Tech N9ne: It’s the best. It was hard to beat Everready, in my opinion, you know what I mean? I feel like All 6s & 7s was good, but this killed it. The content. The overall story behind it. The concept. The features are humongous, again. And, they’re going to keep on getting bigger and bigger.
TSS: That’s definitely been a trend.
Tech N9ne: Yeah, it’s going to bend genres. It’s going to keep changing, man. I think all my fans agree that this is the best work. Now, you’ve still got some fans that are like ‘Aw, I still like Anghellic,’ but that’s ‘cause they’re stuck in a time warp. But, I ain’t mad.
TSS: Some fans are going to be like that, no matter what.
Tech N9ne: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, I think it’s the best, man. I strive to be the best everytime I come out.
TSS: Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
Tech N9ne: No….not at all. Yeah. Yes, there is.
Tech N9ne: I wouldn’t have taken “Party The Pain Away” off to put it on…to do whatever we did with it. I wouldn’t have taken “It Feels Like Heaven” off. But, it was too long. I had to extract songs. I had to put ‘em on iTunes or something. “Party The Pain Away” is beautiful, man. I would’ve kept those on there
TSS: So, you’re still constrained by time limits, because of the hard copies. Wow. I personally still burn CDs for myself over making playlists on my phone, so I run into that all the time. You’re dealing with that same issue of battling the 1:19 mark?
Tech N9ne: Yes, man. I hate it. Because, I’m putting together a canvass. You’re supposed to be able to put whatever you want on your canvass. But, you’re restricted. You’re restricted by 79 minutes. Really, anything after 76, I think, or 73 or 74 – could be defective. But, I push it all the time. Like, 80.
They wanted me to shorten the album and just do 14 songs. But, I got three levels on here. I want there to be some music on here. I want to get my point across. I’m creating a story, that’s going to last forever. It’s hard having those time restrictions.
I’m a Hip-Hop head and yes, I have music in my bones. That’s what keeps me going. But, if I can’t express myself like I want, then that’s when I’m like, “Nah.”
TSS: Especially at this point, when every other aspect of your career has been successfully achieved on your own steam. Being constrained on that creative front is probably really frustrating.
Tech N9ne: Yeah. Tech N9ne doing 12 songs and that’s it? Or, 10 songs. Kanye and them can do that thing and that’s cool, that’s tight. But, I’m telling a story. I don’t just have songs that I choose, that are hot. This is me. This is my baby.
When I say “Straight Out The Gate” and ‘let’s get Serj’ and he loves it, what comes after that has to be amazing as well, you know I’m saying? All the way down to the last song. It has to be cohesive.