Shirley JuShirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based writer who grew up…
For more than 20 years, Tech N9ne has been one of the most reliable rappers in hip-hop. He’s put out more than a dozen projects over that span of time. The Kansas City native is showing no signs of slowing down.
Tech N9ne earned the first platinum plaque of his career last year, for his 2006 single “Caribou Lou.” And now he’s getting ready to release his 12th album, Planet, on March 3. The album’s lead single is the hypnotic “Tech N9ne (Don’t Nobody Want None),” which samples the 1983 electric classic “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul).”
Tech N9ne has many accomplishments. But he’s also an artist who prides himself on delivering music that contains substantial content for his listeners. We recently sat down with Tech N9ne and spoke about his new album, how he compares lyrically to Kendrick Lamar, and the last words his mother ever said to him.
Check out the interview below.
OKP: What do you look for in an artist? And what advice do you have for an up-and-coming artist who’s looking to get signed?
TN: I look for them to have skill in rhyme, and I look for them to be able to do it live as well. Because without live, you have nothing. Live is forever. The advice I would give to up-and-coming artists is to write what you know, and people [will] forever feel you. Don’t write what you don’t know because you will be exposed. Everything has to be 100 percent you and not nobody else. OKP: What does Black History Month mean to you this time around?
TN: I feel like Black History Month is… too less. It’s the shortest month. [laughs] OKP: What is your take on the current state of hip-hop and where do you see yourself fitting in?
TN: I think it’s wonderful. It’s forever changing. It’s forever growing. And I’m gonna be in it no matter where it goes. As you can see, I’m still here on the incline. Not one style that comes out is gonna stump me. Or gonna bury me. Because I am hip-hop. I am music. I am rhythm and rhyme.
TN: Yeah, I’ve been adding to EDM for some years now. This one is a dedication from back in 1983. I’m a beat boy, breakdancer, pop locker — so it’s only right for me to pay homage to the ones that came before us. The ones that made us want to do music. So, why not? OKP: What can fans expect from your Planet album that they haven’t seen before?
TN: They can expect the “don’t-give-a-damn” attitude…Imma do whatever the hell I want. And I don’t care who or what they think. And by that attitude, I think it will hit everybody. And I think that they will love it.
OKP: There’s a track on the project called “Levitation.” This actually reminds me of Kendrick’s record “untitled 07.” TN: Kendrick had one called “levitate, levitate, levitate.” Yes. We have a song together called “Fragile” that went gold. [My song is] nothing like that “Levitate” song. This is “Levitation.” This is… the energy I feel from the crowd. It lifts me up. The energy and the love lifts me up. That type of David Blaine levitation. OKP: How do you compare yourself lyrically to Kendrick? TN: Different, but on that level. We wouldn’t be able to work together if I wasn’t on that level. To be able to hang with a lyricist of his stature, of his skill. I got a song with Eminem. I got a song with Joyner Lucas. Logic. I’m on that level. I don’t care how big they get, I’m right there with them. And I love them all. They’re all my brothers.
Those were the last words she said to me before she passed: “Liberty and justice for all, liberty and justice for all, liberty and justice for all.” Just over and over. And I smiled real big. Like, you’re dying from Lupus and that’s all you want? That’s a tall order. I don’t know if there will ever be liberty and justice for all. I think the rest of that will be “Liberty and justice for all the rich and not the poor.” I don’t think that’s right. I think it should be liberty and justice for all like my mom wanted. OKP: What would you be doing if you weren’t rapping? TN: I would be a psychiatrist…I turned out to be my fans’ psychiatrist. OKP: What’s the best encounter you’ve had a with a fan? TN: When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said he loves my music, and he put me on the new WWE game soundtrack. And when Elton John said he was in Canada looking for Tech N9ne records. Two dope moments with fans.
OKP: Who’s the most played artist on your phone? TN: The most played artist on my phone is myself. I listen to my music over and over so I can learn it, so I can rap it to my audience. Other than me… I play Travis Scott in the car. I play Travis Scott in my room, at night, during the weed sessions with me and my lady.
ShirleyJu is a Los Angeles-based writer who grew up in the Bay Area. She lives, breathes, and sleeps hip-hop, and is literally on top of new music the moment it is released. If there’s a show in L.A., you can find her there. Follow the latest on her fomoblog.com and on Twitter @shirju.