If you haven’t heard Tech N9ne there’s probably something wrong with your ears. The most recognizable and biggest-selling independent rapper in the world is also the most busiest, touring relentlessly and releasing album after album, spreading the gospel of Strange Music. His fifteenth studio album, Special Effects, released earlier this year, is another top-shelf record, full of crisp production, new beats and, of course, some of the fastest, most varied raps and flows you’re going to hear anywhere. We caught up with the ever-fascinating Tech on his annual trek through Canada to talk about back catalogs, the collaborative spirit of hip-hop and the best places to eat in his hometown of Kansas City.
With so many albums and so much to choose from, how do you pick your set lists?
There are certain staples you have to have in the Tech N9ne lineup. You have to forever do “Einstein” from Anghellic. You have to forever do “Riot Maker” from Everready. You have to forever do “I’m a Playa” from Absolute Power. You have to do “Caribou Lou” for the rest of your life. All these songs I’m naming are for the rest of my life because they’re really big staples. I know my favourites and I know which ones go well on stage. One I did not know would go so well was “Dysfunctional,” until my partner Travis told me to add it a couple of years ago because of how many views it had on YouTube. I did it and every time I do it people go bonkers. We write all our music to perform, because if you can’t perform it what are you doing it for?
Do you ever get tired of being expected to play those staples night in and night out?
No, man. I still love doing “Einstein” as much as the first day I did it. It’s one of my favourite songs to do. “Riot Maker” as well. It still has the same effect all over the world even though it’s 15 years old.
Hip-hop’s a collaborative art form and you collaborate more than any rapper I can think of, between all the collaborations on Special Effects and the upcoming Strangeulation Vol. 2. Why not keep more of the shine for yourself like other rappers do?
Because I love working with artists I adore musically. Why wouldn’t you want to work with Corey Taylor [of Slipknot] if you’ve been a fan for 10 years, you know what I mean? Why wouldn’t you want to work with Eminem? That’s like asking, “Why would Michael Jackson want to work with Paul McCartney on ‘Say, Say, Say’?” Or why would Phil Collins want to work with Phillip Bailey on “Easy Lover”? Wonderful artists hooking up together is the best to me and I’ll forever do it because I love music.
Thanks for getting Eminem on “Speedom.” I haven’t heard that guy spit rhymes like that in a long time.
I think me and Krizz Kaliko and us at Strange Music, we push people to want to go as hard as they can. That’s flattering for me for the top rapper to do that. I mean, Eminem is the top rapper for me. For him to push himself that hard on that track, he knew he wasn’t on the track with slouches and that makes me feel good.
Whose idea was it to base that track around a Richie Havens sample? Because that rules.
That was me! Come on, man. This is the guy who was inspired by The Doors, Tech N9ne. There wouldn’t be Strange Music without The Doors. If The Doors inspired me, who do you think came up with the Richie Havens idea? I’ve been loving “Freedom” for so long. The fact that the family let us use it and gave us a nice price, that’s a blessing, man. His daughter emailed me saying, “We were leery about letting someone use that monumental song of my dad’s but we love it so much and support it and my dad would have, too.” Then to get Eminem and my brother Krizz Kaliko on there, man, that’s sentimental.
You guys all go hard on that track. I don’t think I’ve heard another rapper go as hard as you on every single track, regardless of the beat. Does Tech N9ne ever sit back in the groove and not go all out?
I got some tracks back in the day that I laid back on that I won’t play. I ain’t about tell you what they are. They got other people on them and I don’t want them saying, “Aww, you don’t like my song? That’s fucked up.” [Laughs] I got some songs where I laid back, but I don’t want to lay back no more. You’re in this to go, you might as well go as hard as you can. That’s why Krizz Kaliko be murdering everything, because I say, “Try to outdo me,” on every track.
The other collaboration on Special Effects I need to ask you about is Excision. How’d you two get hooked up?
I was a fan. I was sneaking to his shows on tour. We’d have an off day and I’d see Excision was playing so I’d go. I was posted some of his music and I guess it got to him. We happened to have, on accident, the same sample in one of our songs. When I released “You’re a Liar” everybody was like, “That’s like Excision’s ‘Brutal’!” So we had to hook up, man. I love music and EDM is one of the genres I love.
EDM, The Doors, Richie Havens… You’re clearly a student of music. What’s something Tech N9ne listens to that people might be surprised to hear about?
I’ll watch Maid in Manhattan every time it comes on TV. I’m a Jennifer Lopez fan, every since she was a Fly Girl on In Living Color. I watched her rise to fame and I think she’s a master of her universe. All of her music, all of her movies, know what I’m sizzlin’, I’m a part of it. I love to see people master their universe and take control, do what they love to do.
We do food and music over here at Rice and Bread so I’m going to switch gears and throw some food questions at you. What’s Tech N9ne’s go-to meal out on tour?
I’m a foodie, man. I can only have a hamburger like once a month. I just had my first hamburger in a long time yesterday in Montreal. It was a cool hamburger. It had egg on it, know what I’m sizzlin’? I like a fried egg on my hamburger, and cheese, but the tomato was weird and mushy. I still devoured it. I felt in my throat the whole time I was onstage though and was like, “Dammit, hamburger!” That’s why I only eat one a month. My favourite food is Italian food but I’m trying to slow down on the noodles because of my belly. I feel like I’m a Black Italian, man. I like my pinot noir with my pasta. I love Jamaican food. I love jerk chicken, curry chicken, peas and rice. Thai food, too. I’m a foodie, know what I’m sizzlin’?
Where are your top three spots to eat in Kansas City?
You know we specialize in BBQ in KC, right? Gate’s BBQ is what I grew up on. I discovered Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ later in my life and it’s wonderful. They are the top BBQ in the city, in my opinion. If I had a third place to tell you to eat in KC, it would probably be… man, the are a lot of place to go eat. There’s a lot of places I could give props to. I’d have to give it to Garrozo’s Italian Restaurant.
What’s the dish to get at Garrozo’s?
My thing to get at Garrozo’s is spaghetti and meat sauce, or the lasagna. It’s homemade. But, but, but… Anthony’s can’t be touched either for Italian food. Anthony’s has to be the best chicken and shrimp fettucini alfredo.