Tech N9ne is having a good year, recently eclipsing his best sales week ever with new album Special Effects and now headlining the Ernie Ball stage at Rock on The Range in Columbus, OH. The emcee sat it with Music Times to discuss the new album, breaking through to rock fans (and hip-hop fans), stealing drummers from his former tour partners, and also hinting at a Pusha T collaboration to come...hopefully sooner than later.
Music Times: Someone tells you you're going to be one of the first rappers to play essentially the largest rock festival in the United States, you go about things any differently?
Tech N9ne: No I don't. I bring exactly what I bring all over the world. When I did Knotfest last year with Slipknot, I did exactly what I do every day. If people knew what I did, then they would understand that I don't have to conform to do anything because I started this Strange Music thing because of The Doors. "People Are Strange." I was blessed enough to work with the remaining members on my last album right before Ray Manzarek died. They can call me a rapper because that's what I primarily do, but I do music man. Beautiful music. Yesterday I was in L.A. doing Powerhouse with Kanye West, Ludacris, B.o.B., Nipsey Hussle, Tinashe, everybody on the hip-hop, urban side. And be here today, to fly here and do Rock on The Range. Because I am, true indeed, a clusterf*ck, and that's how I started this. It's always been "rock" in my music. And now that people are finding out late-better late than never-now I'm doing these festivals. Last year I did Aftershock with Rob Zombie. I'm doing Rockfest in my town May 30 with Rob Zombie. I'm sizzling. This is supposed to happen brother.
Like you said, you did Knotfest, you got Corey Taylor on the new album. You gonna be handing out business cards while you're around today?
No. Because all the artists know me already. Linkin Park, I've already done a remix with them. It didn't make it out—it was a "Burn It To The Ground" remix. I did it for them, so they're aware. Volbeat knows that we're gonna be doing Rockfest together. Everybody knows, man. The only people that don't know are the fans. But they will know tonight. Why I'm here and why I belong. I'm gonna f*ckin' cut everybody's head off.
A common theme over the years has been "why isn't so-and-so calling me?" Why do the Jay Z's of the world, why don't they want Tech N9ne to do a guest verse?
That was '05. I laugh at that now. Because now everybody's calling me. Hard work makes everybody call you. Hard work and you keep pushing...doing better and better and better. Your music will spread. Then you'll end up getting Rock on The Range and Rockfest and all the summer jams and this, that and the other. All your peers will call you. I was cry in' like (breaks into faux R&B vocals) "why they ain't calllllllll me?" a long time ago. Now I'm like "damn, why y'all calling' me?"...because I'm dope.
Obviosuly you started your own label, Strange Music...very successful but just the fact that it's called "Strange" and you're so independently-minded...did you ever worry that maybe that was scaring off the more straight-line guys?
Oh yeah man. I'm a black dude with a painted face. I used to have red, spiked hair. It scared a lot of people away. When you're not the norm, people try to shun you because they can't control it. They don't understand it. But if it's good, real sh*t always shines. I just didn't give up. So many times I wanted to give up. Like that album I was just talking about, on the Killer album I was ready to quit because nobody was listening. A lot of my fans were listening but I want the world to listen. Now the world is listening. And now more of the world is about to listen.
I know all my readers want me to ask about Lil Wayne, ask about Eminem...but I want to ask about Krizz Kaliko, another contributor.
OK, he murdered it. Krizz Kaliko murdered "Speedom"...I mean, he did damn near the whole album with me. And that's what I wanted. My brother, when I brought him in on Absolute Power in 2002, said "I want you to do this whole album with me," he said "bullish*t." And we did it. I told him again last year, "I want you to do this whole album with me" and he said "OK." You know I wouldn't bullsh*t. And we did it. We did our best album ever.
All the Tech fans know that Krizz is a regular on tour with you. Can we assume he'll be with you tonight?
I will not do a show ever, in life, without Krizz Kaliko.
When was the last time he was not onstage with Tech N9ne?
It's been a minute man. He was in urgent care. He's sick right now on the bus. He has the flu. But he's going onstage tonight. Yeah man, he's a strong guy and we do this, rain, sh*t or snow. We've done shows with bronchitis. With the flu. When I was in Kuwait I fell out of a helicopter-U.S.O. tour-broke my eighth or ninth rib, still did the show before I knew they were broken. In pain. On the "Wicked Wonka" tour back then with I.C.P., the second date of the tour I'm racing Kutt Calhoun and I fall back and slip, break my ankle. I take these pills Travis gives me and I'm one leg the whole tour. Nothing can stop us. Nothing's gonna stop us nowwwwww.
There's a lot of music going on during Special Effects but, call me simple-minded, for all the complex lyrics you got, one word that interests me is "cheah" (editor's note: We found out the proper spelling after the question was asked) between bars.
Can you give me a brief background on that?
Yes. It's a burst of energy. It's "yeah" with a "C-H" on it to make the attack even harder. It's "CHEAH!" Michael Jackson didn't say "c'mon"...he said "ch'mon! Lay it on me, alright!" He said "ch'mon!" Instead of "c'mon" because it's harder. CHEAH!
That was going to be my next question...how would you spell that? C-H-Y-E-A-H?
No, not a "Y." C-H-E-A-H. CHEAH!
OK, good. They don't have that in the AP Style Guide we all use. I gotta ask you about that.
(Laughs) Yeah man. It's "yeah" with a "C-H."
Would I be out of line to suggest you do a song with Pusha T, where you go "CHEAH" and he goes "YEACH" or whatever it is he does. You know, more than usual.
(Laughs) Pusha T....the last time I saw him, we was on Rap Fix with Sway (Calloway) and we said we was gonna work. So when I find the right beat, me and Pusha T will work.
Get it done. You're going to be back in Columbus later this year for Gathering of The Juggalos I believe.
I do it every year almost.
How does that atmosphere compare to the average hip-hop festival?
It's different than anything you've ever seen in your life. It's a wonderful party and I love when they invite me every year because I get to see some crazy sh*t.
I don't want to speak for the promoters for Rock on The Range—obviously they're just breaking into hip-hop for the first time this year—I would love to see I.C.P. later down the line so if you could put in a good word...
Oh yeah. I think I.C.P. could do Rock on The Range. I really do. There's nobody like me or Krizz Kaliko. We're the only thing like us on the planet so that's how we're able to do the summer jams and the rock fests and everything. I'm talking about the complexity of rap, how we do it. Technicians. Technical. There's nobody like us. Nobody look like us. Maybe KISS looks like us. I don't f*cking know. But I think Jarren Benton could possibly do Rock on The Range. It's wild enough and loud enough.
His drummer is sick. I caught him on tour with you last year. His drummer is out of control.
I stole him. He's with me, Alien Warr.
He's going to be here tonight?
He's been with me for the last couple tours. I stole him from Jarren. Alien Warr is mine now.
How does Jarren feel about that?
I don't know (laughs). But Alien Warr said "f*ck that, I wanna come with you Tech." So we did. Thank you Jarren, thank you Waka Flocka for your drummer.