Blue Springs based rapper Tech N9ne is trying to catch the national spotlight while refusing to give in to the music industry's system.
Success stories for independent rap artists are few and far between, but Tech N9ne is trying to change that. Already a local legend, he is fighting to position himself in the national limelight with his new album “Killer,” an album that Ice Cube deemed worthy to rap on.
Strange Music, the record label Tech N9ne and his partner Travis O’Guin created, is located in a quaint office a stone’s throw from Missouri 7 in Blue Springs. The label has come a long way. It was just an idea over 10 years ago when Tech N9ne was rapping at fashion shows, but now Ice Cube, Paul Wall and Scarface are collaborating with Tech N9ne.
“(It was great) for Ice Cube to even consider doing a song with little old me,” Tech N9ne said. “He came to LA and he took time out of his busy schedule to give me a verse, and he didn’t have to do that. He has movies, his own album. … He stopped to do that for me. It shows he respects me as an MC and maybe as a person. I adore that. It was wonderful to have his name next to my name on my album.”
On Wednesday, Tech held an autograph session at FYE in Independence for the release of “Killer.” The fans there were sure his album was going to launch him into the national scene.
“This is the first time I’ve had some major artists on my album,” Tech said. “One reason (my fans think this album will take off) is because of the major collaborations. Another reason is the music production has stepped up 10 times since last time. The subject matter is undeniable.”
Tech, who resides in Blue Springs and is known off stage as Aaron Dontez Yates, said it was necessary to live away from downtown. He said living in Blue Springs helps with his songwriting if for no other reason than to get away from the crowd.
But the crowd that surrounds him and the region he has lived most of his life in is one of the key inspirations to his music. He mentions Kansas City in the third verse of the first song on “Killer.”
“Kansas City is all through ‘Killer,’” Tech said. “This is where I dwell, this is my habitat. This is what I know. You can’t help but hear it. I’m trying to let the rest of the world know that this is us; this is our sound. Tech N9ne is Kansas City.”
Pride in the Kansas City area, however, is not all Tech N9ne raps about. He is trying to climb to the top with an independent label, something he said has made him an outcast.
Page 2 of 3 - “This is why I know, not why I think (I have been snubbed),” Tech said. “It’s because we’re independent. The game has turned into not how good you are, but how much you can pay to get played. We might have $20,000, but we’re not going to give it to no DJ to play our song 700 times a week. We might want to put the $20,000 in more posters to give out hand-to-hand.”
Tech said he refuses to give in to the system.
“We might have $100,000, but we don’t have it to give to MTV to play my video constantly. Why would we do that?” he said. “We’re about to put (money) in a tour bus to hit the road. The reason why you don’t see me on the television like Eminem (and other major rap artists) is because they’re with major labels. Major labels throw all that money (for videos and tour), and artists don’t get paid until they make back all that money. We take our money and do other things, not frivolous (stuff). We want it to be natural.”
The natural way of making it big as an artist, Tech said, was to be heard by people and requested. Tech said the current system is flawed because artists that aren’t talented are making it because they are willing to pay to be played.
“We will not kiss no (expletive) to be accepted by MTV, BET, VH1. They’re going to have to hear me because the fans will speak.”
His fans, he said, consist of people from all walks of life.
“Tech N9ne appeals to everybody. We’re all different in some way, but we have one thing in common: we’re human beings,” Tech said. “A lot of different human beings can relate in dealing with a psycho (expletive). A lot of people can relate to (not being faithful in a relationship). I might do “Slacker” and suburban kids might dig it because that’s the language. Or I might do “Gangsta Shap” and urban kids might like it because that’s the language. When you come to my shows, it’s like a melting pot. All types of people are there and that’s how I planned it from the beginning.”
Tech said his music is still for everyone, despite the grand nature of “Killer,” which is a two-disc CD with 32 songs.
“Tech is short for technique, nine is the number of completion, the highest single digit.,” Tech said. “The complete technique of rhyme. If I’m a complete technique, that means I’m everything in one, so I should belong to everybody. When someone tells me they don’t like Tech N9ne, I’m offended.”
And maybe he does appeal to a wide range of people, considering his hair helps him with fans of parody songs. He said he looks like a black Weird Al Yankovic when his hair is long, and he plans on growing his hair back out to the length his fans are used to.
Page 3 of 3 - For now though, his hair is tame, perfect for the album cover to “Killer,” a tribute to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Tech is gathering popularity with each passing day, and if “Killer” is even half as popular as “Thriller,” you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know who he is.