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Examiner
  • Tech N9ne's 'The Gift of Rap'

  • Tech N9ne likes to begin many responses to questions about his prolific career as a rapper the same way.

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  • Tech N9ne likes to begin many responses to questions about his prolific career as a rapper the same way.
    “It’s all a blessing,” Kansas City native Tech N9ne (born Aaron Dontez Yates) said repeatedly Wednesday afternoon in a rare sit-down interview at his recording label’s office in Lee’s Summit.
    Co-founded by Tech N9ne and Travis O’Guin, the walls of Strange Music might hold a dozen or so framed photos of Tech N9ne, but the Lee’s Summit resident isn’t usually there. He averages 300 shows a year, returning earlier this week from a European tour that wrapped up in Paris. When he’s not touring or writing new material, Tech N9ne is recording at Chapman Recording & Mastering in Lenexa, Kan.
    He also was among the first musicians to perform at the Independence Events Center when the facility opened in November 2009. This Friday, Tech N9ne will take the Events Center stage again in the inaugural The Gift of Rap show, featuring Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Calhoun, Rittz and E-40. Both Tech N9ne and Events Center staff are aiming to make The Gift of Rap an annual tradition.
    Benefiting the Love Fund for Children and Harvesters Community Food Network, fans are encouraged to bring donations of five non-perishable food items, hygiene/lifestyle items and new, unwrapped toys and games to donate. Complete ticket information is available at www.independenceeventscenter.com.
    MTV recently described Tech N9ne as an “independent pioneer.” More and more, recording artists are opting for “homegrown,” indie-based approaches, either recording with smaller record labels or starting their own. Recently, popular American rock band the Foo Fighters recorded the album “Wasting Light” in lead singer Dave Grohl’s garage. The album and its tracks picked up multiple Grammy Awards earlier this year.
    It’s an approach that Tech N9ne has taken for years, with he and O’Guin, a former furniture businessman, forming Strange Music in 1999. With about 25 current employees, the independent label specializes in hip-hop artists and is looking to expand into a second building near its current location in Lee’s Summit.
    “We have everything, and we started from the ground up – legally,” said Tech N9ne, a former Blue Springs resident. “I think people took notice when it started working. They’re like ‘Whoa, he don’t got no major (label) behind him. They use their own money. They put out records when they want.’”
    Putting out albums – and lots of them – is something Tech N9ne does well – and often. A complete list of his discography spans pages and pages online, ranging from studio and compilation albums to EPs and singles.
    “It’s starting to make sense,” he says of the more independent approach. “It’s harder, to do it yourself, but some of these people that were major, like (American rapper) T-Pain – him doing it independent now makes sense. That will make him bank. People want to hear that.”
    Page 2 of 2 - A self-described recluse at times, Tech N9ne says he still realizes the importance of staying grounded and connected with his fan base. Not all musicians are as welcoming, he says.
    “Thank God they don’t feel evil brain when they shake my hand,” Tech N9ne says. “They feel angel heart.”
    But those fans are getting younger and younger, the 41-year-old adds. During a concert Saturday in Paris – his last before Friday’s performance at the Events Center – he witnessed two 10-year-old male fans. Although his career has taken him all over the world, Tech N9ne still desires to perform in Africa, Japan and even Hawaii before calling it complete.
    “It’s like a melting pot,” he says of his fan base, which reaches to age 60 and touches multiple races. “But they’re getting younger and younger. When I saw the 10-year-olds, they looked like they were 7. Couldn’t believe it – I was touching their hands the whole time. ... The young (fans) are coming, and they’re not stopping. They want more of me.”
    Himself the father of three teenagers, Tech N9ne says he wants the community to remember giving back to the less fortunate, even if they aren’t able to attend the Events Center concert. He’s traveled throughout the streets of Kansas City, passing out Tech N9ne sweatshirts and identifying himself to the city’s homeless.
    “I think that people get that we’re trying to give other people stuff and not just take it all for ourselves. We’re not just going to throw this show – we’re going to donate also,” he says. “I’m excited that other kids are going to benefit from a show of mine – that makes me feel good.”
     
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