Some artists have been in the industry for so long that no one is really positive when they started making music. Sadly, many of the artists that this statement applies to are underground and overlooked. Kansas City rap artist, Tech N9ne is has released over 15 albums and EP’s since 1999 yet too much of the populace is unaware of his existence. His style can’t be defined, his flow is unmatched and his energy is infectious. The man derived his stage name from a semi-automatic gun because of his ridiculous speed-rapping ability — and the hype is real. Being that he has released so many diverse projects, it is hard to single out a single as his best. A good place to start is his lengthiest, for several reasons.
His eighth album, Killer, was released in 2008 as a double-disc and has an exhausting 32-tracks included. These songs were all created well enough into Tech’s career that he had experimented with plenty of styles, subject matter so it was a test to see if he could combine his knowledge and technique into a formula that would equate to 32-tracks of entertainment. The stars must’ve collaborated with Tech and aligned because the final product is undeniably consistent.
Somehow, Tech has taken nearly every genre of music and found a way to fuse them together in such a way that his rapping only makes them sound better. He layers his voice over hypnotic synths, rock guitar riffs, poppy drums, straining bass hits, hums, middle-eastern wind instruments, finger snaps, lunch-table style knocking, slow piano keystrokes and plenty more. His flow never sounds unnatural and yet it never ever sounds the same. It is as though Tech made the beats post-rhyme. The mastery he has over his wording and annunciation can be compared to the mastery Hendrix had over his guitar, true artistry.
Tech flows just as easily through his subject matter. Unfortunately, swinging from songs about the state of hip-hop in society, to a party banger, to his sexual fantasies doesn’t provide much cohesion. Tech never has been and likely never will be an artist you listen to for a book-like story line from album start to close. This works to his advantage as well as his disadvantage. You never know what journey he plans on taking you on from minute to minute, it is tense and satisfying to be able to enjoy such a mixture of content put under the same title. With this satisfaction also comes inevitable exhaustion. Though it may have been his intention, Tech never lets you get comfortable with his flow or his topic before he decides it is time to try something new again.
This album proves to be an entrance ticket into Tech’s mind and his thoughts move just as quickly if not more so than his mouth. While his flow and lyrics are premium quality almost 100% of the time, his choruses tend to falter from song to song. He tries his hand at singing, passes the torch to many other artists and even attempts duets. One example is song, ‘Enjoy’ on the second half of the album. Tech infuses his voice with heavy-robotic effects that come off incredibly strong after a verse that sounds like Tech was rapping to microphone placed in the bottom of a well. The contrast doesn’t sound particularly pleasing and comes off sounding like a forced artistic endeavor.
Tech should be applauded regardless of these few instances where things don’t work as well as he might have originally envisioned. It would be a disservice to call the album mediocre when it is actually more entertaining and interesting than most albums released at a third of its length. Tech wasn’t trying to prove anything at this point, other maybe than the fact that he can still rap creatively after eight full length albums. He wasn’t trying to charge people for 32 tracks on an album, he simply wanted to give fans what he pours his heart and soul into each day. He definitely doesn’t stick to a script and tries things conceptually that many other artists would probably laugh at even the idea of. This album is the perfect example of what Tech N9ne is capable of and it sits side by side with the music Tech is releasing still today, seven years later.