Tech N9ne called his new album “The Storm” for a few reasons.
“I named it ‘Storm’ because my first album in Kansas City ever, back before Strange Music times, was called ‘The Calm Before the Storm,’ ” he said. “That was in ’96. Twenty years later, I’m giving the actual storm. I knew that if I named it that, I would create the best music I could possibly make, and I think I’ve made the most genre-breaking album ever.”
“The Storm,” released Friday, is the 17th studio album from Kansas City’s most famous and successful rapper. Tech also was in town this week, stopping by an FYE store in Independence to greet fans on Thursday and appearing as a guest performer with opening act Mackenzie Nicole at Tove Lo’s Friday show at Uptown Theater.
Tech’s new album delivers a blizzard of genres and features a small constellation of stars. Music styles include gospel, metal, R&B, blues, rap and, on the song “Poison the Well,” what Tech N9ne describes as a “mix of bluegrass and trap.” His famous guests include Boyz II Men, Gary Clark Jr. and Jonathan Davis (Korn). Other guests include Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry and Strange Music label mates Krizz Kaliko and Big Scoob.
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Boyz II Men perform on a song called “Buddha,” a funky R&B/rap number that also includes vocals from Kansas Citian Adrian Truth, whom Tech calls “a hometown hero and a young guy coming up.”
“That was the first idea I had for the album: to do a song about marijuana with Boyz II Men,” he said. “It’s so left field but so wonderful.”
The Boyz tracked their parts in different studios.
“Wanya Morris came here to do his part. Nate (Morris) and Shawn (Stockman) did theirs later in Las Vegas because they have a residency there,” he said. “Wanya came to Kansas City and came to my house and ate with us. It was so wonderful.”
Tech N9ne has wanted to collaborate with Clark for years, he said. Through a mutual friend, he was able to meet with the guitar slinger from Texas when Clark was in Kansas City and persuade him to contribute to the bluesy “No Gun Control.” Clark provides both vocals and lead guitar.
“I didn’t think he was going to make it because the album was already due and I was going on tour,” Tech said. “But he came back to Kansas City for a tour date and said when he got done with the show, he’d do it. I told him I wanted him to do a guitar solo over the length of a 12-bar verse. And he did it, and it was beautiful.”
There isn’t much bluegrass in “Poison the Well,” but there is a heavy, grimy country-blues vibe under the Southern hip-hop beats. (It sounds like something from Moby’s “Play” album.) The song “Need Jesus” wears its gospel on its sleeve.
“There’s no cursing on that because of our respect for our elders,” Tech said. “I’m talking about how people tell us we need Jesus because we like darkness and because of my imagery and whatever. But we’ve got Jesus. You need Jesus. Don’t judge us.”
The album’s release was delayed by a few months partly because of personal crises. In September, Tech N9ne posted on his Instagram that his aunt had been shot by a stray bullet going through her Kansas City home.
“I need all the prayers I can get from my Technicians for my aunt Ivy!,” he wrote. “Some demon shot her last night! Send Angel love this way so I can transfer it her way! Positive energy today people please!
In an interview with HipHopDx.com in early November, he said his aunt was still in the hospital after surgeries. “(I’m) hurting and hoping that my mom’s sister won’t pass just like my mom just passed,” he said. He also mentioned that he was going through a messy divorce.
Still, Tech has already moved on to his next project: another collaborations album that will feature “all famous artists.”
“We’re doing it different this time. I usually get all the beats and ideas and send them out to my artists,” he said. “Now the artists are getting beats from (producer) Seven and doing their ideas and then giving them to me.
“I came up with this name for it, ‘Stràngenetics,’ and I don’t think we’ll come up with a better one; it’s the genetics of Strange artists being carried over to me, giving their thoughts and blood, sweat and tears to me and then I’ll add what I have, instead of me giving it to them, like I usually do.”
He won’t start touring on “The Storm” until late winter or early spring, save for a few shows before the year is over, including a show at the Granada in Lawrence in late January. Until then: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the reaction to ‘The Storm’ and hope the fans react the same way I do.”
Chances are good they will all react with a mix of admiration and surprise.
Tech N9ne will be at the Granada Theater, 1020 Massachusetts St., Lawrence on Jan. 20. Showtime is 8 p.m. thegranada.com