This has been a busy year for Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne, just another in a long line of busy years.
In May he released “Special Effects,” his 15th studio album, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart and reached No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop and Independent Album charts. He toured relentlessly, including a stop at this year’s Rockfest in Penn Valley Park, where he was the only rap artist on the enormous all-day bill.
He also moved from Missouri to Kansas, the reason for which is chronicled in the skit “Intruders” and its ensuing track, “Tell Me If I’m Trippin’,” which are on “Strangeulation Vol. II.” It was released last week — his second full-length in six months. He has already broken ground on his next full-length, “The Storm,” which will be released in the first half of 2016.
“I turned 44 on Nov. 8, but I feel like I’m 22,” said Tech N9ne (born Aaron Yates) on the phone recently from Strange Music headquarters, where he was signing more than 5,000 pre-ordered copies of “Vol. II.” “I’m starting to feel like I’m Dracula, like I’m immortal.”
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“Vol. II” is the followup to “Strangeulation,” released in May 2014, which featured a series of collaborations with artists on his Strange Music roster plus outside artists, including Serj Tankian of System of a Down and guitarist John 5 of Rob Zombie’s band and formerly with Marilyn Manson.
The format for “Vol. II” is similar. Tech N9ne and his producer, Michael “Seven” Summers, distributed beats and unfinished tracks to the Strange Music roster, who applied their own voices and ideas as the finishing touches. Among them: Krizz Kaliko, Big Scoob, CES Cru, Murs, Brotha Lynch Hung, JL B Hood, Rittz, Prozak and Darrein Safron.
Some of the beats are fresh. Some are sampled from previous Tech N9ne albums — such as “Come Gangsta” from “Everready (The Religion)” and “He’s a Mental Giant” from “All 6’s and 7’s” — and refashioned into something new. His collaborators were instructed to take those beats into different directions. The result is a 23-song array of tracks widely diverse in styles and dynamics.
The first of those is “Praise KOD,” which features vocals from Ryan Bradley, lead singer of Above Waves, an indie-pop/rock band from Chicago. Bradley and Tech N9ne had collaborated in 2014 on the single “Over It” from “Strangeulation.” The song was co-written by Darrein Safron, a singer/songwriter from St. Louis and a recent addition to the Strange Music roster. It deftly fuses hardcore rap and indie rock.
One of the more intriguing tracks is “Tell Me If I’m Trippin’,” which erupts from jackhammer rap into bursts of sledgehammer industrial metal. It includes vocals from Tyler Lyon, vocalist for former Kansas City rock bands Evalyn Awake and the Leo Project, now the guitarist in Tech N9ne’s live band, Band of Psychos.
The song and its preceding skit, “Intruders,” re-create a true story. Very early one morning, as he was watching “American Psycho” in his Lee’s Summit home, Tech N9ne heard poundings on his door and windows, the frantic ringing of his doorbell and the calling of his name.
“I thought they were intruders,” he said. “I thought they wanted to rob me. So I went to look for my, uh, weapon. I couldn’t find it, so I grabbed a knife. And I called the police.”
As the police arrived, the would-be intruders fled. The police informed him that they were three teens who apparently wanted to party. They’d been captured by a security camera doing the same thing at the home of his manager, Travis O’Guin. So he wrote “Tell Me If I’m Trippin’,” a rap about what could have been: “I was gonna kill some of my own fans.”
He subsequently moved to Leawood, into a residence that provides greater security.
In the midst of touring and preparing to release his new album, Tech N9ne squeezed in the time to write a song that honors his favorite baseball team. “KCMO Anthem” was finished the day after the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. He missed much of that game but was able to watch the best parts.
Tech N9ne and his crew were in the midst of flying home from a Halloween show in Maine the night the Royals won Game 5. While airborne, they learned the Royals were down 2-0.
“We landed in Kansas City, and in the terminal about 80 people were looking up at one television that had the game on,” he said. “All I wanted to do was get home. Just as we were leaving, we heard this big cheer. The Royals had tied it — just as I stepped back into Kansas City.”
He caught the rest of the game at home with friends and his 21-year-old son.
“We were both holding our hands over our mouths, going, ‘We are going to win the World Series,’ ” he said. “The last time they won I was in seventh grade, going to George Caleb Bingham (junior high).”
Over that Halloween weekend his publicist had urged Tech N9ne to write a rap about the Royals.
“He said they were going to win the World Series and I should write a song about it,” he said. “I already had the beat, so on the Monday after they won, I went into the studio.”
It took about 2 1/2 hours to complete. Then he slept on it.
“I woke up the day of the parade, and it was everywhere,” he said. “It was all over radio. Johnny Dare was playing it, Mix 93 was playing it. I was so happy to have written it. I’m not a sports fan, but I’m always behind my hometown boys, the Royals and Chiefs. I’ve been going to games with my Uncle Ike since I was a kid.”
His family, particularly his mother, who died in June 2014, inspired his most recent album. In “Praise KOD,” Tech N9ne chants, “LAJFA,” which stands for “liberty and justice for all.”
“That’s the last thing she said to me on the phone from the hospital before she passed,” he said. “I said: ‘That’s all you want, baby? That’s a tall order.’ ”
Since her death he has worked even more diligently, finishing two more albums and preparing for the next. Success keeps coming.
“Things keep getting better,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. We aren’t coming down until we want to. I’m so energized. It has to be my mom’s spirit.”
Tech N9ne’s “Tech the Halls” is Dec. 12 at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. Tickets start at $28 through AXS.com.
Local music for local teams
Tech N9ne celebrated the Kansas City Royals with “KCMO Anthem,” which he released after the Royals won the World Series. It’s the latest effort teaming area pro sports teams and local musicians.
The Chiefs earlier this year started using David George and A Crooked Mile’s “Hey, Kansas City!” when the Chiefs scored, replacing Gary Glitter’s “Rock ’N’ Roll Part 2.”
In recent years, Sporting Kansas City has used local music from the likes of Beautiful Bodies, the Architects, Casket Lottery, Maps for Travelers, Scruffy and the Janitors and others for its online and pre- and post-game highlight videos.
Kauffman Stadium played Tech N9ne’s “Hood Go Crazy” as a walk-up song before Eric Hosmer’s at bats. Also played at times this year: “City of Thrones,” by rapper Luck Kennedy, who moved to Kansas City about six years ago.
David Frese, firstname.lastname@example.org