When Tech N9ne waggled his tongue during a performance of “Fragile” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” early last week, a national television audience realized what most of the roughly 2,500 people in the Midland theater on Saturday had known for years. Tech N9ne is one of the most lascivious yet creative artists in hip-hop.
Tech N9ne was born in Kansas City as Aaron Dontez Yates in 1971. His ascendant popularity is an anomaly in a genre dominated by younger men.
Tech N9ne’s success is partly attributable to his demanding tour schedule. Saturday’s concert was the final date of the Independent Grind tour, which began on April 9. A few of the performers on the four-act bill acknowledged that they were weary, but Tech N9ne’s outing was worthy of his status as the Kansas City King.
With an improved light show and a greatly increased role for longtime sidekick Krizz Kaliko, Tech N9ne’s strengths were masterfully showcased in a performance that lasted slightly less than 100 minutes. The metallic “Riot Maker” and the towering “Einstein” were among the songs that serve as unofficial Kansas City anthems.
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“Strangeulation,” his 14th studio album, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart when it was released last month. Yet partly because so many of Tech N9ne’s songs are venerated hip-hop classics, “Hard” was the only song from the hit album on the set list.
The extraordinary success of his locally based Strange Music record label was repeatedly acknowledged in song lyrics and in prideful patter. The jubilant mood was tempered only when Tech N9ne spoke about the recent passing of his mother.
Freddie Gibbs, an unrepentant gangster rapper from Indiana, might have been better served by talking less. He boasted that he was a professional criminal in his “real job.”
Although Gibbs is one of the most lauded rappers of the past few years, he was able to convey his formidable talent only when he rapped a cappella on “Thuggin’.”
An appearance by Atlanta’s Jarren Benton consisted of 25 minutes of tiresome clichés.
The themed costumes worn by the members of the Psych Ward Druggies evoked the metal band Slipknot. The Los Angeles collective’s pop-inflected sound and juvenile antics resembled a substandard version of the Beastie Boys.
Even so, the band won over a lot of Tech N9ne’s loyal supporters.
After he pointed out a child in the audience, Tech N9ne suggested that the presence of young fans “makes me think I’m going to be here for a long, long time.” His powerful performance on Saturday indicates that he’s likely to continue breaking the rules and defying the odds for the foreseeable future.