Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko had just launched into “KC Tea” on Wednesday when actor Nick Cannon and Strange Music co-founder Travis O’Guin strode onto the stage of the Midland theater. They presented the musicians with gold records certifying sales of more than 500,000 units of the bacchanal song “Caribou Lou.” The formal recognition of the milestone attained by the Kaliko and Tech N9ne composition is just the latest in a long series of achievements by the Kansas City-based Tech N9ne and his colleagues.
Tech N9ne was introduced at Wednesday’s concert as “the number one independent rapper in the world.” “Something Else,” Tech N9ne’s latest album, debuted in the fourth slot of Billboard’s top 200 chart. In addition to contributions from Kendrick Lamar, T-Pain and CeeLo Green, the project includes a collaboration with the Doors that was one of the final recordings by the late Ray Manzarek.
A significant portion of the more than 2 million albums sold by Tech N9ne are on the Strange Music imprint. A recent profile in Forbes magazine suggests that the empire owned by Tech N9ne and O’Guin nets almost $20 million annually.
Their winning strategy is based in part on incessant touring. Aside from the addition of new material, Wednesday’s 90-minute performance for an audience of over 2,500 was little different from his regular hometown concerts. Tech N9ne demonstrated his distinctive rapid-fire rapping — one of the most powerful flows in the history of hip-hop — on selections including “Worldwide Choppers.” His theatrical dark side was displayed on “Blackened the Sun.”
While entertaining, the synchronized dance moves of Tech N9ne and his multi-talented sidekick Kaliko couldn’t compensate for the absence of live instrumentation. The only truly special effects were provided by the lively audience. They erupted into spontaneous chants of hometown pride based on Tech N9ne’s classic 2001 anthem “Einstein” and occasionally transformed the Midland into a topless bar.
Ces Cru was easily the most notable of the evening’s three opening acts. The duo worked the crowd into a frenzy with a virtuosic a cappella display and with an electrifying version of the new song “Juice.” Tech N9ne’s new material from “Something Else” was also extremely well received. Songs like “See Me” and “Fragile” seem likely to become durable fan favorites.
“It’s good to see the new (stuff) rocking like the old (stuff),” Tech N9ne said. “That means I’m going to be here for a long, long time.”