Q&A: Tech N9ne On Lil Wayne, The Doors, And Getting Drunk On Hip-Hop Squares
Midwestern rap weirdo Tech N9ne had an unexpected guest spot on Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV last year ("Interlude" with Andre 3000), but the 40-year-old Kansas City motormouth's most memorable track has to be "Areola," his 2009 not-at-all-joking breast anthem that comes with its own anatomy lesson ("Don't know what I'm talkin 'bout/ That circle around the skittle/ In the middle you put in your mouth," explains guest Big Krizz Kaliko) and has turned into the live-show tradition of Tech's female fans proudly flashing proudly along to the chorus.
Estevan Oriol Midwestern rapper Tech N9ne: "My publicist knows a woman can get more out of me."
But Tech N9ne isn't one-trick Spencer Gifts schtick. On his own 14-year-old independent label Strange Music, the man born Aaron Dontez Yates has released 10 records in 11 years, rapidfire verses about lost nights ("Blur") and emotional nadirs ("Suicide Letters"), and sold over a million records without mainstream support. He's built a hugely loyal following of "Technicians" through relentless touring, which has most recently taken shape as the wildly ambitious Hostile Takeover Tour90 dates in 90 days that brings him to the Highline Ballroom this Sunday.
We spoke with Tech N9ne on Day 73. He told us, at dizzyingly cordial length, about Lil Wayne, women, collaborating with the Doors, what he thinks about all the Juggalos who love him.
Are you regretting 90 dates in 90 days yet?
It's killing me. I'm laying in my bed right now. I just woke up to talk to you. This is only show 73 out of 90. We're tired. We're doing an hour and 45 minutes every night. We've already put a dent in it, but it's time to go.
Will you get a chance to rest when you're done?
I wish. But no. I'll be working on my album. I get home that night, I got a day off, and thenboomthat following Tuesday, I'm in the studio.
How do you maintain that? Being an independent artist on your own label, you stop working for a day and that's money out of your pocket. But you only have one day off after working 90 days?
When you go on a long tour like that, you accumulate a lot of money. So you could sit down for a while. But you have deadlines. When you have music in your bones and in your blood, as soon as the beats come on, you're going. You're not even thinking about, "Oh, I need to sit down for a minute."
Are you motivated by the fact that you won't mentally, physically, and spiritually be able to keep up this pace forever?
I feel like I'm Superman. I can do all things by Christ, which strengthens me. I don't think anything's hard. We're doing what we love to do. The only thing that's hard about it is that it's a totally intricate show. It weighs on you. You're like, "Oh my God, all these words. Why do I have to be the fast-rap guy?" [Laughs]
You taped episodes for Hip-Hop Squares this year.
Oh yeah, they called and said "Come do Hip-Hop Squares. You remember Hollywood Squares?" I'm like, "I used to love that show with Whoopi Goldberg and everything!" The first episode, nobody picked me. The second and third ones, they did. So whenever they air the second and third ones, I will talk. Just know: every episode I was drunk as Hell. They want you to drink backstage. By the third episode, I was falling asleep up there, like, "Oh my God, I hope they didn't ask me anything."
It was early in the morning we had to be there. They got us drinking and we didn't get to eat. We started off with champagne. They started pouring other drinks. By the time we got on the first episode, we were already tipsy. They kept bringing us drinks! The commercials? The ladies would come up, "Do you need another one?" Yup, let's go.
You're something of an anomaly in the rap world.
I remember a long time ago we were doing a one-off. It was a show that had Twiztid on it. It was a show that had Too $hort and Lil Scrappy. It was totally urban, somewhere down in the South. Totally black clubsmall black club, packed wall-to-wall. Lil Scrappy already went on, it was totally rowdy. I came up there: facepainted, spiked red hair, with a bishop's robe on. As soon as I walked out, everybody started laughing. All my people.
I did my stamina and it got quiet as hell. It's crazy to see, people going from laughing to quiet, whispering to each other, like, "What the hell is that?" Like, "Whoa, did you just hear what he said?" To everybody's hands up at the end of that show on "I'm a Playa." It always works like that. To win everybody over when you're a weirdo and you know it.
You have a huge Juggalo fanbase. Is there a difference between Juggalos and Technicians or are they all the same?
I've made them all the same now. Anybody who listens to Tech N9ne is a Technician. There're a lot of Juggalos who listen to Tech N9ne who are Technicians slash Juggalos. There are people out there who are Technicians slash gangsters. I just made them all together, one big family.
A lot of Technicians and Juggalos, they bang heads on Twitter. I've [always] been like, "No, Juggalos, they're a part of the human race." I think my music belongs to everybody. I'm not gonna alienate a certain type of person because of the way they look, or the way they act. I'm weird like Juggalos are. I paint my face like Juggalos do. I'm weird too.
Last year after the Gathering of the Juggalos, Charlie Sheen shouted you out on Twitter.
Yes, he did. The thing about Tech N9ne is that when you see it, you can't believe you didn't know about it. [He was like] "Give me CDs, give me shirts, give me hats" and we gave it all to him. Ron Jeremy did the same thing. Charlie Sheen watched from the side of the stage, he's like, "Whoa!" He's looking at the crowd showing breasts when I say "Areola" and he was blown away. I love impressing people like that.