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Tech N9ne is a legend in the rap game. Hailing from Kansas City, the Strange Music founder has established his place in hip-hop — proving you can be successful and preserve your following by working hard and smart, while remaining independent.
Real name Aaron Dontez Yates’ career dates back many decades. He exploded onto the scene with a unique image such a painted face with crazy loud red hair — something the world hadn’t seen a black male do. Hit songs “Caribou Lou” to “I’m A Playa” to “Worldwide Choppers” came shortly after. Throughout his career, Tech has remained consistently one of the most intelligent lyricists to ever grace the planet.
Fast forward to 2020, he hasn’t let his foot off the gas pedal one bit. Blessing all his fans during quarantine, he unleashes his brand new project titled ENTERFEAR, a concept that actually arose before the whole COVID-19 mayhem.
REVOLT caught up with Tech N9ne to discuss his new project, quarantine life, what’s new with Strange Music, and more. Read below.
How are you holding up in quarantine?
Actually like my actual life. I’m always kept away from the public until it’s time for the meet and greet during the day. Then, I’m held hostage away from everybody until show time. When I’m home, I actually stay home and write. I try to grow a beard out, so it won’t grow out in public, so I can stay home writing. This is my life, welcome to my life.
How’s Kansas City?
Desolate. It seems like nobody’s outside, but me. I’m up at Strange Music headquarters right now. It’s beautiful. I’m sitting at a long ass conference table.
What makes ENTERFEAR stand out from other Tech records?
All my records are my babies. Every album, I always try to one up myself. I do it all the time. This one, people might agree it’s a mixture of a lot of elements of the other records, but on a higher lyrical level and musical level. The feeling of the music, some people say, “Oh, this feels like K.O.D. Oh, this feels like All 6’s and 7’s. Oh, this feels like Everready.” It’s a mixture of everything about my life now, where I stand now mentally. Just an elevated state of mind and music as well.
How fitting is this record for the pandemic?
It’s crazy. It’s called ENTERFEAR and everybody’s fearful right now. I got that title last year, so it’s totally fitting. As far as the lockdown, this is something we’ve never experienced in our lifetime. Hopefully will never experience it again because a lot of bad things are happening. We’re trying to keep it all the way bright for the listeners and followers of Tech N9ne.
On “Just Die,” you said, “How could you not respect the sauce.” What is the sauce?
The sauce is what I whip up. It’s how I whip it, that wrist. Like Drake said, “Chef Curry with the wrist, boy!” I can’t tell you the ingredients because everybody will try to use it. This is the same Tech N9ne sauce I’ve been using since day one. Three people are involved in making this sauce: The King, The Clown, and The G. G sauce n**ga!
Talk about linking with Flatbush Zombies on “Look What I Did.”
They actually hit me up for a song we did called “Monica.” We shot a video and everything in L.A. We had a big ball. When it was time to do the record, I kept hearing this beat. I thought, “This would be great for Flatbush.” I sent it to them and they loved it. The rest is history. I can’t wait for everybody to hear what they did because they heard pieces of my verse, we leaked a little bit of it yesterday. They already know that sauce is in there. It ain’t Ragu. They cooked up some Flatbush sauce, it’s dope. Talented brothers.
What are your favorite tracks on ENTERFEAR and why?
You can’t call nobody’s baby ugly. I got three kids and I don’t have a favorite. At the moment, it’s when the “Story Time” part of the record starts, when it says, “More T-N9ne, for he rhymes and glory shines. Gather ‘round for story time!” With “Feel So Sad!,” “Angel Baby,” all those songs, these are real stories of my life. These songs are so humongous, so full of life. Some of my favorites are in “Story Time.” A lot of those have been released already, but for the people who’ve never heard them, listen to the level of sounds and the stories. Everything within “Story Time,” whoa, it’s beautiful.
“Smell Good” is a bop.
Dude, my producer Seven did the track. When I first heard it, I wanted Jackie Moon on it and The Dan Band. Jackie Moon is a character played by Will Ferrell in a movie called Semi-Pro. The Dan Band are in a lot of Will Ferrell movies, you probably know them by, “Turnaround bright eyes, f**kin’ every now and then I fall apart. And I need you now tonight. I f**king need you more than ever.” That one’s from Old School.
It’s so 70s the way it felt. I felt like I had on a butterfly collar and some bellbottoms... I love the 70s feel of “Smell Good.” I was inspired by the place where I get my smell good from in Kansas City. I buy it at Halls. I buy Creed. For the lady, you buy Bond No. 9 at Halls. It smells good and it’s dedicated to the smell good section of Halls. When you think of Halls in Kansas City, you think of Saks Fifth Ave or Bloomingdales. That’s ours in Kansas City: Halls. “Smell Good” is a dedication to the women at fragrances at Halls.
You’ve built an empire independently. What’s the most common mistake you see aspiring artists make?
They don’t realize or take into account that everything they spend on videos, clothes, and plane rides, everything has to be recouped. If it’s spend, spend, spend, spend all the money in the studios, all of it has to come back.
Do you save your money?
I invest a lot of my money.
When did you get your “Liberate Me” tattoo?
I got it in my 20s. It was back decades ago when I wanted to die. Now when I look at it, I look at how far I’ve come since then with that weak state of mind. How strong I’ve become since. My kids were something to live for, that’s why I’m still here.
What made you want to die?
Big drugs. Really knowing that you’re at the tip-top of elite rhymesayers, and not getting that in return.
How old are you when “Caribou Lou” came out?
In my late 20s.
Do you still perform it?
Yes, I have to for the rest of my life. I love it, still to this day. You’re the creator of “Caribou Lou,” you got a song that people love all over the world, hell yeah. I’m not one of those one-hit wonders who has one hit that they hate to do over and over. I got multiple hits. We love to do “Einstein,” we love to do “Riot Maker,” we love to do “Caribou Lou,” we love to do “Hood Go Crazy,” we love to do “Fragile,” we love to do “Erbody But Me.” We love to do all that s**t. Dysfunctional, we love it all. When you’re Mr. “Caribou Lou,” you get the party started! We loved performing “Caribou Lou.”
Will there be an “Enterfear Tour”?
Yes, we were supposed to start April 1, but the pandemic hit. Now the “Enterfear Tour” is pushed to fall, September.
Do you miss tours or prefer home life?
Both. Like Metallica does, they fly in a jet, do a show, come right back home the same night. We do a lot of shows, so it doesn’t make sense to do that. That’s a lot of money being spent if you have 56 shows in a row.
What’s new with the Strange Music camp?
Me with a new album, Stevie [Stone] coming out with Black Lion, Jehry Robinson coming out with 20/Twenty man. We got so many artists on the way who are gearing up for their releases. There’s no stopping us baby, we going. I even have a couple more EPs connected to this record. I still have to record them though, and write them.
Anything else you want people to know?
Get the record. When it’s time to eat your food, make sure it is organic. If you can, wash your hands.
Are you vegan?
No, no no no. Not yet anyway. I’m doing fine, my doctor says I’m cool. I just ate a f**king Paul Rudd sandwich, that’s chopped beef. I’m still getting it out of my teeth.
I like that Drake poster behind you, I’m a big fan. I’ve been a fan of Drake since ‘09.
You dancing to “Toosie Slide”?
No, I’m not (laughs). But, I enjoy watching people do it. I don’t even have TikTok. I’ll let the kids do that. Whatever Tech N9ne song they want to find, I’m like, “Go ‘head!”