Tech N9ne's recent release Everready: The Religion begins with an account of his crew's van accident last March. After a "dope-ass show in Billings, Montana," the rapper and his entourage skidded en route to Spokane, Wash., hitting an embankment and flipping five times. Near-death experiences often steer survivors to spirituality, and Tech had a religious revelation, albeit not one evangelicals would embrace.
"Making it through that wreck let me know we were in God's graces," he says. "Ever since then, we've been celebrating life, partying, kickin' it hard like donkeys."
That intensity extends to Tech N9ne's stage show, now stretching to 80 minutes because the Kansas City-based rapper, unlike many hip-hop artists, performs most of his songs in their entirety. Flanked by cohorts Kutt Calhoun and Big Krizz Kaliko, with DJ Spin Styles behind the turntables, Tech combines a hard-core frontman's constant motion with Kiss-style theatrics (painted face, wagging tongue.) His rapid-fire flow recalls fellow Midwesterners Twista and Bone, and when the backdrop cuts out for especially fast passages, audiences react as if witnessing a virtuosic guitar solo.
"We've got rock edge and energy," Tech says. "Insanity at its finest. It's not that run-of-the mill rap bull, where you're walking around onstage holding your johnson."
During his frenetic performances in support of previous albums Anghellic and Absolute Power, Tech styled his hair into red spikes. He sports a more conservative look now, but not because he's admitting his earlier appearance constituted "selling out for white folks," a criticism he addresses on the Everready track "Come Gangsta."
"My hair started dwindling when we were on tour," he explains. "Being a black man, I don't know how to take care of bleached hair. It got so short that it was looking stupid, so I had to chop it off. I look approachable now. If I came through a dark alley with red spiked hair, a bitch would run the other way. Now they see me and ask me to help them out, then I get them up in the house and hit them with the psycho shit."
Similarly, Tech lulls listeners into false security during Everready's club-friendly first half, then, having lured them in, kicks into much rougher material as he draws from traumatic experiences such as his separation from his wife and his mother being diagnosed with lupus.
"Back in 1997, Quincy Jones told me, ‘Rap what you know, and people will forever feel you.' I'm the ultimate in purity. That's exactly why my albums be roller-coaster-ride-ish. It's gonna get hella hyped, then I'm gonna take you through something somber, a melancholy maze. No matter how much we're partying, I've still got pain. The album should be three-dimensional like myself: the king, the clown, the G."
Perhaps the record's most jarring transition occurs when "The Rain," a poignant song on which his daughters (Alyia, 12, and Reign, 7) appear, segues into the graphic groupie ode "Fuck 'em Bitch."
"Being on the road away from my children hurts, but at the same time you ain't gonna be sitting in your room crying about how you miss your family," Tech says. "After a while, you're going to need some sort of therapy. And sometimes, a bitch sucking your dick on tour is therapy. That's real. I don't hide shit. I'm a work of fucking art, baby."firstname.lastname@example.org