Having issued more than 20 albums and made more than 400 guest appearances since the early 1990s, Tech N9ne’s status as hip-hop royalty has long been cemented.
Often referred to as the “No. 1 independent rapper in the world,” Tech N9ne will make his Central New York debut on Saturday, Nov. 24, 8 p.m., at the Westcott Theater, 524 Westcott St. Also on the bill will be Dizzy Wright, Futuristic, Lil Viv and Apache Chief. Tickets are $35; visit thewestctotttheater.com for information.
Having released his latest album, Planet, last March, Tech N9ne is still doing things his way. In an age where hip-hop albums are 10 songs or less, Planet features 20 throbbing tracks. The album’s rollout also included a vinyl release, something that has seemingly been lost in the age of streaming and digital downloads.
Tech N9ne, born Nov. 8, 1971, in Kansas City, Missouri, chatted with the Syracuse New Times about his career, his goals, and his Syracuse plans when he’s not performing.
From skipping high school graduation to open up for EPMD to releasing 20 albums, when was the first time you realized that you’d made it?
I’ve had so many moments that I cherish, but I still don’t know if I’ve made it. I’ve done music with legends like Tupac and Eminem, but I still want more, so much more. I’ve made the Forbes list (of wealthy people), but I’m just so focused on building this empire. When I find whatever it is that I’m looking for, I think that’s when I’ll know that I’ve made it.
You’ve collaborated with everyone from Eminem to Kendrick Lamar. Is there any artist that you still want to work with?
I’d love to work with Outkast, Denzel Curry and 21 Pilots, I’m such a fan of music and production, I’d love to get a beat from Kanye West. That guy’s a genius.
As controversial as Kanye West is right now, do you think it is important to separate the artist from the art?
Definitely. I think you have to. I don’t like to portray my political views or anything because I don’t want to alienate anyone or make them feel as though they’re not welcome. I love my fans and supporters.
You and MF Doom could really be considered the Mount Rushmore figures of underground rap and independence in hip-hop. How does it feel to know you’ve created such a legacy of “do-ityourself” entrepreneurship?
I think someone had to do it, so why not us? I feel as though we took the sacrificial lane and did what we had to do in order to succeed and open up new doors for younger artists. I want to share the inspiration, and I want the newer artists to take it even further than I did. I think it’s a beautiful thing.
Are there any new artists that you’re looking at? And do they remind you of yourself?
I like a lot of newer artists, like Hopsin and Denzel Curry, but I don’t think any rapper can do what I do. I’m not saying that to be cocky or braggadocious, but I truly don’t think we’ve seen anyone like me before.
Who are your top five rappers of all time? And yes, you can say “Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan” for your answer.
(After laughing hysterically at The Chappelle Show reference) Oh man, I think I’d have to say, in no particular order, it would be Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Rakim, KRS-One and Eminem.
As someone who tours so frequently, what still motivates you to tour as much as you do after 25 years?
I just love this. I was born to be a rapper. I don’t think I was destined for any other path. I love the art so much and am so committed to everything. I’ve sacrificed relationships and missed time with my family and my kids, I want to slow down on touring eventually, but right now, I don’t think I can.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Syracuse. Is there any places that I need to go?
It’s the greatest grocery store you will ever go to.
(Laughing hysterically) All right, man, I’ll definitely check it out.