As Tech N9ne moves from strange beginnings, a rap outsider to an accepted independent rap champion, we see his latest offering: a 24-track concept album, dripping with cameos and divided into three acts—“Fire,” “Water,” and “Earth”—loosely based around a story of a meteorite landing in Tech’s hometown, Kansas City. Interacting with three distinct phases as the story develops, it became clear up front that this record is a great example of what hip-hop and rap can aspire to.
The first act, “Fire,” presents a state of disorder and darkness, beginning with an intense rock-infused tone of impending doom featuring System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian singing the refrain, “We are the children of your rivals/Holding guns while reading Bibles/Go ahead and seal your fate.” The music video for the song additionally hints at support for Edward Snowden, perhaps appropriate considering the Armenian-American Serj Tankian’s longstanding involvement in social politics.
Also in this act is “I’m Not a Saint,” a sorrowful number backed by live strings in which Tech N9ne touches upon previously unexplored personal subject matter, a heavy task considering his penchant for confession and contemplation. His stated hope, according to HipHopDX, is to inspire fellow sexual assault victims.
On the second act, “Water,” Tech offers “So Dope,” the album’s show-off song, an alliteration-heavy, tongue-twisting work of lyrical mastery, forcing the features, Wrekonize, Twisted Insane, and Snow Tha Product to keep pace with rapid-fire sex rhymes. For those of you with an interest in more progressive crafting in music, this is the track by which to initiate yourself to Tech N9ne’s talent.
“My Haiku – Burn the World” is another rock-heavy number, with Tech N9ne’s rapid-fire intricate delivery punctuated by soaring, soulful vocals from fellow Strange Music artist Krizz Kaliko, with lyrics contemplating topics such as gun control and child abuse. “That’s My Kid” featuring Cee-lo Green, Big K.R.I.T., and fellow Strange Music rapper Kutt Calhoun discusses the responsibility and maturity involved in child-rearing.
The third act, “Earth,” which Tech N9ne associates with a more heavenly level of peace and resolution, features a number of pleasing stand-outs.
With live strings and Beyonce-esque vocals, “Believe” is a song of hope, discussing unity and overcoming the ills of racism, division, and war. Perhaps cause for most excitement is a remake of The Doors’ “Strange Days,” featuring live recordings by The Doors themselves, including the recently deceased Ray Manzarek. This outstanding collaboration is not just some hip-hop guy rapping over a Doors sample, rather, Tech N9ne is realizing a dream come true—rapping with the very band that inspired the name of his independent label, Strange Music.
Tech N9ne brings together many different elements in his music, including several genres from soul to heavy rock to dubstep, and often explores subject matter outside of mainstream rap. I would definitely recommend those interested in something different than your typical rap album to snag a copy of it as soon as possible.
By Joel Southall