Kansas City's Tech N9ne is a producer, songwriter, and co-founder of the Strange Music record label. But he's best known for the "chopper" style of rap he popularized, hence his name, which, you'll note, refers to the TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun. He's now three decades and 18 studio albums into a career that has sold more than two million records while influencing a multitude of contemporary rappers who attack music with certain aggressive edges. Tech N9ne brings his rapid-fire spits to Tucson this week, so we spoke to him about the five albums that helped shape his verses.
With Brotha Lynch Hung, Krizz Kaliko, Stevie Stone, and CES Cru, Friday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m., Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. $35-$50. All Ages.
1. Slick Rick—The Great Adventures of Slick Rick: I started rapping in 1985, and this record came out in '88. It had a lot of beautiful songs on it, but if there's one song on there that molded my style, and people might think it's crazy but it's real, it's a song called "Lick the Balls." The style on that was like toasting, like reggae. Slick Rick was doing that in '88. That style was just like stutter-stepping. I took that and it turned into the chopper style. Without Slick Rick, I would never have started that. I always liked the fast-paced rhyme. This album was a pivotal point in my style. So much style, and so many innovative things. I got to tell Slick Rick that years later in New York City. I thanked him for the inspiration.
2. NWA—Straight Outta Compton:
Reality-rap was what I loved. Real-life rap. People's lives are different, but I was hip to songs like "Dopeman" and shit like that. I lived in a dope-filled neighborhood and I knew dope men. I was a dope man after a while. It was a lot of big beats, and a lot of real shit coming from gang niggas, and I loved it because I grew up around gang niggas. I grew up in a Blood neighborhood. So I understood the gangsta mentality. Ice T was in there too, with Power.
3. Ice Cube—Amerikkka's Most Wanted: Oh my God. Hooking up with the Bomb Squad. "Once Upon a Time in the Projects"—everything. Reality raps, and political raps at the same time. It was hood shit, and it was political. Everything about that record just took my breath away. I wanted to be Ice Cube when I first started rapping.
4. Public Enemy—It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: I'm telling you, with the first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, I fell in love. It sounded like Chuck D's voice was so strong and superhero-ish. Once It Takes a Nation ... came out, and "Rebel Without a Pause" was in the streets, people were dancing to it at schools, this new noise that the Bomb Squad created, with James Brown samples, it was just different. "Don't Believe the Hype"—everything on that record. That really inspired me.
5. The D.O.C.—No One Can Do It Better: Those lyrics made me want to step it up. I got to tell him that—he got on my tour bus when I was in Dallas. All the people who inspired me, I've met. And I didn't even get to KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions. KRS-One makes you want to read dictionaries. The old school inspires me.