An accepted definition of an MC is one who acts as a master of ceremony. Today’s hip-hop scene is withering because emaciated opening acts are masquerading as true MCs. Though many imitation MCs are clowning around and defacing the true essence of hip-hop, there remain credible artists whose creativity is helping to cultivate this depressing season of hip-hop. If hip-hop is experiencing a drought, then Tech N9ne is the revitalizing rain. Tech is an innovative wordsmith whose contributions to hip-hop are being recognized by his peers as well as his legion of loyal fans.
Tech N9ne (real name: Aaron Yates), 35, has been actively immersed in music since the mid-80s; being born in rhyme in ’85. This resilient MC has been in the game as long as the Jordan. Coincidently, the J’s he’s wearing is a symbol of strength to this dedicated performer. Following a recent show, BallerStatus.com caught up with Tech. He is slouched in a metal folding chair. Tech’s crimson coif is braided into neat cornrows. A white hand towel is used to dab at the sweat spilling from his brow, his lungs expand and vacuum useful oxygen. The signature face paint remains intact throughout this process. Seconds pass and he releases his breath; refreshment is etched into his features. “I’m ready,” states Tech. We begin.
BallerStatus.com: Where are you from originally?
Tech N9ne: Born and raised in Kansas City, MO. I moved to Sherman Oaks, CA, two years ago. But I spend a lot of time in KC, MO because I record a lot of my music there. That’s my comfort zone.
BallerStatus.com: What prompted the move?
Tech N9ne: Bigger business. We did everything we could possibly do in KC on the rap scene. So, we had to go and expand. And we’ve been expanding ever since we made the move.
BallerStatus.com: Who/what inspired the name Tech N9ne?
Tech N9ne: A guy named Walter Jefferson. I was in a group with him back in the day called Black Mafia. It was in ’88, he gave me my name Tech N9ne out of a Guns&Ammo magazine to make the story short. Walter Jefferson, his name is Black Walt now. He’s on my “T9X” DVD if you ever cop it.
BallerStatus.com: Is there a clear distinction between Aaron Yates and Tech N9ne?
Tech N9ne: I feel like they’re all the same. Tech N9ne is me. You know what I’m saying? Aaron Yates has the complete technique of rhyme, nine being the number of completion. They’re both the same to me. I don’t feel like Aaron is softer than Tech N9ne or that Tech is harder than Aaron. I’m all together, I’m complete.
BallerStatus.com: How do you feel about the present state of hip-hop?
Tech N9ne: I’m biased because I like all types of sh**. I can lean with it, rock with it. But, I also love lyricism. Like that Mos Def, Eminem, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Big Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Calhous. Real n****s, real rappers. I’m biased, you know? I’m not one of those guys who hate on rappers like “Uuuh, they ain’t rappin’ like us, so they’re wack.” No, I listen to everything. I love Lil Jon, I love Ying Yang Twins, I love 50 Cent. You know what I’m sizzlin’? I love E-40, congratulations to him. I love to see people doing good, coming from nothing to something. I love to see it, I love the state of hip-hop. Now there’s a lot of bullsh** out there that we listen to I can dance to it, but I know it’s bullsh**. So, I’m biased baby.
BallerStatus.com: Is street credibility essential to lure in an audience?
Tech N9ne: It depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re Young Jeezy, hell yeah. If you’re Eminem, maybe not. It depends on what street credibility is to the average motherf***er.
50 Cent got shot nine times, BOOM. He survived, been through hell. Street cred. I think that’s ignorant to me. I always felt that was ignorant. N****s got to have something real bad happen to him before people can respect him. Respect me as a man. F*** that, look into my eyes and tell me you see something pure. I don’t have to get shot f***ing nine or eleven times or go to jail, come out swoll. “Yeah n****, street cred! I survived the penitentiary.” I think that’s a prison that we have as a people in or minds. Ya dig?
BallerStatus.com: Who’s responsible the artists or the media for promoting beef?
Tech N9ne: I think the artist and the media. The artists because they spark it and the media because they beef it up. Because it’s entertainment. From day one conflict has always been huge. Have you ever been in school and in the hallways there’s a fight? You run toward it, not away from it. It’s the same sh**.
BallerStatus.com: Were you ever intimidated/discouraged by the process of breaking into the Industry?
Tech N9ne: Well, I’ve been discouraged for a long time because whenever you are different people are either gonna love you or hate you. “A black dude with red hair? Come on, man.” They’re either gonna say you’re gay or that you’re on drugs. Well, I ain’t gay! Dare to be different and risk the chance of being shunned by a lot of people. Because a lot of executives want to do what’s hot. When Jay-Z’s popping, they want to put someone out there that’s like Jay-Z. To break an artist takes a lot. Everybody don’t take chances; big up to the n****s that do.
BallerStatus.com: How would you characterize your career thus far?
Tech N9ne: A psychopathic rollercoaster ride. You never know when it’s gonna throw you off or take you up high or take you down low. Emotional rollercoaster.
BallerStatus.com: How do you maintain your established fan base while appealing to others?
Tech N9ne: I dunno. It’s not meticulous to me, I just write what I feel. If I’m talking about “This Ring” trying to balance being married with fame and being a father. I’m not sure if the masses are gonna like that, I didn’t give a f***. I just wrote it and the next thing I know it spread because they [the fans] feel the realness. They can tell when it’s fake. Dead Prez said: “If you’re a liar liar / wolf crier / agent with a wire / I’ma know it when I play it / it’s bigger than hip-hop… I just do me Mama.”
BallerStatus.com: I see that you stay busy — the tour with Paul Wall, you have completed a movie score, you had a song featured on “Madden ’06” and you’re a playable character on “25 To Life,” you have released two albums, Everready and MLK. How did all this take place?
Tech N9ne: Praying, and doing music. People like Kevin Gill being fans, he’s with IDOS. He put together a lot of video games for ICP. This that and the other that happened through him. The “Alpha Dog” thing, Nick Cassavetes [the director] has a young wife by the name of Queenie. She’s a Tech N9ne fan and that’s how that happened. It’s just doing me and it spreads.
BallerStatus.com: What artists/producers would you like to collaborate with?
Tech N9ne: I would really love to collaborate with DMX. I love DMX. I’m into rock sh**, System Of A Down, Slipknot, Outkast. You know, real motherf***ers, real artists. Twista. There’s a handful of artists that I respect as artists that I’d love to f*** with. You never know.
BallerStatus.com: Who do you listen to?
Tech N9ne: Sh**, I just named ’em. We were in the room today listening to System of a Down, “Shine Down.” T.I. it’s broad. Citizen Cole, Clarence Greenwood Project. A wide selection of sh**, music. Jamie Foxx [it’s] beautiful music, John Legend like a motherf***er. F*** Action 43 and 38…
BallerStatus.com: How do you stay motivated?
Tech N9ne: My children — Aaliyah Renne Yates, Dontez Antonio Yates, Ray Michael Yates. They’re the biggest Tech N9ne fans. They’re living out in L.A. I gotta make it for them. They wanna kick it, “Daddy, we wanna go to Magic Mountain.” It’s ’bout them man. My children keep me going, dog. At times when you feel like you wanna commit suicide, when sh** ain’t going right and nobody can understand you and sh**. A child is unconditional love. A child will smile at you and kiss you. Unconditional love.
BallerStatus.com: How do you alleviate stress?
Tech N9ne: I like going to the movies. I like horror movies. I’d rather be around a female. Dudes are crazy, but females, y’all can talk about a lot of sh**. I love female company it calms me the f*** down, sometimes.
BallerStatus.com: Describe your relationship with music.
Tech N9ne: I’m married to that bitch, man. I gave up everything. I lost my wife to that sh**. I’m married to my fans. I had to come to grips with that sh**. I put everything on the line, all my time into this. So, therefore, everything else, my personal life [was] out the door. Yeah man, I’m looking for something HUGE because I gave up everything for it. To love it [music] like that, I’m not going nowhere anytime soon.
BallerStatus.com: Are you still married?
Tech N9ne: No, separated. I figured out that I was married to my fans and she knew I had no time. Time needs to be spent. Time is everything. And if you ain’t got it some other n**** will take it from you. No matter who, no matter what. No matter how charming I am, that somebody that can be there for dinner or be there at the movies will always win over me. [Because] my time is with my fans on the road.
BallerStatus.com: What’s your most valued life lesson that’s applicable to your personal and private lives?
Tech N9ne: Karma. Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you because that sh** will come back around. It’s about love, motherf***er. You show that sh** and you keep that sh** pure. Therefore, when somebody does something stupid, you won’t have to say “you’re sorry.” All them n****s in my past, they say sorry to me because I kept it real. I don’t ever want to say I kept it real because everybody’s reality is different. I try to keep it right. That way you never have to fight a motherf***er.
BallerStatus.com: Anghellic is one of my favorite CDs. It’s like you share your soul with us. Is this your veiled lyrical autobiography?
Tech N9ne: Hell yeah. That’s crazy you got that. My words is out. I’m inside out to my fans. That’s how I planned it, I wanted to write my life. Quincy Jones said, “Tech, write what you know. If you write what you know, people will forever feel you.” Hell yeah. Like abortion songs like “Real Killer” and sh**. You know, that’s real. I’m sorry I had to write that song. I’m sorry I had to live that sh**. But that’s what I know. I’m creeping to another town to get a f***ing abortion with a bitch. I know what that feels like. I know what she looks like when she comes out of there. And she had life taken out of her. It’s like “F***.” That’s a real killer, a motherf***er that kills something before into the world and gets oxygen. God damn. If you wanna know anything about my inside life — Anghellic, that’s the guide to Tech N9ne. Inside and out, that’s what my fans dig about it. Yeah, that’s my autobiography. It’s pure. A lot of my fans come up to me and ask if it’s real. Yeah. I’m sorry to say I ain’t proud of it. Keep it moving, keep it moving.
BallerStatus.com: When you listen to it now is it still therapeutic?
Tech N9ne: Hell yeah, I can listen to “Suicide Letters” right now and be relaxed. It’s like playing your soul. “Picture me in a casket, blasted / never nobody knew how long the pain lasted…” The first line is like “Tight, I can listen to it today.”
BallerStatus.com: How do you define personal success?
Tech N9ne: Uh, it’s hard to define. You can only hope for the best. I think I have succeeded in getting a lot of people to feel me. But, my dream hasn’t been fulfilled because the whole planet does not know that I have a story. Parts of the planet, yeah. It’s happening, but it’s happening slow. The planet, I’m talking about motherf***ers in Somalia chanting Tech N9ne! It’s wonderful, that’s what I’m talking about. If the planet ain’t talking about you, who the f*** are you? It’s about spreading. Do you just want your block to hear your music?
BallerStatus.com: What advice would you give to hungry MCs?
Tech N9ne: Keep on keeping on. You’ll have family members who shut you down like, “You need to get a real job. That’s a hobby. You need to take care of your kids.” Just keep at it. If you feel like you got it and you got it in your heart, keep on keeping on. The sh** will happen for sure. I would have never thought that when I was writing all that sh** that Jay-Z would be watching me from afar. [That] I’d be on stage with Pharrell and ’em. [I’d be] stage diving with Nappy Roots