Rapid Fire Rhymes

June 26, 2012
3 mins read

As applied to hip hop, the term “fire-spitting” never fit anyone more perfectly than Kansas City, Mo., native Tech N9ne. Born Aaron Yates, Tech N9ne was so named because of his superhuman ability to string together double-, triple- and even quadruple-time rhymes that blur the line between intelligible and awe-inspiring. But our man is much more than just a technically adept rapper. In 1999, he founded Strange Music Entertainment, which today is the biggest independent label in hip hop. He’s also one of the hardest road warriors in the biz, regularly rolling up 80-date tours in 85 days. And like it or not, Tech N9ne is a favorite of the Juggalos, those bizarre, twisted and hardcore fans of horror-rap icons Insane Clown Posse.

Folio Weekly chatted with Tech N9ne about the difficulty of writing and performing his tongue-twisting rhymes, his state of constant movement and his love for everyone in the hip-hop game.

Folio Weekly: Almost all the shows on your current “Hostile Takeover” tour have sold out. You have to be excited about that, Tech.

Tech N9ne: It’s so crazy to see it grow like this and still be on the incline after all these years.

F.W.: You’ve been independent for all these years, too, via your label Strange Music Entertainment. Was that a path you always wanted to pursue?

T.N.: It [came from] the experiences with the major labels I was on. After all that I was, like, “I can’t have a place telling me what to sound like and what not to look like.” 1999 was the perfect time for my partner Travis O’Guin and I to start this. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

F.W.: Have you been speed rapping since the beginning?

T.N.: My first rhyme in ’85 was faster than everybody else’s. I can’t even say it no more — nobody was rhyming like that in the seventh grade.

F.W.: How hard is it to write and perform these incredibly complex rhymes?

T.N.: Nobody’s ever asked me that question. Extremely hard! And to perform it every night is the scariest thing on the planet — if you lose one word, it will mess up the whole line. It costs $10,000 to get me on a song, but my verses are worth $50,000 to me. I’m not duplicating anybody. I have my own pitches and patterns;

I create new themes. Most of the things I write, I’m not even sure I can do until I get in the studio and try it a couple of times. And then I can’t believe it. It’s by the grace of God.

F.W.: You’ve been in the rap game for 20-plus years. Ever foresee a day when you might retire?

T.N.: [Laughs.] The funny thing is, I’m 40 years old and I feel like I’m still 19 on stage. There are new people just now catching on. So when I’m tired, like right now, I can’t be. I have to keep pushing. We’ve been all over the world, but not everywhere. And I’ve always said I’m going to show tread on every piece of Earth before I go. I haven’t been to Japan, Brazil, Africa, Ireland, Bangkok, Hawaii or Jamaica. So many more places to go, bro. So no, I can’t slow down any time soon.

F.W.: You were caught by surprise when Insane Clown Posse’s notorious Juggalos adopted you a few years ago, right?

T.N.: I didn’t even know what a Juggalo was, but they were always first in line at my shows. They started voting me to be at the Gathering of the Juggalos, which I’m doing again this year. It’s one of the biggest parties you’ll ever go to in the middle of the woods where the police aren’t welcome. It’s crazy. If you can go see it, you must.

F.W.: Besides the guys on your current “Hostile Takeover” tour like MGK, Krizz Kaliko, Mayday!, Projak and Stevie Stone, are there other new hip-hop acts you’re digging?

T.N.: Gritty rhyming is coming back. Guys like Odd Future are a little darker than the cookie-cutter rap. But I wish everybody luck. If it’s working for you, I’m with it. I’m not one of those guys who think that other people are whack. I say do what you can do to get what you can get in this life to make a better life for your children. That’s positive, no matter what kind of flow you have.

Nick McG


Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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