It's a good time to be Tech N9ne.
The Kansas City native rapper is touring the country on "Something Else," his highest-charting album to date, he was recently called "Hip Hop's secret mogul" by Forbes magazine, he's playing his home town on Oct. 30th, he gets to celebrate his favorite holiday, Halloween, the following night and last but not least, he's releasing a radical new EP "Therapy - Sessions with Ross Robinson" on Nov. 5.
The icing on the cake? His beloved hometown Chiefs are undefeated.
Tech N9ne, AKA Aaron Dontez Yates, has been in the rap game since his big break opening for EPMD on the same day he was supposed to walk at his high school graduation. Since then he has released 13 studio albums and built up his own independent record label, Strange Music, into a hip-hop powerhouse.
We caught up with him on the phone from Chicago where he was waking up to one of roughly 200 days on the road this year and fighting a fall cold.
Sorry to hear about the cold!
The cold is coming out of me. But it's the worst thing to have when you are Tech N9ne. Nothing can stop me though. As long as my brain and heart are working I’m good. I'm only worried about my Achilles! We are athletes up on stage, man. If you ever see a Tech N9ne show, we are athletes up there. And I'm not even all the way in shape. That’s for real for real for real.
You've been repping Kansas City for a long time now. But it seems like most people don't even know if Kansas City is in Kansas or Missouri.
People's outlook on Kansas City is always like "they let you rap in K.C.?" Or "How's Dorothy and Toto?" They put Kansas and Kansas City together when it's really separate. I'd say it like this – we are the city slickers. We're where the tall high rises and buildings are. It's a beautiful thing. The city of fountains. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I moved to L.A. and then moved back. Not because I wasn't successful, but because K.C. is my comfort zone. There is barbecue everywhere. I love Gates. I love Smokehouse. LC's BBQ. I can find more places to eat in K.C. than L.A. The only things people don't like about K.C. are the ice storms and the snow. But you can change the weather like I do. I leave and go to the Caribbean!
Speaking of food, if I've only got time for one meal in K.C. do I go barbecue or the Tech N9ne pizza?
Oh man! Next Door Pizza! Wow! You've done your research brother! If I say Next Door Pizza, and I've had it more than once, I don't want to upset my BBQ partners! But it's all good. I'd tell you to get the pizza! But stay a couple days and get both.
How excited are you to see the Chiefs at 8-0?
My uncle had me in the stands at Arrowhead freezing in the wintertime since I was 5 years old. He used to buy those little heat things you crack open. I'd put those in my shoes and my feet would be burning! To see them popping like this, man, I always said me and the Chiefs were going to rise at the same time and it's happening. Being on the Forbes list and our tours selling like they are.
Has the Chiefs Fever infected your whole crew?
Everyone on my bus is a sports nut. Every time I come into the bus my guys are watching sports. Krizz Kaliko is a super sports nut. It was so wonderful to turn on the TV during the fourth quarter last Sunday and see the end of the game. The satellite wasn't working on my bus so we went over to the crew bus and watched the end of the game there. I can't believe they are 8-0! I went out and paid $135 for a Jamaal Charles jersey. It's all red. Red is my color. It's red, red, red. Special. I’m representin' out here.
So I take it you'll be in New Jersey if the Chiefs make it to the Super Bowl?
I’m going! I tour so much and usually around that time I'm just getting off vacation. But if they go? Oh my God. I'll have to make plans for that. My uncle has been going for years. He sells Super Bowl tickets. My whole sports nut family goes every year. For like a decade. But I can never make it because I give my life to my fans on the road. I'm actually more worried right now about how I'm going to get tickets to the Denver game! Last year you could get a ticket for like $10. Not this year.
Do you see some of yourself in quarterback Alex Smith? Here's a guy who didn't exactly set the world on fire early in his career and then was dumped by San Francisco right as he was getting hot and now he’s having a “I told you so!” kind of season in Kansas City.
I’m still having that moment. The slow roll surprises everybody. Everyone expects you to be right there. But when you are creeping on them and working on your craft, like I'm sure he is, you take people by surprise. Stickin' em! Pow pow! I always knew I had it. Plus we are in the "Show Me" state. Everyone is like "show me what you can do." Even in rap, it took K.C. awhile to get on to Tech N9ne. It was hurtful because places like Denver had been on me for a decade. Now we are shining and on the incline. It"s "I told you so" just like you said. We aren't cocky about it ... and it doesn't seem like he is either ... but we are going to get it done. I just pray they can keep this winning streak going. I would love to see all that red at the Super Bowl.
Awhile back you were on a Chiefs remix of "It's On Now" by the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians. What do you remember about that recording?
I forgot all about that. That's crazy. I remember that studio session. It united red and blue in the studio that day. It was so wonderful. People from different hoods, you know what I mean? We got on the same song and it was a wonderful day. I got reunited with the 57th Rogue Dog Villians. Whenever you can take something positive and make something good out of it, that's what I'm all about. Different gangs and different hoods in the same packed studio. It was all love.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry is afraid of horses. A problem when your team mascot is a real, live horse. What is Tech N9ne afraid of?
Lightning. I'm a good guy. I have an angel heart. But something about lightning makes me duck. I don't think I've done enough bad things in my life for anything to strike me down though. I've also had a phobia of knives because when I was younger I was cutting oranges and the knife fell on my foot. But something about lightning don't sit well with me. I can deal with thunder, but not lightning. I'm always ducking.
What do you make of that story about P Diddy wanting to own a NFL team?
All the rappers are doing stuff like that. Didn't Jay-Z own part of the Brooklyn Nets? If Oprah wanted to buy a team, would it be bad because she is a woman or because she is black? I think cash is king. I wouldn't give a damn if it was a horse who wanted to buy the team. It's like when I get through selling Caribou Lou on top of developing subdivisions ... we are going to go from millionaires to billionaires and hopefully we'll be talking to someone about a team! I would hope that it doesn't matter if he is black or a rapper or what, as long as he has the cash and knowledge.
Did you always want to be a rapper?
I've always been my own psychiatrist. I wanted to be a psychiatrist before I wanted to be a rapper. I took it personal when people around me would pay to see a psychiatrist or another shrink. I felt like I was one!
So you are only three months removed from "Something Else" and already dropping the "Therapy – Sessions with Ross Robinson" EP on Nov. 5. What's the story with "Therapy" and how did you hook up with the legendary rock producer?
I had met Ross before at this wonderful hotel in Beverly Hills. I noticed how he talked to me differently than other people. He was asking me about K.C., what it smelled and tasted like. It was like therapy. It was ultra-uncomfortable at first because I like to be alone when I'm thinking and writing, but in this case it was Ross, Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit, Syd Wilson AKA DJ Starscream of Slipknot, and a bunch of folks, and they would all ask me what I was thinking. I needed to be outside my comfort zone to bring out songs like "When Demons Come" or "Public School." I'm anxious for people to hear it.
What do you have planned for the good people of Omaha on Halloween?
Oh my goodness. Halloween is my favorite holiday. It's like my Christmas. I don't know if I will paint my face different or not. I'm usually Tech N9ne every Halloween. That's my favorite. I was going to find a tuxedo and put blood on my white tuxedo shirt, but I haven't had time. I wanted a whole vampire theme. I'm just going to bring all my energy ... Stevie Stone, ¡Mayday!, Ces Cru, Krizz Kaliko ... and we are going to murder, in a good way, on Halloween. It's going to be massive.