You may not be familiar with the name Aaron Donetz Yates, but if you’ve been a fan of rap and hip-hop for the past two decades you surely know the name Tech N9ne!
Born in Kansas City, he embraced rap early in life, even rapping the letters in his name to alert others as to how to spell it. In 1991 he began his professional career as a member of the group Black Mafia. In 1997, after appearing with several groups on different record labels, his solo song “Questions” appeared on the soundtrack album for the Tupac Shakur film “Gang Related.” In 1999 he had partner Travis O’Guinn founded the Strange Music record label.
His thirteenth studio album, “Something Else,” was released last summer and features guest collaborations with artists like Cee Lo Green, Krizz Kaliko and the three remaining members of the classic rock group The Doors (keyboardist Ray Manzarek passed away in May 2013 before the album was released). His current EP, “Therapy,” was released at the end of 2013.
While preparing for a recent concert in Grand Rapids, Iowa, the rapper and music label president took time out to talk with Media Mikes about his 2013 releases and what he has planned for the future.
Phillip Smith: How is “Therapy” different from your other past records?
Tech N9ne: “Therapy” is 7 songs that are just amazing to me. It is just what I was feeling at the time. I know there are some fans that won’t be down with the rock rap sound but that’s what I was feeling, it’s what I wanted to do. The beats were constructed in KC and we than flew out to Venice Beach to meet with Ross Robinson. We stayed at Ross Robinson’s house and Wes Borland (formerly of Limp Bizkit) was staying out there at the same time. He sat in on the album and played on nearly every track. It’s condensed but it’s full of energy. It’s totally different from anything Tech N9ne. It has elements of Tech N9ne because it’s me, it was fun. But it’s all new, a new sound, a new message.
PS: When you come back and play in the KC Metro Area, what is one of your favorite places to play?
T9: I have played everywhere from the Uptown Theater to Kemper Arena. I’m about to play at the Sprint Center here soon. But I’d have to say right now it has to be the Midland Theatre. I won’t know that answer when I play the Sprint Center. I was on stage there one time, Lil Wayne brought me on stage when he was here and it was crazy man. I felt that whole place roar, but this time I get to perform.
PS: Is there any other place that you circle on your tour or make sure that you play every tour?
T9: Denver, totally man. It’s incredible man, incredible. I don’t know how it happened over the years but it happened. It’s still going man, that’s why I have a song called “Colorado” on “Something Else”. I have to give to all the people who have been down with me for a long time. They were always down before KC and now KC is finally catching up! You know it’s crazy out there energy wise.
PS: And they let you get away with Chiefs colors in Denver?
T9: Yeah man (laughs) because they all wear the colors when I come to town. They wear the colors of the rival team for me man (laughs loudly).
PS: Do you ever envision yourself stopping the touring and just falling back on family or just writing?
T9: It’s funny you asked that man…I’ve been saying with this tour that If I stopped…. I would be letting everyone down. They are so with me you know what I’m saying? I feel like I’d leave them high and dry I don’t know if I’ll be able ever to stop man. It’s not like they stopped liking the music and said alright stop. Than it would be easy to stop you know. But I get doper as I get older. I just had my 42nd birthday but I feel like I’m still 19. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop…I don’t know. It’s weird.
PS: That sounds like a lot of pressure to keep going.
T9: Man, it’s a wonderful thing to still be afloat after all this time, but to be still getting bigger. It’s wild. I can’t quit this!
PS: Now that you have become known nationally and internationally… you’re no longer just Kansas City’s secret. Is this what you expected? Not just the money and being famous, but that you still have people who want to hear what you have to say, than afterwards stand up and cheer?
T9: Well man I’ve been planning this for a long time, a real long time. I always knew I had something special. It just took longer for me to make it here because I’m different. I’m the black guy with the painted face. It’s like it’s always going to be… I don’t know man… I’m gonna push hard no matter what. I’m going to always stand out. I’m not going to perform for no amount of money and change. I am the way that I am. I always knew that I was going to do this. But this isn’t the end. This is a wonderful thing but it’s not Global Domination. I won’t stop till the world knows my story.
PS: Is there someone out there right now that you haven’t worked with that you would love to collaborate on a song or an album.
T9: I think Two Murders together would be great, I think people would like to hear that, I know I would like to hear that. I would like to hear myself next to one of the best rappers in my opinion. You know I have tried a couple times, and I just haven’t been able to get it done . If it happens it will and if it don’t it don’t. I’m still a fan of the man’s music. We will just see if we can make it happen.