To most people in hip hop, the goal is to fit in. Listen to the radio and you will find a slew of artists doing their best to piggyback off of the latest style. But ask Tech N9ne, whose Strange Music label has put eight albums on the Billboard Charts in 2013 (more than any other label in hip hop), and he'll tell you it's good to be different.
BET.com went international to catch up with the Lil Wayne-endorsed, Kansas City MC/CEO in British Columbia, Canada, where he was finishing up the Canadian leg of his Something Else tour.
In the part one of a two part interview, Tech talks about why his face paint is never coming off, how he felt about seeing fellow independents Macklemore & Ryan Lewis reach platinum status and which collaboration managed to surprise him.
First off, congratulations. Strange Music has put more artists on the Billboard charts than any other label this year and your latest album Something Else sold over 58,000 copies the first week. You keep getting bigger each time around.
No doubt! I have to. I never can become content with where I'm at because this is not it. Every time I come out there's more and more people paying attention, so I gotta show out every time.
And as a proud independent artist, how did you feel seeing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis go platinum and get so much love at the VMAs?
They went platinum huh?
Yeah, they finally got the certification.
Whoooaa! That is so wonderful man. When he got up there and he said, "They let some independents in this" on the VMAs, I smiled from ear to ear 'cause I remember doing shows together back when the only independents you saw touring was me, Atmosphere, Macklemore and Talib Kweli. I love to see good music flourish and see their dreams come to fruition, man. It's well deserved 'cause they took time with the music and the videos. I feel fuzzy inside when I see good people make it. I know this guy personally, so I smile when I hear his songs on all the movie trailers and on the radio. We tried to get him on the last album, but he was in Europe. I think his music is gonna get bigger and bigger just like mine is gonna get bigger and bigger.
You're not doing too bad on that front as is. Was there ever a moment where you thought about crossing over?
No! I've always been strange, I've always been slightly to the left, like "weirdo" to other people, I guess. I never could conform for no amount of money. This success is sweeter. Being you and only you the whole time — in rhyme, in interviews, in everything, man, you know what I'm saying, I get to be me! Now, don't get it f----d up, it's hard being me on that stage because I'm Technician Number 1, so [Tech takes a moment to spits one of his rapid fire verses], that's like playing the bongos every night. It's hard to do, but I still get to be me, though. It's easy to be me, and hard to do what I do, but I never hit that crossroads. If anything, it said, "get even more weirder" (laughs).
Yeah, I know every time I even try to rhyme along I'm like, "Damn, if Tech only put out a 'Chopped and Screwed' album..."
Yeah, OG Ron C been calling me lately, too. He says he wants to chop and screw the whole catalogue. I'm like "that's a lotta choppin' and screwin' brotha!'
I know you've become pretty spiritual. Does that ever stop you from saying something that you want to put on a record?
All the time! I have to be careful what I say, like if I'm doing a song with Stevie Stone called "Baptism." I know if I'm speaking to God in any kind of way, I keep myself from using profanity. You gotta be careful. People who are religious fanatics, they'll do all kind of things in the name of God, so you gotta be careful what you say. But I be as transparent as I can 'cause what I got in this dark part of my brain, like some things I let loose on "I'm Not a Saint" and on "Meant to Happen" ... I can only take a couple of things from back there 'cause if I put it all out there, a lot of my loved ones would be crushed.
You've never been one to shy away from taking risks musically, however. What's the next surprise you've got up your sleeve?
I've got the rock project Therapy coming out in November. I'm just finishing it. I'm doing it with Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit). It's full-on rock. I'm singing a lot so I hope people like it, but I've always had that rock edge in my music, so it shouldn't be too shocking. The biggest surprise, though: people are trying to hook me and Alanis Morrisette up.
That's all I can say. That hit me in the mouth, like "Boom!" I love her. So this next album, I really gotta show out. Hopefully she'll help me show out.
Stay tuned for part two, where Tech talks about "Breaking Into Colored Houses," working with The Doors and the one West Coast legend that has always eluded him.
(Photo: D Dipasupil/Getty Images)