Album Review – Tech N9ne – Something Else (June 25, 2013 on Strange Music).
If you don’t like Tech N9ne… well, you’re not alone. The Kansas City rapper tends to alienate some listeners with his dark tone, some with his aggressive Chopper style, and a bunch more with an odd sort of silliness that comes out in his lighter tracks. Tech N9ne’s rap has never felt tidy or entirely market-driven; for better or worse, he seems to do what he wants.
Tech’s new album Something Else is probably the best bet yet for hesitant or hostile listeners. A strong and eclectic effort, the album might not turn all naysayers into N9ne-players, but most will probably find the album’s passion and energy to be at least a little bit infectious.
Something Else is divided into three parts: Fire, Water, and Earth. Fire is the first half of the album, aggressive and dark, running a horror-show gamut through the seven deadly sins with murky beats, heavy metal guitar, and utterly obnoxious T-Pain hooks. Those who dislike Tech might find the first ten tracks tough going; a lot of it feels like old-school Tech in a slick 2013 package. That said, though, with guest artists like Serj Tankian on the blistering opening track “Straight Out the Gate”, and everyone’s favourite terrible rapper Kendrick Lamar rhyming “anus” with “heinous”, this definitely feels like new territory.
Three tracks in the middle of the album make up the “Water” section, which is to say that Tech had a couple tracks that didn’t fit the album and shoved ‘em in anyway (the album’s first single, “So Dope (They Wanna)”, falls in this section). Thank goodness he did, though – after the Fire section, some Caribou Lou-style fun is definitely in order. The new equivalent to Tech’s drink-recipe classic is the ultra-obnoxious “Dwamn”, a gleefully stupid love letter to big booty strippers obviously designed in the hopes of making the word “dwamn” a lexical mainstay.
“Dwamn” is also the first track of two in the Water section where “bikini” is rhymed with “my weenie”, so if Something Else starts off seeming too serious, worry not.
“So Dope” is the second track with this questionable honour, and it’s a bit of an oddity itself. The first three verses of the song, from Tech, Wrekonize, and Twisted Insane, are pretty standard hyper-masculine sexual swagger with typically creepy overtones (“Position the bitch and dip in when I mention slip in submission…”), but the fourth verse is a surprise. Up-and-comer Snow Tha Product rounds the song out with a verse that’s tight as hell but definitely incongruous. Her lyrics, about unwanted sexual interest and pressure – “He want to bang I want to wait / So he get at me he want to say shit that make / Me think that he goin’ rape me if I don’t stay” – are a bizarre counterpoint to the song’s general vibe.
The third section, Earth, is meant to be the uplifting part of the album, and despite its dark content, it does seem to achieve this goal. Despite several extremely personal tracks based on dark experiences, the latter half of Something Else is redemptive. And it’s here that the album really becomes successful, when one realizes that it gives a far more complete and sincere sense of Tech N9ne himself.
This is true of the whole album, though it may take a moment to realize it. Where Something Else is angry, there’s a sense of bruised fury and personal hurt – fragility in anger. Where it’s violent, there’s a sense of helplessness. Where it’s uplifting, it’s with a sense of regret and remorse lurking nearby.
Genuine self-expression isn’t always a necessity for a rapper’s success, though the greats have shown us over the years that it definitely helps. If Something Else is any indication, Tech’s best work may still be ahead of him.
And heck, if you couldn’t care less about any of that and you’re just looking for something new to bump with the bass up, Tech’s got your back. In his own words:
Ain’t nobody got time for that
But I got time for gettin’ your behind to clap