Tech N9ne: Rap’s Indie Trailblazer on the Other Side of Fame

At 43 years old, Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne could be crowned the world’s oldestXXL Freshman. His song “Hood Go Crazy” is cracking mainstream outlets like MTV, hip-hop radio and festivals like Los Angeles’ Powerhouse — though he’d probably do just fine without them.

Since starting his Strange Music label in 1999, his independent hustle has been almost invisible from mainstream view, but it’s proven more lucrative than many traditional paths. Forbes consistently names him one of rap’s “Cash Kings” — on this year’s list, they suspect he brought in more money than Rick Ross and J. Cole. His 15th album, Special Effects, just entered the Billboard 200 at Number Four, marking his highest debut and highest sales week to date. We caught up with the mogul to find out about life on the other side of fame.

You’re finally having a radio hit… 15 albums deep?
[Laughs] Yes, dude. So weird to me, so weird. The first little whiff of it was last year with “Fragile” with me and Kendrick Lamar and ¡Mayday! and Kendall Morgan. That was surprising to me because I did not write that for the radio. I was mad at a journalist that said something sideways about me that was not true — LA Weekly or whatever — and the next thing you know, it’s on the radio. So now this one — because I used to be a dancer back in the day, pop-lockin’, breakdancing, MC Hammer-dancing, whatever it was I did it. I chose this party beat from B.o.B.’s camp and he had that wonderful hook on it, “Hood Go Crazy.” Next thing you know, we put 2 Chainz on it and it’s everywhere. I was like, “If it made me move, then I’m sure it’ll make other people move.” I had no idea that it was gonna be this big. And so late in life, to still be on the incline, makes me totally feel like Dracula, man. I’ve always said it: I was “Alucard,” “Dracula” backwards. I’m being preserved for something great, so this doesn’t help my Dracula thinking [laughs].

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