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 Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???

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Laced With Slang
Barack O-Donna
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PostSubject: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Fri 13 Nov 2009, 12:23 pm

Tech N9ne

The biggest-selling rapper you've never heard of … Tech N9ne

He's the biggest-selling independent rapper in the US, and in 2008, Kanye West and Jay-Z were the only hip-hop artists to make more money from touring. He has shifted more than a million albums and co-owns a record label that may well be the most successful music business of its day. Yet you've almost certainly never heard ofTech N9ne – and that, you sense, is quite exciting to him.

"My quest has always been to get my story to the rest o' the people," the 37-year-old Aaron Yates explains, gently stroking his beard. "The first show we did in San Diego, seven people came. We performed like it was 7,000 people, so when we came back, word of mouth meant we played to 100 people. The next time, it was 500 – now we sell out the [1,000-capacity] House of Blues there. It's wonderful to see it grow like that – and that's what we're gonna have to do in Europe. We haven't done a seven in a long time, but I could still do a seven. And I will do a seven. Even if it's two people in the audience when we go over there, fuck it."

Downstairs, in the Kansas City offices of Tech's Strange Music label, there's a wipe-clean map of the United States tacked to the wall. In chinagraph pencil markings, the rapper's last US tour is plotted in military detail, taking in remote cities in Montana, Idaho, Nebraska – the kinds of places most artists never visit. Away from the tour itinerary, other cities are circled: places Tech has never been, but where the Strange Music mail-order team have noticed clusters of shirt-buying fans; or where he's already established, but hasn't played for a while. The battle plan includes sorties to no fewer than three Alaskan cities, but Hawaii is a problem: the islands' main promoter is worried that rabidTech N9ne fans will cause a riot should he ever play a show there.

It's like a glimpse into a parallel universe, where hard work has trumped the hype machine. But it's all very real. Growing under the media radar, selling DVDs rather than having videos plastered all over MTV, playing 200 gigs a year and taking his bizarre music and hyperactive stage show to parts of the country his contemporaries don't bother with, Tech and co have built a multi-million-dollar business that is geographically, financially and philosophically set apart from the rest of the music industry.

But that industry is finally starting to take notice. It helps, of course, that Tech N9ne makes music with the potential to reach a huge audience. His sound mixes gritty, sometimes rock-based beats with gothic keyboards and atmospheres, and his often confessional lyrics appeal strongly to emo and metal fans. His rap moniker is a reference to his ability – a corruption of Technique Number Nine – rather than the Tec-9 handgun of gangsta rap lore, and he shares with some of his midwestern peers a flair for high-speed, machine-gun-syllable rapping. "For me, I think, it's musical overload," he reasons. "Got so much to say, such little time."

The story he wants to tell is complex, urgent and multifaceted: a tale of how a ghetto kid from the middle of the US grew up wrestling with his demons. Show Me a God, the opening track of his seventh album, K.O.D., finds him struggling to reconcile his mother's faith with her history of debilitating illness. Elsewhere, he compares the compulsive infidelity that wrecked his marriage to a form of mental illness. And throughout the album – the title stands for King of Darkness – he plays with the belief, sincerely held among certain sections of his fan base, that his and his label's success results from him having sold his soul to the devil.

But even with such a vivid story, the odds were always going to be stacked against Tech N9ne. The "flyover states" from which he hails are largely irrelevant in the coastal-dominated rap music business. So in the mid-1990s, Tech headed to Los Angeles, scoring a deal with Warner Brothers. He got a track on the soundtrack to Gang Related, Tupac Shakur's final film, and secured a slot on an influential LA hip-hop radio show where he would trade verses with Jay-Z one week, Eminem the next, surprising the stars with his feats of verbal dexterity.

"I was the only dude writin' raps backwards," he grins, before reciting a line that sounds like: "Cuff yoy ffih slivved eh-ra taw yoy pee-shrow," but with the slips, slides and elisions you'd expect to hear if you listened while slowly rewinding a tape of someone rapping. "The line before it was 'Maybe get up in a club and shoot it up and make a panic at the dis-co'," he explains, drawing out the final word and changing its normal sound. "Then the next line is 'Fuck you if devils are what you worship,' but I said it backwards. I used to do it all the time, but it's so hard. I gotta know what I'm gonna say, and it's hard to make it rhyme with the words you said before. 'Worship' backwards is 'Pees-ro,' so I had to put 'dees-co' into that style to rhyme it. So now you know why people would say I'm a devil-worshipper!" He cackles. "But it's not devilry – it's dyslexia: least, that's the nearest thing to it."

Nevertheless, his career failed to reach lift-off. Returning, disillusioned, to Kansas City, he met Travis O'Guin, owner of a furniture repair company. O'Guin didn't know anything about the music business, but was convinced of Tech's innate good nature and offered to help. His first move was to secure Tech's release from his record deal, the next to extricate the rapper from a string of ad-hoc contracts with various managers. It proved a drawn-out process, but by the turn of the century, the pair had set up Strange Music and released the album Anghelic.

Strange's new home in the Kansas City suburbs features plush, wood-panelled offices, an in-house video-editing facility and a warehouse. Outside there is parking for the fleet of sleeper-buses Strange now owns, and a dedicated recording studio and rehearsal space is being built.

"We don't have a Def Jam Midwest, or a Sony Midwest, or an EMI Midwest," Tech says. "That's why we had to build this ourselves. It used to be just people fromKansas City on the label, but we reached out to Prozac, from Saginaw, Michigan, and we've just signed [ Bay Area rapper] Brotha Lynch Hung. I would love to have Mystikal on Strange Music, when he gets outta jail. And there's been talk of Nas probably comin' – I think he's about to be done with his deal out there [in New York] and lookin' for somewhere else to go."

The notion of one of hip-hop's leading figures signing to an indie label based in the middle of nowhere might seem odd, but it's hard to imagine a better move for him. As the record industry crisis deepens, Strange is making money the old-fashioned way, building careers and selling music. What was once the disadvantage of its location now works in its favour:Kansas City is equidistant from LA and New York. And when the studio is finished – O'Guin estimates next year – they will own all the principal tools of production.

"It's a beautiful thing that's happening right now, man," says Tech, allowing himself a moment of satisfaction. "When you're in your own world, you don't know what's outside your world, so you can do whatever you want. Now when I step outside my world, I wake up and I'm sittin' next to KRS-ONE and Damian Marley and Raekwon at the Rock the Bells launch party, and it's like, 'How the fuck did I get here?' And I think I got here from what's inside – just bein' myself, and doin' it in a style a lot o' people couldn't do. And just workin'."
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Fri 13 Nov 2009, 5:32 pm

Nice article, thanks Slang. Mystikal would definitely compliment the label IMO, not 100 on Nas, but it would be amazing for a Legend like Nas to join a Indie, even if it is as popular as Strange Music.
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Fri 13 Nov 2009, 6:06 pm

^ exactly...Nas would probably sell just as much as he's selling now, it would give Strange a lot more attention, and maybe Nas will finally stop trying so hard to appeal to mainstream audiences...but then again i bet a lot of die-hard Strange Music fans would be pissed if Nas joined
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Fri 13 Nov 2009, 6:14 pm

eh, if the music is good I don't care about what label they are on... slang holla at me about a possible trade homeskillet
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Fri 13 Nov 2009, 7:43 pm

Are there really people out there in pop land that know of Nas, but haven't heard of Tech N9ne? If so I think it will be good for Strange, If not you might be right about loyal fans of the label seeing this as selling out.
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Fri 13 Nov 2009, 7:58 pm

^ trust me, TONS of people have never heard of Tech N9ne, or if they have, never heard his music
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Fri 13 Nov 2009, 11:18 pm

If Mystikal does sign I hope he still has it in him. 7 years is a long time.

Lack of major label presence is the only reason the Midwest and the South didn't get any serious shine for years.

I can't wait to see if the Midwest gets there moment in the sun. It's still a head scratcher to me that Chicago hasn't had a major Hip-Hop label. I mean it's smack in the middle and probably the largest viable major city in the Midwest.
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Sat 14 Nov 2009, 3:15 am

uh.... Detroit?

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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Sat 14 Nov 2009, 11:26 am

I just was thinking about this thing with Mystikal. I was listening to KOD the other day and thought about Mystikal joining Tech because of his fast rapping delivery. I do believe Mystikal still has it in him. He is practically the same age as Tech (38 or 39). Who knows though.
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Sat 14 Nov 2009, 9:11 pm

"uh.... Detroit?"

Have you been to Detroit? Every year it's gotten worse economically. Once upon a time I would've said Detroit. A serious well coordinated revitalization effort would be needed to revive Detroit.
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Sat 14 Nov 2009, 9:20 pm

Ah, when you said 'viable', I thought you meant musically.

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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Sun 15 Nov 2009, 8:02 pm

To be a regional epicenter you have to have it more than just musically.

People aren't attracted to New York, LA, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, etc. just for the music.

They have to have the economics to bring it to the world. Detroit doesn't have that right now.
You have to be the place people want to be.
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PostSubject: Re: Stange Music interested in signing Nas and Mystikal???   Sun 15 Nov 2009, 11:27 pm

Houston is the hot place to be right now I think.
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