They may look tough and talk tough, but even rappers can get their feelings hurt.
Tech N9ne was so stung by a music journalist’s criticism of his verse that he retaliated by writing Fragile. He and rappers Kendrick Lamar and ¡Mayday! appear in the song’s video to voice their disdain for people dissing their music.
“I spoke for a lot of people … who feel sensitive about (their) work,” said Tech N9ne in a recent interview.
Guess what? Fragile, with its lovely melody and music video about a kid getting bullied by his peers, was a critical success (take that, you mean music journalists).
Tech N9ne, also known as Aaron Dontez Yates, also felt it important to touch on the kind of bullying a lot of youths go through, acknowledging that most teenagers are even more vulnerable than adult rap stars.
“One of my friends was picked on at school and bullied … and it’s a big thing, he can feel it to this day,” said the 42-year-old artist, who performs on Wednesday, Sept. 17, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
Those who like Fragile, with its timely social commentary, won’t necessarily get the rapper’s other hit, featuring T-Pain, from his 2013 acclaimed Something Else album. It’s called B.I.T.C.H. and stands for “Breaking Into Coloured Houses.”
The angry lyrics liberally feature the N-word, invite listeners to perform fellatio on the rapper, and contain the memorable line “fellas better put a chastity belt on your spouses.”
Tech N9ne said the song was actually a rant against black people who won’t come to his concerts and was not intended to be racist or misogynistic. “I’m targeting the whole world. I’m breaking into everybody’s crib,” said the rapper, who means this metaphorically, as in with his music.
The Kansas City, Mo., native did later admit, however, that he can’t make people like what they don’t like.
He also can’t stop writing about life as he knows it. “I like women in my songs,” insisted Tech N9ne, who’s polite and soft-spoken on the phone. (He even apologized for being slightly late for his media interview because of a late night celebration the night before.)
Tech N9ne noted the song Bite Me was inspired by a female who actually wanted him to bite her during sex.
The rapper has also written about his past drug use and other foibles. “People ask me, ‘Why talk about that?’ But I tell them Tech N9ne is the perfect guide for what not to do,’” he added, with a chuckle.
“I’ve been 15 years off ecstasy and I’ve survived, but it’s like, don’t try this at home.”
His rhymes are sometimes inspired by current events. But Tech N9ne feels more time is needed to get the whole story, and a proper perspective, on a tragedy like the recent shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a Missouri policeman.
“It hurts me what (Islamic terrorist group) ISIS is doing, and what happened to Mike Brown, and that Robin Williams killed himself,” he said, and perhaps all of these things will end up in one of his angry rap songs — someday.
Tech N9ne had the kind of hardscrabble childhood that gives rappers authenticity on the streets. He never met his father and was raised by a mother suffering from epilepsy and lupus, which left him searching for a higher power and purpose.
He recalled dancing to hip hop from an early age, and eventually trying to rap like the artist Slick Rick. “I got really serious after I heard N.W.A. and Public Enemy. They really inspired me to do my own music.”
Tech N9ne is now known for delivering fast-rhyming chopper rap and for co-founding the Strange Music record label in 1999.
He’s sold more than two million albums, had his music featured in film, TV and video games, and has appeared on shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The artist is working on another album, to be titled Special Effects. Tech N9ne said he wants fans to know he’s always pushing himself to do better. “We’ve already let people know that we do better than most. This time I’m going to add certain effects that are totally new, and I’ll take it higher.”
Tickets for the 7 p.m. show, part of Tech N9ne’s Strangeulation Tour, are $46.95 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.