It’s really not that hard to figure out why Tech N9ne’s succeeded. The major labels are dedicated to making hip-hop an insider’s club. Fans aspire to the lifestyles of their favorite artists, and they’re willing to pay to become insiders too. That’s their motto anyway, but what they didn’t realize is that there are not just hundreds, or thousands, but hundreds of thousands of hip-hop fans who think of themselves as outsiders. They just don’t give a f**k about getting into that exclusive club, they’d rather party in the alley. They don’t want to hear …
DJBooth Album Review
Tech hasn’t just created a sound, he’s created a world for his fans to live in, so it’s only appropriate that he titled him new album Welcome to Strangeland. In contrast to this last album All 6’s & 7’s, which was in large part a testament to the amount of high-profile rappers hungry to become Strange insiders themselves, Strangeland consists solely of artists from his Strange Music label. Accordingly it’s a rawer and more explicit album guaranteed to please hardcore fans, and frighten those who have yet to venture into Strangeland’s borders.
There’s no better place to begin than title track Welcome to Strangeland, a cut that contains all the essential components of a Tech song: a machine gun ready beat layered with Tech’s spitfire flows complete with a shout out to his army of outsiders: “Juggalos kottonmouth kings and queens / Gangbangers metalheads and the college kids / Then everything in between.” Is that everyone? But although tracks like Welcome invite listeners to go down Tech’s rabbit hole, it’s completely possible to bump the hell out of this album without joining the movement. Just take Unfair – I don’t care who you are, if your head doesn’t get nodding to that string fueled beat you don’t have a neck, and while groupie love raps aren’t exactly groundbreaking material, it’s not hard to feel the appeal of Bang Out. Better yet, just play anyone new to Tech Beautiful Music and watch their reaction. You don’t have to like a flow like that, but you do have to respect it.
What makes Tech much more than just a fast rapper, and Welcome to Strangeland more than just your average hardcore rap album, are tracks like The Noose. Easily the album’s standout, thanks in no small part to the instrumentation and vocals of new signees ¡MAYDAY!, Noose isn’t afraid to tackle the largest issues imaginable: death, god and purpose. This willingness to let us into his actual life, his fight with overeating on My Favorite for example, runs throughout the album, from the sure to be controversial Gods to his relationship with his children on Slave, topics that his second in command Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun are more than capable of speaking on as well. Although it won’t defend against those who don’t bother to actually listen, these are the tracks that make Tech much more than face paint and fast rhymes.
It must be said though that if the primary point of Welcome to Strangeland is to showcase the rest of Tech’s Strange family the results are mixed. This is a solid album from the headliner, but while those already deep in the Strange Music world will undoubtedly rush to cop Young Bleed, Jay Da 3rd and Stevie Stone’s solo music off the strength of their guest verses on the album, it’s frankly hard to imagine the more casual listener paying attention to much more than Tech. The standout guests on Strangeland – Jay Rock, ¡MAYDAY!, Calhoun – have all originally made their names outside of Tech’s camp, and that helps them to sound like they’re truly enhancing the track, not simply appearing on it. But I think I already know N9ne’s answer to that criticism – “I don’t care. You’re on the inside, and this album is for outsiders. Feel free to join us – otherwise shut up.” Honestly, he’s right.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 11/17/11
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