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“Special Effects” Album Review: Tech N9ne Overextends Genre Appeal

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Tech N9ne is credited as being one of the hardest working artist in the hip hop industry.

He has become a self-made millionaire by marketing himself and his label Strange Music since 1999.   If you blink for too long, he may drop another EP or mixtape in between album releases and if you listen to slow – you might miss a gem in the rapid fire delivery he provides over tracks.

Tech N9ne is one of the most versatile and original rap artist that have graced a microphone.  He loves to challenge himself and explore new dimensions within his music – and his song concepts are usually guided by production similar to that of a horror movie.

On “Special Effects” the Kansas City-born MC, adds a list of A List features including Lil’ Wayne, T.I. and Eminem; he also deals with the death of his mother and his frustration with that topic is sprinkled throughout the album.

The album opens with Tech’s trademark aggressiveness and he jumps right into the topic of his mother who has passing and the unjust world around him on “Ah Yeah.”Tech was so excited about this intro that he leaked it himself to his fans.  Tech holds no punches when talking to his creator: “Yellin’ this to my superior, degrading of love is inferior / Upon this earth a lot of people jerked around, about 300,000 to Syria / Are you serious!? I could never think of burying my children, period, Nigeria / I’m a yell while I’m walking through this hell cause I’m furious.”   At the end of “Ah Yeah” is when he asks God about the passing of his mother, which leads into  “Lacrimosa”  where Tech continues his discussion with God and is disappointed in the fact that he wasn’t allowed one more day with his mother.

At the end of the track he says “I don’t denounce God in any way, I just feel my mother’s suffering was too great for how much she worshipped.”   The production is provided by Seven, who shines throughout the album, and delivers a haunting choir chanting over strings and during the verses the strings are stretched and out of tune delivering the eerie backdrop which Tech loves to work on.

Tech goes on in this album, to flex and show off his range and willingness to explore new challenges in music.  At one point on “Special Effects” he asks the listener “Why not have all these links to all these different genres? Why can’t I be the epicenter of all types of music?”

Why not, indeed.  Fans of Tech know he is know stranger to world of rock music and he goes in hard on “Wither,” which features Corey Taylor of Slipknot.  Tech and Taylor go verse for verse and it’s a match made in psychopathic heaven as they both flow over Seven’s production, (which displays a laid back rock sound, transitioning to metal).  The song is about battling ones demons and not knowing what to do with the frustration it brings.   Tech also ventures into the world of dub-step on the track “Roadkill” in which Excision lends a feature and his production on.  His flow almost sounds programmed to the skipping drum “You better be careful when summoning my circle with evil intentions, I dominate / Any competitor etcetera etcetera /I’m coming out the victor cause I am the Great!”

He dominates the Young Gotti and Lil’ Wayne featured track “Bass Ackwards.”  While each artist talks about things that are “ass backwards” in life and in general, Tech added a clever twist to his bars which the others didn’t even attempt: “Tecca Nina bout to hit ’em with the woop wop / Now the barrel of my governor is hoo tot / Cause you the type that’ll get your whole shew crot / Loud mouth n*gga tripping thinking that he Putac.”   T.I. joins in on the gun-play-inspired “On the Bible” and surprisingly hangs with Tech on the song.  One says “surprisingly” because lately T.I. hasn’t said much of anything.

Even the usually-lyrically-vacant 2 Chainz stepped up his game on the party song “Hood Go Crazy” which also features B.O.B on the hook.  The track works well and fits right in with the club music scene, but the other party song “No K” featuring E-40 and Krizz Kalico falls flat.  “No K” is some slang term that Tech tries to evoke but there is no way it catches on.

Strange Music artist  Krizz Kalico, handles the hook well but as mentioned before, the song fails.

This isn’t the only song where Kalico is the only good part of  a track either.   He handles the sweet and soft hook on “Shroud” but the production by Seven and the delivery by Tech are so chaotic and all over the place, the track itself just becomes an unbalanced mess of sorts.  Tech tries to satisfy too many people  on this album and tracks like “Yates” ” Life Sentences” and “Give It All” are absolute “album fillers” that would’ve served better as “unreleased.”

Even the much-anticipated collaboration with Eminem “Speedom” feels a little incomplete.  Both MC’s handle their business with lyrics and rapid fire flows, but Seven’s production gets weak in a moment where it absolutely should’ve been at it’s best.

Tech proves he can hang with Eminem on the track though : “I’m the fury, the final fight/I flip it on the fraudulent fellas for feelin’ fright / I flick it on fire, finish him when the flow in flight / Feminine fakers fall, I’m floggin’ a foe with a fife.”

One of the album’s standout tracks is “Dyin’ Flyin’” which once again features a hook by the versatile Krizz Kaliko.  Here is when Tech talks to his fans which call him a sell-out for working with mainstream artist and even making songs that are more mainstream than “underground.”  Tech is a man in the industry positioning himself financially through his musical skills and drive – that is all, but his fans seem slighted.

Tech is an artist who seemingly does love his fans though and it seems to be taking a toll on him somewhat : “How the hell are you sayin’ that all the records I’m playin’ since 2010 are not obeying the Strange Law? / Remained raw, give you happy and pain all / spit with a flame jaw and the teeth of a chainsaw!”

After hearing “Dyin’ Flyin’” the whole album kind of makes more sense, but doesn’t fully help it’s cause either.  Tech N9ne is trying to make too many people happy now and maybe at his age he does want that mainstream attention that has evaded him his whole career.

He has seen many artists who aren’t as talented, created or driven as him get their spot in the limelight so it would only make sense that he would think he deserves some of that as well.   “Special Effects” has a lot of special moments and is worth a listen, yet the listener will somehow come away feeling unsatisfied and bombarded simultaneously.

G.W. Gras

Twitter: @GeeSteelio


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One thought on ““Special Effects” Album Review: Tech N9ne Overextends Genre Appeal

  1. I can’t believe you like “hood go crazy” with the terrible verse Chainz has yet completely dissed “No K.” I feel it’s the other way around. I’ll admit that “no K” sounds funny (I have the DVD where he explains its origin) but I think the song is amazing. It’s definitely one of my favorites from the album.

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