Even though he debuted in the underground realm of horrorcore and seemed destined to be a future footnote, rapper Tech N9ne grew to become an indie rap superstar. In the process, he built his Strange Music label into a Psychopathic Records-styled empire with an accompanying loyal fan base. When it comes to influence, Tech has arguably topped underground trailblazers Insane Clown Posse thanks to collaborations with mainstream artists and a style that evolved from horrorcore to hardcore and confessional. Issuing a quartet of Top Five albums in the early 2010s — All 6's and 7's, Something Else, Strangeulation, and Special Effects — he built a vast and devoted audience with little help from the mainstream.
Born Aaron Dontez Yates in Kansas City, Missouri, Tech learned to read and do math through educational raps. Later, music helped him deal with his mother's ongoing struggle with lupus, while an interest in horror and ghosts would offer an attractively dark form of escapism. He brought these qualities to his own work as he joined groups like Black Mafia, 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians, Nnutthowze, and the Yukmouth project the Regime. In 1996 he signed with Quincy Jones' label Qwest before moving to the indie Midwestside Records, where he released his debut, The Calm Before the Storm, in 1999. The Worst followed on the label in 2000, and then the Interscope-associated imprint JCOR picked the artist up for 2001's Anghellic, a horrorcore effort that introduced Tech's own sublabel, Strange Music.
Touring certainly helped spread the word, and the rapper's over the top stage show locked some fans in for good, but Tech didn't feel his label was being honest about sales, so he left JCOR and took Strange Music with him. The label released Absolute Power in 2002, with Strange artists Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun making guest appearances on the album along with Eminem's dark crew D12. Everready (The Religion) followed in 2006 with Krizz and Kutt joined by Brotha Lynch Hung to represent the Strange Music roster, while an E-40 guest spot continued Tech's crossover journey, which came to include his music on video game soundtracks (25 to Live, Madden NFL 06). The album debuted at number 50 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Tech's 17th studio album arrived in late 2016. The Storm featured a typically diverse roster of guests, including Korn's Jonathan Davis, Boyz II Men, Gary Clark, Jr., Logic, and his Strange signees Krizz and Scoob. The album became one of his most successful to date, rising into the Top Five on the Billboard independent, R&B, and rap charts. Tech followed with his seventh Tech N9ne Collabos album, Dominion, which arrived in the spring of 2017. The collection featured familiar faces like Krizz Kaliko, Ces Cru, Murs, and Brotha Lynch Hung, with production by Michael "Seven" Summers. A second Collabos set was issued months later. Strange Reign recruited many familiar faces and landed in the Top 100 of the Billboard 200. Tech's 20th effort, Planet, arrived in early 2018, landing him yet another number one on the indie chart. His annual LP for the following year, N9NA, was issued in April and featured many guests alongside multiple appearances from Krizz Kaliko. Without rest, he continued straight into another album cycle, dropping the EnterFear: Level 1 EP and its sequel, EnterFear: Level 2, in early 2020. Months later in April, he combined the pair and added a slew of new tracks for the album-length EnterFear. The set was another showcase for guest Krizz Kaliko, who joined additional guests Flatbush Zombies, King Iso, Merkules, Landxn Fyre, and Mackenzie Nicole. ~ Neil Z. Yeung & David Jeffries