New Tech N9ne album drops; car-subwoofer industry is stimulated

$0 For over a decade, Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne has been the ruler of the independent Midwest rap scene, presiding over it with his odd beard and masterful flow. Jay-Z may be the richest, and Kanye may be the most narcissistic, but Tech is, at least to me, the best rapper in the game. He can go so fast it’s unintelligible; he can spit ridiculously good rhymes; hell, he can even sing his own choruses. A N9ne album is more than just a collection of oversampled beats with the same old lyrics. It’s a story. It’s a lyrical journey. It provokes, pressures, and always entertains. $0$0 After releasing the double-disc album Killer in 2008 and reaching 1 million career album sales, an incredible number for an indie rapper in the age of file-sharing, Tech toured extensively and helped launch the careers of several other artists with his Strange Music label. Last month, he released his tenth studio work, K.O.D., an album that, as most of his albums do, unleashes his anger and illuminates his tortured soul. But K.O.D. is different than his previous music, because it focuses on his fame, or more accurately, the depression and anxiety he is feeling despite his fame. Tech reveals on K.O.D. the extent of his inner demons. $0$0 K.O.D. stands for King of Darkness, the character Tech assumes for most of the album, especially on the title track. A lot of the album is Halloween-themed, it seems-the Oct. 27 release date doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Tracks like “Shadows On The Road,” “Killing You” (which features Corey Taylor from Slipknot), and the lead single, “Demons,” all possess a dark, supernatural vibe that probably served as the soundtrack for many N9ne fans’ Halloween nights this year. $0$0 Before the album “truly” begins, Tech throws in the raging tour de force, “Show Me A God,” in which he confronts a supposed deity on why it has allowed his saintly mother to suffer from epilepsy and cancer: “Show me a god/I’ve got a feeling that it is a façade/And if there is, why ain’t it doing its job?/Show me a god, please/Let me know something’s listening when I’m down on my knees” and tells the listener that it’s “what this album’s for.” $0$0 The body of the album is divided into three parts: “Anger,” “Madness,” and “The Hole.” It’s quite an emotional ride, and there are some ridiculously good moments throughout the album. Probably the most mainstream track is “Check Yo Temperature,” which is about dealing with haters at a club and features the only good female rap verse I believe I’ve ever heard. The most entertaining moment comes in “Horns,” when a Strange Music rapper named Prozak takes the mic for a verse and drops such lines as: “A vigilante who sends deadly packages through the mail/Confusing law enforcement agencies because I write death threats in Braille” and claims that his psychologist recommended suicide to cure his neuroticism. I mean, come on-that’s great. $0$0 The biggest highlight of the album, though, is “Low,” which begins the third section, "The Hole." It begins with an audio clip of the introduction of a recent N9ne concert and then cuts out to just Tech questioning why he is so depressed. The first verse in itself proves why he is a true master of the art-the varying flows he uses are simply perfect. The chorus could easily be mistaken for that of a mid-decade Linkin Park track were it not for a Steven Tyler-sounding dude singing part of it. In my opinion, the track rivals Kid Cudi’s “Soundtrack 2 My Life” and Jay-Z’s “Off That” as the best-written rap track of the year-it’s that good. $0$0 There are a few seemingly unrelated skits and moments where the album falters. Overall, though, K.O.D. is a successful insight in to the strange inner workings of Tech N9ne’s brain. It does not worry about holding up to the rest of the scene; as Tech declares in “Blackened the Sun”: “Now I’m gonna do it my way.” And he does, creating an album that is shocking, questioning, searching, and, of course, entertaining, pretty much from start to finish. K.O.D. easily ranks up with the other fall releases from Hova, Cudi, Drake, and Weezy as one of the best rap albums of 2009, and is my personal favorite to play in the car with the volume cranked and the bass maxed out. $0$0 Rating: 3.5/4 $0