Rapper Tech N9ne to headline Belly Up Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Rapper Tech N9ne to headline Belly Up Aspen

The rapper Tech N9ne was too busy making music and touring to notice that he'd made 20 albums, until reporters started asking the independent hip-hop pioneer about the milestone.

"I don't count," Tech said this week from a tour stop in Des Moines, Iowa. "I just write my life. … People asked me how I feel and I didn't even know. But it reminds me that I have to stay fresh and I have been staying fresh all these years."

The rapper's fall "Independent Grind" tour comes to Fiddler's Green in Denver today and Belly Up Aspen on Saturday.

Though he hasn't played Belly Up in several years, Tech N9ne makes his way through Colorado on a nearly seasonal basis, hitting Denver and Red Rocks and Aspen along with towns like Fort Collins and Grand Junction. Pulling off his fast and furious rhymes at sea level is a cardiovascular feat in itself. Performing at altitude has taken some practice.

"When we first started playing there, we couldn't breathe and we understood why the Chiefs could never win in Denver," the Kansas City native and Chiefs fan said with a laugh. "But we've been there so much, we feel like residents and we've got it down pat and can pace ourselves to breathe when we hear our hearts flutter."

Tech is bringing fellow Strange Music rappers Futuristic and Dizzy Wright — who are both featured on his new single "My Own Zone" — and Krizz Kaliko on the tour, showcasing songs from "Planet," his 20th album, released in March.

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Built around the concept of creating a better world than the often-bleak one we're living in in 2018, the album is packed with the dense and intense rapid-fire rhymes we've come to expect from Tech N9ne in a collection of 19 songs ranging from the dark and ominous "Brightfall" to the uplifting "We Won't Go Quietly." (It also, of course, boasts a bunch of party-starters in the tradition of Tech N9ne's perennial "Hood Go Crazy.")

Never one to rest on his laurels, Tech is currently putting finishing touches on a new album titled "N9na" and recently released two new songs from it.

He's been releasing music for two decades now — "Planet" helped him set a Billboard chart record as the rapper with the most top-ten albums — but Tech N9ne is no nostalgia act. He's constantly adding to his catalog, making new hits, collaborating with new artists and scouting talent for his Strange Music label.

"It's a blessing to be in the good graces of the people after all these years," he said.

His longevity, he believes, results from the meticulous quality control he brings not only to his records, his rhymes and his shows, but also to elements like merchandise and packaging, music videos and tour meet-and-greets with superfans.

"I have to attribute it to caring all these years about what the people receive," he said.

He's an unabashed perfectionist. Talking about his nearly platinum-selling 2013 single "Fragile," featuring Kendrick Lamar, he laments the quality of his vocals on the recording, which he made while on tour: "I did them in weird studios and when I hear my vocals on 'Fragile,' I'm like, 'Ugh, I hate those. They sound so walkie-talkie and distorted.'"

The newest element of the Tech N9ne experience is a craft beer. Called Bou Lou, it takes its inspiration from his Caribou Lou cocktail — a mix of Bacardi 151, Malibu rum and pineapple juice — which he invented at a party in 1995 and immortalized in the mega-hit "Caribou Lou" a decade later. Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City made a batch of wheat beer inspired by the song and called Tech to try it.

"I had no idea that I wanted to do it," he recalled. "They said, 'Come on down' and they had a keg of it for us to taste. As soon as I did I said, 'Wow, this doesn't even taste like beer.'"

He's bringing the brew along for fans on the fall tour, and will release it nationwide in 2019.

His ambition isn't waning with age. At 46, he is the most successful independent rapper in the world — a fact he occasionally calls out on his records — but he's far from done. Tech notes that he's never toured Africa, some parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, and says he and Strange Music co-founder Travis O'Guin have big plans to expand the label.

"I've done a lot in my career, but for me and Travis, it's not quite enough," he said. "We have more people to infect with this virus of music. There's people waiting for this music everywhere."

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

Who: Tech N9ne

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Saturday, Oct. 13, 9:30 p.m.

How much: $40/general admission; $65 reserved seats

Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com

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