Tech N9ne says he curses too much to be a Christian rapper. However, the hip-hop legend — and professing Christian — is open to working with Christian rappers, particularly Grammy Award-winning artist Lecrae.
“I can’t wait to do something with Lecrae,” Tech N9ne said. “He’s a talented brother.”
Shortly after releasing his 15th studio album Special Effects, Tech N9ne chatted with Rapzilla about his faith and interaction with Christian hip hop. Here is an excerpt of his candid interview.
Rapzilla: Several years ago, a rapper named Lecrae tweeted to you, “What’s up with us talking about a ‘Holier than Thou, Pt. 2?’ Did you notice that tweet?
Tech N9ne: Yes, I did.
RZ: Did he meet you before this?
Tech: Yeah, he comes to our shows in Atlanta, man. He’s a really good friend of me and Krizz Kaliko’s. He’s really talented. I haven’t been to one of his shows yet. Krizz Kaliko said they’re massive. I can’t wait to do something with Lecrae. I don’t know if it’ll be “Holier than Thou, Pt. 2,” but it’ll be something heartfelt and me searching.
RZ: Have you talked about a “Holier than Thou, Pt. 2?”
Tech: No, we haven’t talked about it — not that I remember. We will work, though. We will work, especially after this album, Special Effects, the gospel songs I got on there, “Lacrimosa.” I’m sure they’ll see the vibe in that song and know that we can actually work.
I think he already knew that, though, way before “Lacrimosa” or “Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)” — the songs I have in “Sunday morning” on the album with no profanity in it. I can’t wait to do something with Lecrae. He’s a talented brother, and I think Krizz Kaliko might have done something for his artist. I can’t remember what his name was, but we’re in cahoots.
RZ: Now, you said, “Actually work.” Why the word “actually,” in terms of, “He sees our music, and he actually thinks we may be able to do something now.”
Tech: Well, actually, meaning I know that he’s not a secular emcee, and usually gospel rappers don’t mess with secular emcees. And the fact that he wants to do anything, we might actually do something, even though a lot of them are not supposed to.
RZ: Have you tried to do music with gospel rappers in the past and it hasn’t work out?
Tech: Yes, Da’ T.R.U.T.H. They wouldn’t do it. His people shunned me, and I made a song about it, “Holier than Thou.”
RZ: What was the story behind that song?
Tech: It was me, reaching out, saying, “How do you conduct yourself out here on tour? How do you maintain righteousness — with your wife, fidelity, everything?” I wanted to reach to somebody that practiced it. … I was reaching out to the wrong guy and the wrong people — (expletive) hypocrites, you know what I’m sizzling? It pissed me off.
RZ: Did you continue looking for that holier person?
Tech: Yeah, I did something with a gospel rapper in Kansas City by the name of J. Blast. He used to be our barber before we cut all our hair off. He did it with me, even though his minister and his people were telling him, “Eh, well, do we have to buy his album to get the song? Can you put it on your album?”
It’s serious, man, the secular rappers and the Christian rappers. And it makes sense because if you’re a devout Christian, you probably don’t want to buy an album full of profanity, and there are one or two songs that are not. But maybe times will change. They say Jesus was down there with the pimps and the prostitutes and the stealers and killers, so the fact that Lecrae wants to work with us secular emcees, it makes me feel wonderful that there’s a brighter day.
RZ: Would you consider yourself a Christian?
Tech: Yes, I was born and raised a Christian. My mom married a Muslim when I was 12. I studied Islam from 12-17. I ran away from home at 17 because I didn’t understand how my stepfather was trying to mold me. He was trying to make a man of me, and I thought he was picking on me. I was wrong. But I learned a lot from Islam, and I was born and raised a Christian.
RZ: I was just curious about the whole secular vs. Christian thing. If you called yourself a Christian, I didn’t know why you perhaps wouldn’t consider yourself a Christian rapper.
Tech: Because I can say (expletive), (expletive), (expletive), (expletive), (expletive) … and they can’t. And they shouldn’t. I’m a worldly angel, meaning I’ve adjusted to the ways of the world, even though I am a child of God. I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian rapper, but if we were Christian rappers, we would kill.
We have songs that are Christian songs, like on Stevie Stone’s album, it’s called “The Baptism” — me, Stevie Stone and Rittz. “Holier Than Thou.” We do it every once and a while to let people know our background. Me and Krizz are from the church. I’m not a Christian rapper, though. Maybe I’m a Christian that is a rapper (laughs).
RZ: That’s what Lecrae calls himself anyway.
Tech: Oh, really? Okay, okay.
RZ: Listening to your album, I thought it was interesting how you started with “Aw Yeah,” which is written to God, asking him why there’s all this evil in the world, but the second-to-last song is “Worldly Angel,” where you’re talking about anticipating Heaven and how God wouldn’t let you go to Hell. Can you talk about that dynamic of those two songs — the start and end — was that strategic?
Tech: No, it was not strategic. It’s just divine, man. I started with “Aw Yeah,” talking to God, and then the last song I’m coming to God, so it lets you know what direction I want to go. I say, “In Strange Land it goes up,” so if Heaven is up, I’m going. I know I’m right in my heart. This world is not my home. This life will soon be gone, and, one day, I’ll spread my wings, as an angel, and fly away.
But right now, we’re going to do this worldly thing and take over the world, and take care of our children while we’re at it, take care of our loved ones and live our lives as righteous as we can — as we can.
RZ: You have that mindset of, “This world is not our home,” despite a lot of doubt you’re dealing with. Can you talk about that doubt and how you’re still searching?
Tech: Well, the doubt has gotten a lot less now since my mom has passed, June 6. I really believe there’s an angel with me now. I’ve been searching for ghosts and all that. I don’t do that (expletive) anymore. I’ve never seen anything other than a human being, but after my mom died, just all this love I feel in my heart, I feel like there’s an extra spirit with me, so my doubt is getting less and less every day.
RZ: Was there a certain point that doubt started to fade away?
Tech: Yeah, right when she passed, June 6. When I say she’s right here (points to heart) every night after I do “Aw Yeah interVENTtion,” I mean it. When I was in Australia and New Zealand right before this tour, I felt this overabundant feeling of love. And I said, “When we get over on this tour in the states, it’s going to be the same,” and it’s been the same — just all this love, all this love just pouring in.
But not only at my shows, but in my heart, man. Since she’s been gone, I feel this extra love. I do. I don’t know if it’s my imagination or whatever, but I’d like to believe that it’s my mom creating all these wonderful things that are happening in my life that have never happened before. I feel like I might actually have an angel with me, a real one. We’ll see.
RZ: I feel like you talk about God in your lyrics more than most prominent secular rappers. Have you been reached out to by Christian hip-hop artists to talk about this kind of stuff?
Tech: Just Lecrae. I never heard from T-Bone. T-Bone’s a [great] emcee. I just knew I’d do something with T-Bone years ago — never. Da’ T.R.U.T.H. was dope. We were listening to his music, “Whoa! I’m going to get with this dude.” His people said, “Nope. We’re not doing it.” I was reaching out for help. How do you do this? Help me. Help me with fidelity. Help me be right to the woman I’m with.
They didn’t know, so I don’t even blame them for not getting with me. That’s their loss. I’m going to be here forever. Oh yeah, I got a chip on my shoulder because of Da’ T.R.U.T.H. I’m not beefing with him or nothing like that. It’s in the past. Nobody’s brought this up in so long. But when I think about me reaching out for a hand — I would’ve paid money and anything — but they shunned me. You’re not supposed to shun anybody looking for help, I don’t think.
Watch Rapzilla’s interview with Tech N9ne’s Strange Music label mate, Krizz Kaliko, about his faith and working with Andy Mineo here.