For the third year in a row, Kansas City chopper-style rapper Tech N9ne has released another quality LP, Special Effects, which follows Something Else (2013) and the fifth album in his Collabos series, Strangeulation (2014). A highly active recording artist whose dropped fifteen studio albums in the last sixteen years, Tech, or Aaron Yates, is a very busy, hip hop dynamo, considering that he also juggles a personal/family life, responsibilities at his label (Strange Music), promoting, and however much performing is allowed by whatever time is left.
Where the period from 2000 to 2010 saw Tech N9ne fine-tuning his style and sorting out distracting label issues, the beginning to midpoint of the current decade has allowed for innovation, high powered, out-of-house collaborations and specialized concept music. In the past five years, the super talented emcee, who occupies the cozy midlevel above the industry’s underground and immediately below the mainstream, has quickly grown and gained stature and weight from his previous underdog status. Special Effects has more of Tech’s heavy metal/horrorcore bread and butter, but also more unique guests, custom tailored concepts and concessions for other eclectic music genres.
Tech N9ne fills the top end of Special Effects with relevant issues: world problems in “Aw Yeah,” his mom’s passing in “Lacrimosa,” gun violence in “On The Bible,” and cheating women and their dangerous, jealous male partners in “Psycho B*tch III.” Gloom and doom begin to envelope tracks “Shroud” and the Corey Taylor-featured “Wither,” and these bits aren’t the last of the darkness as we’ll see. Also down the stretch, the many heavy guest spots start to pop, with powerful posse cuts and the previously mentioned songs finding the very best of T.I., Krizz Kaliko, Hopsin, 2 Chainz, B.o.B, Lil Wayne, Yo Gotti, E-40, Big Scoob, Audio Push, Marcus Yates (take a breath!) and others. Honorable mention goes to Tech, Krizz and Eminem for rapping at ridiculous speeds in “Speedom (Worldwide Choppers II),” featuring an altered sample of “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.”
Towards and at the end of the line, the pressing issues resurface. “Shelter from demons” is sought by Tech and singer Kate Ross in “A Certain Comfort” over hard drums and rough-strummed guitars. “Burn It Down” handles life problems by putting the kibosh on bad influences. In “Life Sentences,” Tech, Krizz Kaliko and new, impressive emcees Joey Cool and Gee Watts ponder how life itself can seem like a life sentence sometimes, to a soft beat of easy piano lines and kicking, ticking drums. “Dyin’ Flyin'” is about reaching new heights and the unforeseen pain in store, and “Worldly Angel” contemplates death and how our temporary stay on earth can be a blessing and a curse. The finale song, the staticky “Roadkill,” closes Special Effects with a punch and features dubstep producer Excision on the boards.
With a breathtaking guest list and very creative song titles (InterVENTion, Lacrimosa, Bass Ackwards, No K, Speedom, Dyin’ Flyin’), Special Effects is a gumbo of different personalities, topics and genres, and it’s nicely punctuated by clever skits all throughout. Seven, Tech N9ne’s longtime producer, as well as several others, return to put an original twist on Tech’s aggressive style of hard rock influenced beats. The album is another very artistic, very stylish project by Strange Music’s founding and leading artist, and while it is a little too guest-dependent and beefy in length (seventy-seven minutes for the non-deluxe version), there is little to no filler, and the features are nothing less than outstanding from beginning to end.