Tech N9ne

All 6s and 7s
Strange Music

For the uninitiated, Tech N9ne is seen as more than just a rapper, he is an underground legend, a self proclaimed Riot Maker and Cult Leader and judging by the reaction he gets at his shows, these are titles you would find it hard to take away from him. From the awe struck faces of people in the front rows to the chaos breaking out in the mosh pits at the back (yes, mosh pits at a hip hop show), it is clear to see that Tech N9ne can never be claimed to be just a rapper.

A phenomenon then, would be a much more accurate description and with ‘All 6’s and 7’s’, Tech’s 13th full studio release, he has enlisted the help of some of hip hop’s biggest including Busta Rhymes, B.O.B and Lil’ Wayne to name but a few. Understandably, some long time fans have expressed concern about these guests being on the album, claiming that they were too mainstream and would dilute the raw, hardcore sound that they had grown so accustomed to.

Luckily, however, almost the exact opposite effect is achieved with B.O.B and Busta bringing possibly the best verses of their career’s to the table in ‘Am I A Psycho’ and ‘Worldwide Choppers’ respectively; Tech truly has managed to bring the best out of his guests and as he promised years ago, he ‘hasn’t turned mainstream, the mainstream has turned Tech’. The aforementioned ‘Worldwide Choppers’ is easily one of the highlights of Tech’s career, let alone this album, bringing Yelawolf, Busta Rhymes whose partially stuttered verse is definitely one of those all too rare moments that absolutely demand a rewind, Ceza who opening the track in his native Turkish, Twista and more all delivering extremely tight verses at the speed of light to avoid being outclassed by Tech (which is no easy task).

For many, Tech N9ne is at his most appealing when at his most introspective and there is no shortage of his trademark self loathing and apologetic lyrical content, most notably on ‘Mama Nem’ and‘If I Could’, the latter of which is a slower paced track featuring an outstanding cameo from Deftones that proves that Tech can still impress with his lyricism just as much as he can with his speed; although there is nothing quite as deep as ‘Suicide Letters’ or ‘This Ring’ from earlier in his career he is still a very open and honest lyricist on this records who isn’t afraid to bare his scars for his fans to see. There has also been a darker side to Tech throughout his career (listen to ‘Trapped in a Psycho’s Body’ from 2002’s Absolute Power for evidence of that) and this is also present on ‘All 6’s and 7’s as shown on ‘Am I a Psycho?’, which features an unusually raw B.O.B launching a scathing attack on Odd Future in his verse (another of the many highlights on this album) and where ‘Trapped in a Psycho’s Body’ may have been Tech’s ‘The Way I Am’, this track is his ‘Guilty Conscience’ with the split personality dialogue between B.O.B and himself taking centre stage.

Lil’ Wayne’s contribution to the album was one of the main talking points leading up to it’s release and it has to be said that ‘Fuck Food’ featuring Wayne and T-Pain hasn’t lived up to the hype, whilst still a solid track, Wayne’s verse feels tacked on and leaves you wondering Tech couldn’t just have recorded the song with himself and long time collaborator Krizz Kaliko who is in typically top form every time he opens his mouth on this record to similar, if not better effect. Still, whilst the song may not live up to the hype, the fact that Tech is now working with rappers as big as Wayne is a huge credit to his hard work over the 25+ years he’s been making music and possibly a path to the extra attention that Tech deserves for his talent and perseverance.

In summary, this is undoubtedly one of Tech’s best albums in which he doesn’t stray from his style despite the popularity of his collaborators, an issue that is accurately addressed on ‘Love Me Tomorrow’. Whilst there may be one or two tracks that could be cut from the album without detriment to the quality, there are highlights aplenty on this release and it’s sure to please the hardcore Technicians just as much as it would appeal to those who may not have heard of him before. The album ticks all the boxes except one, there’s still no collaboration with Bone Thugs n Harmony.

Ryan De Freitas.

Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah
Apollo Kids
Def Jam

As if to make a mockery of the music press’ overzealous list making in recent years, Ghostface Killah has released new album Apollo Kids this week (December 21st), long after all major music publications have published their albums of the year. Far and away the most consistent Wu member, it’s no surprise that Apollo Kids packs a punch, but nobody could have expected this near flawless collection of classic Ghostface material. A November release date would have surely seen Apollo Kids ranking well in end of year polls, but this is typical of the casual approach Wu Tang seem to be taking to releasing albums these days. Besides, who’s going to tell Mr. Tony Starks that he needs to move his release date?

Lists aside, from the word go Apollo Kids adopts a no nonsense approach, free of skits and coming in at a lean 40 minutes in length. Yes, there are no instrumental filler tracks or martial arts outtakes to wade through this time, and I’m left wishing more Wu Tang albums had this sense of discipline. Guest spots come from the usual suspects, with Raekwon popping up on the last two tracks, while elsewhere the likes of GZA, Jim Jones, Black Thought and Busta Rhymes appear with some style. Busta in particular shines brightly on ‘Superstar’, always good for a guest spot yet rarely anything more.

Lead single ‘2getha Baby‘ seems to follow on from the bizarre production job on Wu Massacre’s single ‘Our Dreams‘, although the sharp transition between verse and soul sampling chorus seems to actually work here. Meanwhile the pick ‘n’ mix selection of producers includes Pete Rock on ‘How You Like Me Baby’, while the always brilliant Jake One steps behind the desk on album closer ‘Troublemakers’. For the most part the production borrows much from classic cuts of soul and funk, a style which Ghostface clearly feels comfortable rapping over.

Despite all the guest rappers and producers, though, it’s undoubtedly Ghostface’s album. Always lively and with a sharp turn of phrase, he effortlessly manages to light up each track with his own inimitable sense of humour. Seamlessly moving from Jimmy Neutron to hard drugs references, he has an extremely likeable personality that shines through even when rapping on a song called ‘Handcuffin’ Them Hoes’. Yup, Ghostface is back, and this is perhaps his best album since Supreme Clientele.

Sleekly Lion