Sunday, February 7, 2016

Special Effects, by Tech N9ne (Album of the Week)

Tech N9ne made the paper news (I just can't justify linking to the Star's awful website) yesterday by donating the bras that get tossed onto his stage to Hope House, a local domestic violence agency (answering the question undoubtedly on your mind, yes, he does have them cleaned first).  It's a kind and useful thing to do.  His mother had been hospitalized by an abuser when he was a child, and he remembers the fear and pain.  

Tech N9ne's mother - more specifically, her death in 2014 - plays a central role in this long (70 + minutes) and complex album.  Amidst Latin chanting, he ponders her slow and painful death and how a just god could allow it.  He raps about being absent from her side at the moment that she died. Instead, he was on an airplane to Colorado to perform at Summer Jam.

But there's also talk of him thinking of "chinnin' (punching) some underhanded women but I never hit a woman so I'm a fetch Sole'" - in other words, he doesn't want to hit a woman so he calls on a woman friend to accomplish the same goal.  Elsewhere in the album are jealous rages and murder threats over love triangles and such.

Like I said, it's a long and complex album.  It isn't a polished concept piece designed to deliver one carefully-thought-out message.  It's twenty songs and four skits.  It's rapper bragging and guest artists and rapid-fire lyrics and guns and drugs and sports cars and sex and a whole lot of fun.  Large segments of it are completely indecipherable to me, because of the pace of the language and the obscurity (to me) of the references.  

To enjoy this album you cannot do what I did at the start of this review.  If you're looking for a brightly lit moral stance and a messianic artist to offer a message of clarity, you are, in the words of one of the most enjoyable songs on the album, "Kansas City natives and we all a little coo-coo."

If you're a 55 year-old white guy who mostly stays in the wealthier and more segregated zip codes of the metro area, well, gosh darn it, Tech N9ne didn't really write this album with your sensibility and preferences in mind.  The best approach, in my opinion, is to enjoy what you like, ignore what you don't, and keep your judgment to yourself.  In my role as reviewer for an audience that probably leans toward my profile than Tech N9ne's intended audience, I'll sum it up as a wild ride with some truly fun tracks that I'll keep on my playlist without vouching for all the messages in the lyrics.

Take, for example, "Hood Go Crazy".  I'm sorry, but the song is as catchy as can be, with solid rhythm and outstanding percussion.  So, I wind up bobbing my head and following along as Tech N9ne appreciates waking with a "bad bitch so I ain't gotta jerk", B.o.B. drives irresponsibly (on the interstate doing 180 and taking a double shot, apparently to the delight of a diverse group of lady friends), and 2 Chainz suggests that he should procreate not for love, but to breed a singer, as he himself is so cool that his presence causes nipple reactions.  I'll admit that the world I wind up singing along with contrasts sharply with my reality (though I appreciate waking with my lovely wife of 33 + years, self-preservation alone would prevent me from expressing it in Tech N9ne fashion).

There are other great songs on this album that I cannot be held responsible for enjoying.  "No K" includes a soaring chorus which practically forces me to belt out "No-oooo-ooo-oo, can't get my money!" even though I rarely carry more than twenty bucks at a time.  "Bass Ackwards" is a fun collaboration, even though I'm not certain that the group of rappers performing and making fun of the less cool would allow me to hang with them.  

Robin over at Deliberate Obfuscation also enjoyed our musical tourism to a world probably ten minutes east of our house.  She retains her discomfort with language, misogyny and more, but we both really enjoyed finally giving a hometown legend a serious listen.

Next Up:  Anti, by Rihanna

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