Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne travels to Hell and back

Adam Michael

Tech N9ne obliterates gangster rap conventions with his third album, “AngHellic,” a 22-track concept album that consists of three distinct sections. “The album is divided into three parts: hell, purgatory, and heaven,” says Tech N9ne on his AngHellic website. Each track on the album fits into a specific segment. Songs such as “Real Killer” chronicle Tech’s personal experiences with abortions, an obvious descent into his own personal hell.
“It’s Alive” comes midway through the album and he effortlessly gets across the ambiguous nature of floating between two methods of thinking. “This Ring” marks his entry into being saved; a new marriage and responsibilities bring changes with them that made Tech reconsider past choices.
The entire album reeks of a catharsis process. He needed to experience the retched aspects of humanity only so he could emerge victorious from the other side. Conceptually this album proves fruitful, but even more impressive is Tech’s range on the microphone.
That’s one of the aspects that immediately attracted me to this album. His power over cadence and remarkable breath control make even the mediocre sounds interesting. All within one track, Tech can rap slow to place importance on specific phrases, rap in double time to become more melodious then the music, and flow at an indecipherable speed over a drum & bass drum pattern.
Tech frequently reminds me of Aceyalone from Freestyle Fellowship, also known to have innovated the contemporary free rap style. Tech N9ne manipulates his voice the same way a jazz saxophonist does, improvising to seamlessly blend with the aural accompaniment.
Not only does the interesting content and mic prowess overflow on this album, but the production is an electronic cornucopia of synthesizers and retro keyboards. “Planet Rock 2001” begins with the melody to Inspector Gadget on what sounds like a Casio keyboard I probably played with in kindergarten. Synth lines creep out underneath drum patterns more accustomed to electronic music.
The chorus to “It’s Alive” mixes drums & bass drums with Tech’s blistering flow. Even though Tech N9ne hails from Kansas City, a very west coast vibe is exhibited in many tracks.
“Who You Came to See” is straight out of Dr. Dre’s textbook with the synthesized keys over a soulful chorus. “This Ring” uses electronic melodies to update a somewhat outdated sound; Tech croons his name over church choir moans and spooky strings that resonate a certain eeriness to the listener’s ears.
The album’s title gives insight to Tech’s main message throughout the album: he’s an angel stuck in hell, trying to escape, but temptations keep getting the best of him. Not until he enters purgatory does he realize he has a chance to become cleansed. From there, heaven was a short stroll down the church pew. This album acted as his personal psychiatrist, a papyrus doctor, and plastic ink couch.