"I'm the rock & roll n***a," Tech N9ne tells Rolling Stone. After working with the Deftones for the song "If I Could" on 2011's All 6s and 7s, the Kansas City, Missouri rapper is taking another step towards new sounds on his forthcoming Something Else.
"One of the members of a big, humongous rock band did a song with me," he told us when we visited with him backstage at Paid Dues Independent Hip-Hop Festival in San Bernardino. After debating whether he should spill the beans, he revealed that it is System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian, who appears on the opening track to Something Else.
As a huge fan, Tech reached out to Tankian. "I think he is fucking insane lyrically, musically, spiritually . . . Totally cluster-fuck-ish like myself – you never know what's going to happen in the music," he said. "If you talk to Serj, he'll probably tell you he knew nothing about Tech N9ne until the song was sent to him, and after listening to it he went and got all my music, and it makes him run faster on the treadmill."
Tankian confirmed Tech's story. "I had not heard of Tech N9ne when we were sent the track," he said. "I checked out a bunch of his songs and really got into his flow, intensity and dynamics, and I agreed to sing on it," Tankian told Rolling Stone. "Originality in hip-hop and rock are hard to come by."
Now that the two have formed a mutual admiration society, Tech has high hopes for the future of the track. "The song's gonna be big. I would love to shoot a video," he said.
Tankian isn't the only big-name guest on Something Else. "I worked with people who I deemed incredible musically, lyrically," said Tech. "Cee Lo came through and did a chorus for me on a song called 'That's My Kid,' with Big Krit and Game. It's about our kids coming up, not following our negative footsteps. They latched onto other things that are positive. And now we're going to graduation saying, 'That's my kid right there,' instead of seeing them disappear in the night air."
With the record not quite done there are a few features up in the air, including one Tech wanted to go to Corey Taylor, who was not available timing-wise. He has other rockers in mind. "I might send it to James Hetfield," he said. "I heard he was a fan. I heard they [Metallica] warm up to my song 'Einstein.'"
Tech has a couple of objectives in mind. One is to bring his collaborators into his world: "Something Else is supposed to be something else – I'm taking different artists out of their element, putting them in a strange land."
The other goal is to let mainstream fans know just who Tech N9ne is. "This album is gonna show everybody that I'm here to stay and I'm not a fluke," he said. Given his consistent appeal as a live draw and seven straight albums charting in the top 10 of the Billboard Rap charts, that he feels underappreciated is surprising.
"Of the people who watch television and listen to the radio all the time, a lot of them don't know," he said, "because we're not on the radio or videos like that, in a heavy rotation like a 2 Chainz or Lil Wayne. But we pop up in those circles because real shit always shines."
And he expects fans who aren't aware that Tech has SoundScanned over a million albums to pay attention this summer. "Something Else is gonna be one of those ones that people are gonna say, 'Whoa,'" he said. "Just the features I told you are huge. They're gonna all vouch for me. I'm real – everybody does it out of respect."