Sometimes you are introduced to music through unusual means. The name Tech N9ne first popped into the popular lexicon when he had the grows-on-you single “The Beast” placed on the soundtrack of Madden 06 (the one that debuted the horrible QB vision, but that’s beside the point.) The cut was impressive enough and reached enough eardrums that suddenly the name Tech N9ne was worth knowing. The Kansas City-based rapper kept up a relentless grind, working wonders in the independent rap scene following the release of concurrent hit single “Caribou Lou.”
Having always embraced guitar-driven beats, Tech N9ne was familiar in rock and metal circles, even being called on by Five Finger Death Punch for a recent collaboration. Off that experience, Tech N9ne is trying to make the jump into rap metal, or at least something approximating it. He’s combined with producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot) to release the new “Therapy” EP.
From a musical standpoint, “Therapy” is great. The beats are heavy with a strong metal heart, groovy and ferocious all in one fell swoop. It reminds of the heavy days when Public Enemy used to sample Slayer because damn it, that’s the sound they needed. Robinson has outdone himself in this regard, crafting the music composed in part by Wes Borland and Sammy Siegler into an earthy, satiating growl. The attraction of singles like “Public School” lies primarily in its powerful rhythm.
Surprisingly, the fault of “Therapy” lies with Tech N9ne himself. His verbiage here is underwhelming, not crafting any particularly impressive or unlikely rhymes, and also only touching on the surface of potentially in-depth subjects. “Hiccup,” the centerpiece of the EP, examines the nature of human greed and irresponsibility, but doesn’t offer any particular insight other than to paraphrase the old adage “don’t let the bastards get you down,” and “good always wins.” When all other inspiration leaves him, Tech N9ne goes back to the well and composes “I.L.L,” which extrapolates into “I Like Ladies.” Dead Prez this ain’t.
Midwest rap has long been characterized by a sort of machine-gun delivery, but Tech N9ne never really unleashes the irrepressible torrent of rapid-fire lyrics that one expects. We know he can let loose because he’s demonstrated the ability in solo records before, but “Therapy” sees him content to stay within the pocket of the music and write well within the margins. This also applies to the handful of guest stars, who could have been an added dimension, but end up as little more than window dressing.
“Therapy” could have been something. Tech N9ne was said to have left his comfort zone for the recording of this record with Robinson, but by the press release’s own admission, leaving his comfort zone took him to a beachfront hotel in California, which hardly sounds uncomfortable. “Therapy” isn’t going to make Tech N9ne the crossover hit he wants to be. He’s a much more talented artist then this though, and should reload to try again in the future. In the meantime, stick to “Everready” or “Absolute Power.”