Week 29 Review

Tech N9ne – All 6’s and 7’s (2011)

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 6.76 out of 7 stars album. Tech is a very interesting figure in the world of hip hop and his albums clearly reflect that. All 6’s and 7’s is jam packed to the brim with intense energy and emotion covering an impressive range of topics. You need to listen to it just to hear one of the greatest rappers out there do his thing.

Artist BackgroundTech N9ne is the biggest independent rapper in the world as far as I can tell. He’s sold a million albums by 2008. So he’s doing pretty well. And he co-founded his own label, Strange Music, in 1999 with Travis O’Guin. I imagine he has far more control over and freedom with his albums than many of the other artists out there as a result of this. Tech grew up in Kansas City and makes sure his city is well represented in his music. He’s built a hardcore and devoted following for himself. Tech N9ne is known for his rapid delivery which is just incredible. But I think I appreciate him more for the content of his songs, which tend to be introspective and often philosophical in nature. If he’s questioning something about life, he’s going to let you know.

Album Background: The album, All 6’s and 7’s, is much longer than your average hip hop album at 76 minutes with 18 songs and 6 skits. This album was his first mainstream success as it was his first album to crack the top 5 of the US charts at number 4. This album includes a lot of guest artists including B.o.B., Hopsin, Yelawolf, Snoop Dogg, Jay Rock, Twista, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, E-40, Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar, and a bunch of other people. It’s pretty packed and the well chosen guest rappers are a big part of why this album is as good as it is.

Favorite Track: My favorite track is Am I a Psycho. It was a really close race though; it wins but just barely. The chorus is very memorable and catchy. Tech N9ne, Hopsin and B.o.B. let their imaginations go to a dark place and come up with some clever lines throughout the song. All three of them rap solid verses both in content and delivery. Their approaches to the topic of psychosis are different enough that it keeps your attention for the entire song. I could start listing the lyrics, but I really think you need to hear the song to get a sense of why I like the song so much. It’s definitely not the most technically impressive song on the album, but still very enjoyable because it’s so fun.

What Works: 

  • Four The first four songs on this album (Technicians, Am I a Psycho, He’s a Mental Giant and Worldwide Choppers) plus the two accompanying skits of The Pledge and Military is the greatest opening for any album I’ve ever heard. All of the songs are easily 5 star songs and the intense energy projected during these songs is through the roof. Put them all together and you have something I’m not sure anybody else will ever be able to replicate. For those looking to duplicate it, I found this really cool video put out by the guy who did the beats for Technicians and he explains how every sound used to make the beats was put in there. It’s pretty amazing to see all the work that went into the beat. I wish I had that kind of technical knowledge about making music.
  • Rhythm I know everyone is incredibly impressed with how quick Tech can spit. And I am too. His delivery is instantly recognizable. But I think I’m more impressed with rhythms used in his delivery. While Tech N9ne can go 200 MPH, he also knows how to and when to change it up. I love how he will flip back and forth between very distinct rhythms in his song without missing a beat. Or deliver 10 lines in a row using the same intricate pattern perfectly.
  • Exposure Tech is very much willing to let his fans into his world. In Cult Leader, he talks about the comparisons that have been with him to Jim Jones and David Koresh. I love that he basically trolls those making the comparisons by delivering a very cult like speech to a group of “followers” at the end of the song. O-W-H-H! The songs Delusional, So Lonely, If I Could and Mama Nem discuss some of the difficulties of his life. If I Could talks about the struggles of trying to provide for your family and still be there for them. I can definitely relate to this with all the hours I am putting in at work right now. Mama Nem may seem like your average cliche mother song, but the collection of songs preceding it clearly show Tech is nothing but sincere with his music. Unlike your generic cliche mama song, Tech fills his with numerous specifics that give you a real glimpse into his life and the pain he felt. It’s quite obvious he’s making this song for himself rather than trying to tap into something that he knows everyone would identify with in order to sell more records.

What Doesn’t:

  • Graphic Like really damn graphic descriptions of sexual acts. I honestly don’t have a problem with it. However, I’m not sure everyone is going to be comfortable listening to music with lines like ****** ***** **** * ****** or ******* **** **** ****** ****** *****. I’m going to go as far as to say the songs are really well done and do a fantastic job celebrating sex in its most pure and raw form. And surprisingly, it does so for both genders. In Pornographic, I feel like Tech is talking to one woman in particular and sharing something with her rather than having this feeling of all women being interchangeable. Unfortunately, Snoop Dogg ruins it with his misogynistic verses; very similar to what he was doing in 2001. To counter things like this, Tech dedicates an entire song to pleasuring women properly in the bedroom with Overtime. There’s actually a great part in the song where the rapper hands off the line “pack a stud in your luggage” to Stevie Stone. I don’t know how often trading lines like that happens but I loved it every time I heard it. On top of that, Tech N9ne starts out the collection of sex songs on the album with Kansas City Poet Camile’s graphic ripping apart of a boastful man who didn’t quite live up to his promises. I can’t really repeat any of it but I love how she ends it with “I love you, Tech N9ne! You inspire me!” Like I said, I think the songs are well done, but I think it might be really alienating to some people.

In Conclusion: Tech N9ne’s All 6’s and 7’s is such a great album. Tech deserves all of the praise that he gets. He is incredibly talented and pours so much of himself into his work. If you’ve never listened to him, this is where you should start. If after the first 4 songs you aren’t blown away like I was then you can stop listening and move on. But I think that you’re going to want to make a trip to Strangeland and, like me, never want to leave. And remember: Tech won’t go mainstream. Mainstream will go Tech.

Music Video Links:
Tech N9ne – Am I a Psycho? (feat B.o.B. and Hopsin) (Official Video) 
(I seriously hate this video. It doesn’t even come close to what they could have done with such great lyrics. So incredibly boring.)
Tech N9ne – He’s a Mental Giant (Official Video)
(I actually like this video since it’s done in the spirit of one of my favorite book series of all time: The Wizard of Oz.)

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
Google Play
XBOX Music

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
ikipedia Album
Official Site

Week 25 Review (End of Summer Blow Up 4)

This week I’m reviewing my favorite hip hop album from 2013: Jarren Benton’s My Grandma’s Basement. It did chart but nowhere near as high as it should have. Actually, anything less than #1 is too low.


Artist: Jarren Benton {Jarren Benton, emcee; Kato aka Christopher Ju, producer}
Album: My Grandma’s Basement
Year: 2013
Genre: Hip Hop
Rating: 5/5

Worth Your Time? Benton has an incredible flow that everyone should familiarize themselves with.

Twitter Review: The combination of Benton and his talented producer Kato make My Grandma’s Basement a fantastic album worthy of many repeat listens.

Top 3 Tracks:

  1. My Grandma’s Basement
  2. Heart Attack
  3. My Adidas

Things to Look For:

  • Benton’s Flow. I love when Jarren raps. I love it. He can spit fire word after word while making it all seem so effortless but he’s smart enough to break it up occasionally with some really interesting rhythms. On PBR & Reefer, Benton starts out with a stutter step for the first couple lines which actually complement the chorus perfectly. Now contrast with his delivery in Life in the Jungle where he’s going at a frantic pace to reflect the intensity of innercity life. I think that Benton is so used to going fast that going slow throws him off. In Dreams, Benton actually has a fairly slow delivery reflective of the subject matter. And this song contains the only moment on the album where I think Jarren isn’t flawless. It’s actually awkward for a fraction of a second. I’m not going to tell you where it is. I want to see if you can pick it out. And it only sticks out to me because he is so amazing everywhere else.
  • Kato! Kato’s name is said in the beginning of nearly every track in one way or another for every track he produced on this album.  And he absolutely deserves the recognition. The first three tracks of the album (Razor Blades & Steak KnivesLife in the Jungle and Don’t Act) are produced by Kato. The beginning  is probably the most consistently enjoyable section of the album in large part thanks to Kato’s big beats. The production of Razor Blades & Steak Knives is particularly impressive thanks to the false ending. The first time I heard it, I thought a new song had actually started but nope. I was still listening to the first track.
  • OMG Hilarious. Even More No Homo (skit) is not the most politically correct skit to laugh at. But George Carlin said even rape can be funny and further explains: “I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is…because every joke needs one exaggeration. Every joke needs one thing to be way out of proportion.” And this skit absolutely nails it. My brother and I laughed about this skit for weeks. I think it is hilarious regardless of your outlook on gay rights. Feel free to disagree if you want. But I’m still probably going to keep laughing every time I hear it.
  • Serious Like A Heart Attack. I have to mention Heart Attack. The subject matter is very dark as it describes the brutal murder of an ex after an uncontrollable rage building up inside is finally let loose. Domestic violence is inexcusable, but Jarren does an excellent job communicating his rage to listeners. And thankfully, at least, has an ending with very real consequences with the cops closing down on him shortly after the murder.  The real surprise about this song is the last minute which sounds similar to Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky. Benton counts several non-rap musicians as primary influences so should I really be surprised to see some Pink Floyd pop up on his album? Probably not.
  • Even More Serious. The best song on the album is My Grandma’s Basement. Why? One reason is because this is one of the few songs on the album where Jarren does not resort to shock value in his verses. Now is probably an appropriate time to bring up that a lot of his delivery and word choice reminds me of Eminem’s Slim Shady LP. Even on Cadillacs & Chevys Jarren says “They say I sound like Eminem.” So I’m not the only one to notice the parallels. I honestly think that Jarren’s wordplay is a bit more inventive. So many times, I was impressed with the way Benton combines and relates ideas in his verses. Many times those ideas were meant to shock but they were impactful on me regardless. But in My Grandma’s Basement he seems to focus on some very real and universal fears about moving your life forward and making something of yourself before you become trapped. I really hope to see less shock and more tracks like this on his next album. I know he is more than capable of it with this track and My Adidas. Equally interesting is the beats used on the track, which make you feel like you too are going to be swallowed up by the basement with Jarren never to be seen again. Those are some seriously claustrophobic beats.

Low Points: While Big Rube Interlude is quite good and sounds like it belongs on a Quentin Tarantino movie with a beautiful trumpet solo, Dreams doesn’t appeal to me as much as the rest of the album. It seems too different from the rest of the tracks. It almost feels like an obligatory slow song more than anything. And with an album runtime of over 70 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have missed it if it was left on the floor of the recording studio. Big Rube, by the way, is known for doing these interludes. He has done them for several artists.

Anything Else: I just wanted to share the song that first introduced me to Jarren Benton. The song is Skitzo and it’s incredibly catchy. It highlights many of the reasons why I instantly fell in love with his music in the first place and it also has a great ending. If I remember correctly, Hopsin (who later signed Benton to Funk Volume) had mentioned it through social media. My brother caught hold of it and then showed it to me. And Skitzo is probably the only single I’ve bought since I got out of college, so that’s saying a lot of how much I wanted it. (I’m more of an album kind of guy if you couldn’t figure that out.) It was featured on a compilation and none of the other tracks really appealed to me so I bought the track by itself. And the rest is history. Now you all need to tune into his new album My Grandma’s Basement. I hope you like it.

Additional Links: