During a career nearly three decades in the making, Tech N9ne has dodged the fickle rap industry while surfing his own wave, stylistically and professionally. The Kansas City native has been a beast for years now, a musical misfit who laid a track record of underground success and struggle before building his own independent empire with Strange Music.

“This is how we laugh at all the other rappers,” Strange Music comrade Krizz Kaliko says, letting out a belly laugh near the end of duo’s Tiny Desk set. Kaliko is another K.C. native and kindred spirit of Tech N9ne’s. Together, they’ve carved out an unorthodox niche: chopper-style speed rap that often plumbs dark, emotional depths.

Their playful banter between songs personifies that creative connection, as Krizz delivers backing vocals and guest verses from the soul. Backed by a guitar, drums and bass for their Tiny Desk, the trio brought out the rock-tinged hues of such definitive Tech N9ne songs as “Dysfunctional,” “Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)” – dedicated to his mother who died from lupus in 2014 – and “Fragile,” originally assisted by Kendrick Lamar, Mayday and Kendall Morgan.

To close the set, Tech and Krizz performed “Speedom (Worldwide Choppers 2),” a song inspired by folk rocker Richie Havens’ original classic “Freedom.” After years traveling his own path, it’s a fitting way to define Tech N9ne’s wildly independent approach.

Set List

 

 

  • “Dysfunctional”

 

 

  • “Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)”

 

 

  • “Fragile”

 

 

  • “Speedom (Worldwide Choppers 2)”

 

 

Credits

Producers: Abby O’Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Bronson Arcuri, CJ Riculan, Maia Stern; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Eric Lee/NPR.

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