For those of you who know me, chances are that you would call bullshit on the fact that I just recently bought Tech N9ne’s 2001 album, Anghellic. For those of you who don’t know me, it’s because I have been all about Tech N9ne since I was in high school. Actually, the first rap concert I ever went to, was to see Tech N9ne perform at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. After going to a few more of his shows over the past 8 years, I still think he is probably the best hip-hop performer I’ve ever witnessed. I discovered him back in the days when folks got their free music from programs like Napster, Limewire, and Morpheus, because the homie T-Mac made me listen to “Einstein” and “I’m A Playa”. I was skeptical at first because I had seen a bunch of really shitty low budget commercials for Tech’s album, Absolute Power, in which they heavily advertised the lead single, “Slacker”, which in my opinion seemed way too gimmicky and lame to give the man a chance. I don’t know, a self loathing anthem about smoking weed, playing video games, and watching music videos just didn’t do it for me. Yet after being awed by the lighting fast and erratic flow as well as the level of creativity involved in just the two songs T-Mac chose, I immediately went home and downloaded everything I could find (sorry Tech, I never had the money to buy shit back then), and since, he has consistently been in heavy rotation. I think that there was at least a two-year period in my life, in which every time I got excited about anything I would have to slap “I’m a Playa” at full volume. Yet throughout my time as a fan, although I have listened to Anghellic a lot, and had downloaded the vast majority of it’s songs, I never actually owned the album in it’s entirety, nor were the mp3’s in proper order, which in this case is kinda big deal. Thus when I saw it for $2.99, I quickly threw it in my stack of worthwhile purchases and moved on without thinking twice.
I’m going to start by saying that this is one of the most creative hip-hop albums I own. Practically every song has a purpose and an idea behind it, rather than just putting random verses to beats, and Techa Nina manages to get his message across clearly while staying intimately personal, lyrical out the ass, and more unpredictable than the next big California earthquake. Anghellic is broken into three parts, and the idea behind it is that Tech is taking the listener through the Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven that is his life. Yet for those of you who are even just slightly familiar with his music, it will come as no surprise that most of the album focuses on Hell and Purgatory rather than Heaven.
I often compare the average rap listener’s opinion of Tech to my own opinion of Eminem. The man is undeniably gifted and unique, but it’s hard to get into his music due to the subject matter. If you’re someone who has stayed away from the N9ne due to his constant use of religious and occult imagery, as well as the overall dark tone of his music, the beginning of this album most likely will be pretty difficult for you to make it through. The use of distorted guitars in “Tormented”, backwards drums in “Sinister Tech”, and the theme from Halloween on “Psycho Bitch” will all make you feel stronger about your opinion that he is too close to the hip-hop equivalent of heavy metal. At the same time, the first music I really listened to was punk and heavy metal, so I actually enjoy the fact that there is a talented rapper with those types of influences. Yet even if you hate that shit, there are still 2 songs in the Hell portion of Anghellic that I would strongly recommend. On “Real Killer” Tech spits over a string heavy beat reminiscent of the theme music for some daytime court show, provided by King Tech of the Wake Up Show, the only quality hip-hop radio show that I know of. In it, he raps about his experiences with abortions. Like a real killer, at first, the idea of it is sickening and the act is extremely difficult to go through with, but with each repetition it becomes something that is easier and easier to handle. On “Cursed”, Nina weaves a story about his life long obsession with a beautiful, powerful, money hungry, unfaithful, nympho, and it’s not until the end of the track that he let’s you know that it’s all been one big metaphor for his relationship with the rap game. While “Real Killer” addresses an often untouched subject in a thoughtful and creative manner, “Cursed” combines two played out subjects in a way that makes them both sound fresh and interesting.
Yet if Hell is just way to demonic and unhappy for your tastes, don’t give up on the album, just skip forward to Purgatory. The second half of the CD is much more light-hearted and party oriented. It’s starts off with the classic “It’s Alive”, which is one of the few songs on the album where rather than have a strong overriding concept, Tech decided he would just lyrically decimate the track. The energy is infectious, and the way he constantly switches up the flow in so many unique and different ways puts him in a league of his own. “Who You Came to See” is another party song that I constantly knocked in high school, but the highlight of the entire album is “This Ring”. While I was pretty wasted at every Tech N9ne show I’ve been too, I have vivid memories of him performing this song. I remember being fucking dumb founded that he could deliver the lyrics so flawlessly in a live setting, and at the same time everyone around me going nuts over the way the beat pounded through the speakers. I can only describe it as beautiful chaos. The song itself is a personal reflection about how he thought getting married would force him to be a more faithful and responsible person for the ones he loves, only to find out that his persona as Tech N9ne is too powerful, and will not let that be the case. The song is one of those rare gems where the beat is all you could ask for, and the rapper is able to be clearly express his intimate and extremely insightful point of view while utilizing a vast array of flows and ridiculous word play. It’s definitely my favorite song from Tech, and in general one my favorite hip-hop songs of all time.
Despite all of the love I’ve been giving this album, I have to admit I have some complaints as well. Most importantly, it’s 22 tracks deep, and even though there is only 2 or 3 songs that I feel detract from the listening experience, such as “Breathe”, it’s still just way too long. Additionally, even with the extreme length of the disc, there is only one song in the Heaven portion of the album. “Twisted” features the legendary Roger Troutman on talk box, and is one of Tech’s only laid back songs. Overall it’s for sure a highlight, and it sucks that he hasn’t really ever tried to develop this part of his repertoire. Finally, Anghellic definitely lacks some universality, but at the same time, I strongly feel that not all music is meant to be enjoyed by absolutely everyone who hears it. There is such thing as personal taste.
Even after writing for way too long, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of all the things I want to say about this album. If nothing else you have to be impressed by Tech N9ne’s vision. From the overall composition of the record, to the concepts of each song, to the endless different rhyme patterns, to the use of vocal transformers, it is clear that he had a unique and unparalleled idea about how his music should sound, and he successfully turned that idea into a cohesive album from start to finish. Listening to Anghellic may not turn you into his biggest fan, but I promise that after hearing it, there is no way you can deny his place as one of the illest and most creative MC’s to ever touch the mic.