Tech N9ne sure has been quite the prolific man of late. He’s got good reason, much like any artist that spends enough prominent time within the underground; the mainstream is finally taking notice. There are a number of reasons he’s reaching glory, sheer talent certainly among them, but ultimately all it took was an expressed desire to collaborate from a jailed Lil Wayne. Accepted by many as the “King of the Underground”, Tech once made songs like “One Good Time,” venting his exasperation with fame he’d never gain. Well hey, look what happened. Fans had to wonder: would he be able to retain what made them like him in the first place – essentially, being a weird mother fucker – as the audience began to expand?
On his first effort dealing with the increasing attention, last year’s bland The Gates Mixed Plate, the answer seemed to be a no. However, that effort nearly felt like a side note, the transfer record. On All 6’s and 7’s it’s a very different story. Tech seems to have grasped he shouldn’t abandon his style, and what results is a strange album drifting between the obscure and the mainstream. Considering Tech’s own label’s namesake and its expressed purpose (to get Tech and his posse out there, durh) this may be a feat of genius.
The album starts out with a bang, the electronic-infused “Technicians” hitting a solid stride, but things truly take off with “Am I Psycho?” The first example of Tech’s new, bizarre balance, it’s both produced by and featuring B.o.B. Say what you will about the Atlanta pop star, but he knows how to crank out a killer beat, and freed of Grand Hustle-sized expectations, he unleashes. It’s a tad strange to hear the young MC subliminally dissing Odd Future on a track that seems inspired by their sound and attitude, not to mention the oddity (no pun intended) of a rapper that makes songs such as “Nothin’ on You” playing crazy, but the truth is, the song still bangs. Relative unknown Hopsin also appears on the track, ironically, with much in common with OF, clearly idolizing ’98 Shady, and he destroys his verse. Even B.o.B goes in, snarling, “Can’t even see you niggas, y’all wish I was rappin’ to you, matta fact, act like I’m rappin’ to you if that gives you passion.” Truth be told, if the rest of the world cared about the B.o.B/Odd Future play-beef, the sellout would be winning.
That’s the odd thing about this album: it exists in two worlds. Tech has his world, represented musically on “Strangeland,” and the world he’s being allowed to enter, where guests B.o.B and Wayne reside. On this record, Tech seems more willing to flirt than actually join the party, so the album inevitably pulls against itself occasionally. B.o.B rolled in concerned with his own agenda, but Tech got a killer track out of it. Who’s complaining? This doesn’t always work, however, such as the messy “Fuck Food,” boasting both the Lil Wayne appearance and nothing less than a T-Pain hook. Labelmate Krizz Kaliko throws in his say in an attempt to balance things out, but it still sticks out like Eminem collaborating with Bruno Mars. It’s a funny thing; Weezy is indeed partially responsible for the fame Tech’s enjoying, but in the eternally shifting industry, his own name has massively sunk in significance in the time Tech’s has grown. On his appearance, he’s still fruitlessly imitating his former self, dropping duds like, “I float in that pussy like a cruiseship.”
All 6’s and 7’s shares something else in common with nearly every album Tech’s ever released: overabundance. One can’t help but wonder why the MC feels the need to overstuff his records so grandly that they inevitably flow over into the dregs. This album is 24 – you read that right, twenty four – tracks long, and begins dropping off after track 12. Like any of his records, the rest is hit and miss. Tech genuinely would have benefited for simply cutting off a bit of the fat. For every “Boogieman” – a gleefully bizarre track, as goofy as it sounds – there’s a lazy “Pornographic” (dragged down further by tired E-40 and Snoop Dogg verses) or, perhaps the must offensively dull track to be found here, “You Owe Like Pookie.” There are certainly other highlights; “Worldwide Choppers” hits you with so many flows – including Busta Rhymes, Twista and Yelawolf – you’ll struggle to keep up, and the laidback, Kendrick Lamar backed “I Love Music.” Nonetheless, the volume of the material is inevitably a detractor, and chances are you’ll end up doing the cutting yourself. That said, this album is exciting and promising: Tech N9ne seems to be filling his growing shoes gracefully.