Review Summary: Tech dips into the main stream and crafts one of 2011's finest.
There’s a certain aesthetical argument lurking around on the internet, occasionally popping up in all genres of music. Followers of one side contend that musical technicality is more important than groove, and would cite examples of Megadeth or Slayer over Isis if they favored metal. This argument also extends into the world of contemporary hip hop, with various famous rappers speeding up their styles in recent years to maintain relevancy (we’re looking at you, Eminem). Regardless of where the game goes in the future, this argument will always pop up until the geeks behind the producer’s table create the perfect balance.
Tech N9ne’s 2011 effort, entitled All 6’s and 7’s, strikes that balance. Always known for doing back flips with the range of his flow, it should be known that this record changes none of that. Worldwide Choppers is literally the fastest rap song I’ve heard in years and somehow after five minutes of machine gun lyricism even Twista gets lost in the maelstrom. Yet, those with bad experiences with his music cite this as a negative, as the words often would be muddled in flow. This does pop up, mostly with the sparse weak beat, but that problem is solved by the shining star of the record:
It’s so damn groovy.
Striking the fine line between a barrage of words and the gentle jams of the 90’s, Tech’s flow absolutely dominates this album. The greatest surprise, as an extension, is the way that Tech can inject himself into any style beat (banger, slow jam, darker tunes, and even dub-influenced beats) like a good transplant. The variety of influences on this album is gigantic, with Technicians being the most interesting example of this. The dubstep-esque backdrops of the second track ebb in and out of focus, reminiscent of the back and forth dynamics of another AOTY candidate: Swarms’ Old Raves End. With this Tech is allowed free reign of the backbeat, and he takes every opportunity to switch up flow between them. Granted, the beat isn’t completely dub, but the influence was one of the first things to pique my interest about this album, and Tech doesn’t stop there.
If I had to make a list, I suppose I heard dub, hip hop, contemporary rap narcissism, dark brooding beats, banger hip hop (the tracks with Lil’ Wayne AND Snoop Dogg), and even alt-rock poke their head through the bass to capture our attention long enough for Tech to take over. Yet, unlike his contemporaries, (Wayne…), his interests don’t devolve into a mish-mash of half-baked ideas. Rather, Tech’s methodical tone seals the beats together into a mostly flowing, cohesive whole. On top of the earthy tone of his voice, it seems as though Tech plays the role of quarterback. Perhaps his 10+ years of experience on the microphone plays a part, but even the guests featured on the album put forth some of the most solid verses I’ve heard in a while. Busta Rhymes, Twista, and Yelawolf absolutely destroy Worldwide Choppers, Lil’ Wayne and T-Pain go uncharacteristically hard on their track, and even Snoop Dogg (?!) is entertaining for the first time in years. These factors and more come together and create this perfect storm of precision and flow.
Yet, storm may actually be the best way to describe this album’s minor missteps. At 24 tracks, including various interludes, the album can overstay its welcome, hanging over some of the darker songs like a thundercloud. On top of that, some songs are just not up to snuff. The beat of I Love Music comes off as disjointed for too long for Tech to save it, and the Limp-Bizkit-esque You Owe Like Pookie is just boring. As a general point for the album as a whole, this album is fast. If catching every verse is important, then some will have a hard time. Several friends of mine have this irrational hatred for Tech, so it’s understandable if somewhat-muddled lyricism is a turn off for some.
With this, Tech’s dip into the main stream may very well become a dive into murky waters. Whether or not he sinks or swims will remain to be seen, but he can certainly stand tall on this gem, one of the finest of 2011.