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Rapper Tech N9ne Reflects on Emotional, Rewarding USO Tour

Friday, February 10, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

Returning from his USO tour to the Bahrain and Kuwait, rap artist Tech N9ne came back a little sore, but with a feeling of fulfillment after seeing how his appearances affected our nation's servicemen and women. With his tone moving from introspective to electric, Tech N9ne spoke from his hometown of Kansas City, Mo., to discuss his USO trip, the reception he enjoyed and the impact our troops had on him. 

Q. Being able to take in some of the sites and culture of Southwest Asia had to have been a side benefit of taking the trip to entertain our troops. The Tree of Life in Bahrain. "The Highway of Death." Describe some of the things that struck you the most. 

Tech N9ne: Just being on the road and telling me what happened was crazy. And to see how young the folks are that are there. It's super crazy. All the young folks, some were in their teens, that were taking you on the tour. This is where this happened, I was like what. And being at the Tree of Life, and figuring out how that was possible with no moisture or anything. It was just crazy.

Q. In the video (Note: viewable at the bottom of the page), we got to see you prepping for the show at Fort Buehring, Kuwait. Did you have any special emotions before you took the stage, knowing who your audience is? 

Tech N9ne: I knew that these kids were from everywhere and me being who I am, I go everywhere. These people knew who I was and it made me feel good. I'd be back stage and test them. We gave them a great show. I went in the crowd with them. It was a wonderful feeling that they may not know about Tech N9ne and maybe some listened to country (music) and yet still loved the show and got me.

What I'm used to is, newcomers coming to our show. You don't have to know our music to enjoy our show. That's the upside to Tech N9ne. Feel the energy. And that's the blessing we have. And that means they'll come back. And they'll bring friends and say 'Watch this.'

The energy they give me, I give back. 100 percent. It's crazy. Even if they're mellow, it makes us work harder to get their attention. But there, with their energy, we gave them rock and rap. Really spitting lyrics. Life experiences on a beat. And they respond. It's a blessing.

Q. Also, for those that don't know your persona, describe the face paint and what it symbolizes for you. 

Tech N9ne: My best friend Brion Dennis died five or six Christmases ago and he was the first one that painted my face. He was the one that created The Killer clown. I 'kill' the lyrics. He was the one that came up with that. And when he died, it was a crime of passion. ... I still wear the paint in honor of Brion Dennis. He allowed my persona to come out.

Q.You fractured your rib stepping into an Apache helicopter during a tour of an airfield. With the way you perform on stage, gutting it out (literally) for the troops had to come with its share of pain. How did having the burden of your injury impact your shows, if any? 

Tech N9ne: It had me holding my side all show. And when I rap, I go hard. [Raps at warp speed.] It hurt. Even with the shots from the (the medical team). It hurt me bad. But I didn't come out to be a punk. I didn't want to take the meds before the show that might slow me down. For the four shows in Kuwait, I had two cracked ribs. It's better now, but it still hurts. Some people say it takes six months. But I have a tour coming up, 90 shows in 90 days.

But when I was out there in Kuwait, I had to bring it. No matter if I was wounded, it's nothing compared to what they are put through. I was wounded but I WILL NOT stand these people up. They don't stand us up. I'm going around eating at restaurants and they're out there, not doing that but going out and risking their lives.

If I broke my leg I'd do it. But it hurt though. Bad.

Q. Describe the mood when you broke out your new track, "The Noose." The troops really seemed to take to it, the message and how your experience influenced the song. 

Tech N9ne: The Camp Pendleton visit really hit me. See young guys there without limbs. Still fighting. Saying how much they liked my music. When Mayday (his band) produced the song, it just hit me and I had to sing about it. When I was out there in Bahrain and Kuwait, I had never performed the song before and haven't done it since. I might do it on my tour coming up since it went over so well. To give it to them and have it received so well, and to go through the crowd with them, to have it touch them.  I stumbled a couple of times (on the lyrics), but I don't think they realized it.

There's no feeling like that, when they crowd around you like that. With your eyes closed. On tour, you don't do that. You don't know what can happen. But that's how comfortable I felt. Broken ribs... they kept saying to be careful, watch his ribs.

It was quiet and comfortable. No worries. Couldn't have gone better.

Q. It's now a few months since you were on the USO tour. What do you still recall most vividly from your interactions with the troops? 

Tech N9ne: That everybody out there is normal, like me and you. Smiling, happy, despite being out there long, for the duration. No one was hyped up. Normal, nice people. They miss their families. That's what hit me most.

Q. After your Camp Pendleton trip and now this USO tour abroad, can we expect more USO tours in your future? 

Tech N9ne: Whenever they call up on me, I'll be there. Whenever. No matter where I'm at, I'll make it a point to be there. For them. Because they're there for me. In the middle of a war zone, I'd go.

* * *

Video: Produced by Richie Abbott and edited by Anthony Devera, go behind the scenes of Tech N9ne's tour to get a unique perspective on the effect these stars have on our nation's troops. 


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