Tech N9ne - Strange Reign Album Review

Story posted October 19, 2017 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Zach Hall

Tech N9ne, the Strange Music pioneer, has held a presence in hip hop since his debut in 1999. Since then, he has continued to push his sound forward and expand his ever growing vocabulary. To many, Tech N9ne is labelled as a fast rapper, one who puts priority to the amount of syllables that can be inserted into each bar of each song. Over his extensive career, he seems to have perfected this. Once Strange Music began to evolve and welcome more members with the same skills as Tech, the idea of future collaboration projects became more tantalizing. Misery Loves Kompany marked Tech N9ne’s first project that focused more on giving light to unknown artists, rather than overarching themes. Ten years later, Strange Reign debuts as Tech’s eighth collaboration effort. For the most part, Strange Reign does what it set out to do, but is hindered by lack of variety.

Lyrically, Strange Reign is sublime. Each song offers an average of three or four features that all exemplify Tech’s proclivity for finding the best of the best when it comes to raw lyrical talent. The beats are simple and don’t stray too far from the basic 4/4 bar structure. On other projects, this could be considered a negative. However, Tech and his friends use this to their advantage. Despite the simplicity of each instrumental, the sheer amount of lyrical variety more than makes up for it. Each artist featured on this project brings a dense vocabulary and helps compliment the rap style that Tech N9ne has done so well over the years. Each lyricist featured has the skill to twist their words and dance around the beat and the simplistic nature of each instrumental gives them plenty of space to do so.

The biggest positive of this album unfortunately helps give light to the biggest negative: the lack of instrumental variety. It may seem like a bit of a contradiction, but this lack of variety in beats hurts any hope for replayability. The simplicity of each song is not the problem, since it’s what helps put the incredible lyrical talent on a pedestal. The problem here is the lack of variety between each track. With the exception of a few tracks, Strange Reign’s 15 songs seem to be copy and paste versions of the track that came before it, with little changes here and there to make them somewhat distinct. Most of the tracks on this project seem to have the same tone, with similar synths and drum patterns. There are a few exceptions to this though. “Happen” is a much more bouncy track than the rest, featuring a groovy guitar riff accompanied by fast paced live drums. “Whatever You Want” takes a step back from the faster paced, booming sound from the rest of the album, with a lightly plucked acoustic in the background accompanied by Mackenzie Nicole, one of the only female vocal features on the entire album. This is the softest song by far and offers a nice change of pace from the booming beats that came before it. A contrast to “Whatever You Want” is “These Hands,” which also features Mackenzie Nicole. The instrumental to “These Hands” is hard-rock inspired, with grunge like guitar riffs and pounding drums that keep the tempo moving.

Of course, the star of the show here is Tech N9ne himself, who has never sounded better. Throughout his 18 year career, Tech has continued to one up himself each time he releases a project. His lyrical skill has never been more evident than it is on Strange Reign, further proving why he has been so successful over the years. On many songs, Tech flexes his ability to speed up and slow down multiple times in only a couple lines. When Tech slows it down, he makes sure to enunciate each syllable with equal care. It’s no surprise that Tech’s lyrical versatility is the best thing about Strange Reign. Because this is a collaboration, there is an absence of any kind of overarching theme, aside from the title Strange Reign suggesting that Tech N9ne, along with the rest of Strange Music, currently run the rap game.

Overall, Strange Reign is a quality listen. Lyrically, Tech N9ne and the rest of the features serve as the best part of the album. Each song is packed to the brim with lyrical excellence, but the lack of instrumental variety hurts the replay value. The lack of an overarching theme can be forgiven since the point of the album is to show off just how skilled Tech and his friends are. Give it a listen, but don’t expect to want to return to it any time soon.

Rating: 7/10

 

Zach Hall is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zth5043@psu.edu.