Tech N9ne Live: Incredible Energy, Marred By Sexual Harrassment

Tech N9ne’s live performance at Prince Bandroom featured special guests from his Strange Music roster, chopper style lyrics, crazy fans, and sexual harassment.

I was really pumped to be going to see Tech N9ne. His chopper style lyrics, face paint, and hoards of loyal fans (known as ‘Technicians’) have interested me since I first got into the enigmatic artist.  Having the opportunity to interview Tech earlier this year was a real highlight ahead of the live show, which was everything I had hoped it would be – except for his blatant and uncomfortable sexual harassment.

Upon entering the Prince Bandroom in St Kilda, the first thing I noticed was the crowd. The crowd were from all walks of hip-hop life, creating a pretty interesting dynamic; from the hardcore Technicians dressed in red with Strange Music merch, to the weed-smoking chillers blazing up in the corner, to the energetic moshers, up front from the get go, not stopping for a moment throughout.

There were some great support acts which kept up an incredibly high energy. Local MC Zhane White kicked the night off with his fresh take on trap-style hip-hop, followed by Nooky and his pull-no-punches culturally relevant themes. A crowd member offered Nooky an Aboriginal flag, which he proudly donned up on stage. Nooky then brought out fellow Bad Apples heavyweight Birdz, before the full Strange Music team arrived on stage. First came Stevie Stone; everything he did, especially the hype track Jump, set the crowd crazy. After Stevie Stone, DJ Picasso started teasing the crowd by playing Tech N9ne tracks, which, coupled with the lighting guy dimming the lights and focusing them on the stage, made the crowd very antsy.

Tech finally bounded on stage, delivering his high intensity chopper style lyrics that he is so famous for, and the place went off. Tech introduced fellow rapper Krizz Kaliko and left him the stage, returning to drop Am I A Psycho and launching next into Riot Maker. Tech and Krizz shared the stage pretty evenly throughout – Krizz features in a lot of Tech’s songs and it was a refreshing change to see the hype man role fulfilled by someone with such a singing/ rapping talent. Every now and then, Krizz got to do his own songs and Tech left him the stage. Tech leaving a few times did seem a bit weird until he mentioned that he had been drinking since 10 a.m. and was still drinking now (which explained the need for Krizz to do his own songs: Tech needed another drink).

There was something odd that I noticed about Tech – when he rapped, only the bottom half of his jaw moved, as if he was a puppet. Then it hit me: the mask. When I spoke with Tech in July, he mentioned that he was working with Slipknot’s mask maker to get a Worldly Angel mask made so he didn’t have to endure the hours of face-paint before each show. I was excited to see the mask, but it did take a certain element away from the performance. Not being able to see his face and facial expressions was weird; cool, yes, and unique, but weird all the same.

Tech is an remarkable performer with incredible mic control. His ability to spit at that velocity (especially after a supposed 10 hours of drinking) was phenomenal. I’ve seen Bone Thugs do it, but they share each track. Tech does the whole track on his own, and it is remarkably impressive. The night was going so well – until it got awkward.

Krizz thanked everyone for buying his CDs, and said that he used to be bullied, but that now he is famous, he can ‘fuck their girlfriends’ – wait, what? His story started off almost emotional and uplifting, but then I felt like he was just being a dick. Lots of people laughed, but it was uncomfortable for many more. Krizz then invited all the girls up on to the stage while he sang Talk Up On It, and the crowd started to dance and stomp to the beat.

Tech then re-joined Krizz and asked the crowd for ‘all the fine ass females to get on some shoulders.’ Once a few women were up as requested, cheering, he then asked them to ‘show him their titties’. When nobody complied, he – and I forget his exact words – said something to the extent of, ‘if you aren’t going to show me, then sit your ass down.’ A few women dropped back down, but others stayed up. Tech focused his attention on one woman in particular who had stayed up on someone’s shoulders, repeating again that she should ‘sit her ass down’ if she wasn’t going to flash. The women all eventually climbed back down – Tech just wouldn’t leave them alone.

The bit was explained moments later when Tech went on to sing his track Areola, for which women have been known to throw their bras on stage (Tech has donated the bras he received to a domestic violence organisation). Women flashing their breasts during this song has become his signature performance during his live shows – but it’s a fine line between something which is a bit of fun for a crowd in the moment, and continuous blatant harassment, which is what I witnessed at his Melbourne show last week. It was appalling and immensely awkward, permanently shifting the atmosphere of the night.

There was definite discomfort in the crowd, and while it predominantly recovered when he followed Areola with Speedom and WWC, two of his most popular tracks, I couldn’t shake the bad moment. Tech and Krizz then brought Stevie Stone back and the trio performed Hood Go Crazy, which the crowd loved. Tech then finished up with a speech, saying he will never change, referring to his mask and persona and non-commercial status. He closed the show with his new single, Erbody But Me.

I have been to a lot of hip-hop shows and yes, it is true that there are many derogratory lyrics and stage banter in hip-hop. But these days, I find artists tend to be leaning away from performing their particularly degrading tracks – this year, none of the shows I have been to have featured their most offensive songs. Tech N9ne live was one of the great hip-hop experiences; his talent is undeniable, but his unnecessary harassment of women is unnacceptable. I know that the setup for Areola seems to have worked at a number of his shows, but there’s a less offensive way to do it, and that is not harrassing and humiliating women who just want to enjoy a concert without being objectified or pressured into taking off their clothes.

Image: Supplied