It’s a new chapter in the lengthy career of Tech N9ne and his record label Strange Music Inc. For years Tech N9ne has been known for griding out an almost never-ending tour schedule, constantly being on the road directly reaching his fans worldwide and putting on one of Hip-Hop’s most incredible stage shows with his most frequent collaborator, Krizz Kaliko. With Krizz recently deciding to end their 20-year run of sharing stages together and going fully independent, Tech N9ne is now touring for the first time in a long time without his former partner-in-rhyme, leaving fans to speculate on how he’d replace the chemistry he had with Krizz at his live performances. Regardless, the grind never stops and Tech N9ne is now back in Canada for his first time since 2019, performing in 17 cities over 18 days as he makes his way from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.
When it comes to performing in Toronto, Tech N9ne has spent his previous three tours performing in The Phoenix Concert Theatre, and for years before that would perform at The Rockpile whenever he came to town. Along with the constant touring, he’s also been consistently releasing new music, having put out three new albums since his last Canadian tour, his latest being 2021’s ASIN9NE. He’s been growing his fan base with every new album and every tour, and now would be performing in the biggest Toronto venue he’s done yet, The Danforth Music Hall. Between the classic look, great acoustics and that sloping dance floor providing a balance between fans who want to mosh and fans who want to spectate, this iconic venue is a favourite among Toronto concert heads, feeling like a perfect location for a Tech N9ne show.
We got to the show before the venue doors opened and got to hang out with Robbie G, who has of course opened for Tech N9ne on previous tours and was opening at some of the B.C. and Ontario stops on this tour. Having moved out to Kelowna, B.C. in recent years, the Guelph, Ontario native was glad to be back in Toronto where he built much of his fan base, performing at the Danforth for the first time. He would be humbly hanging out and meeting the fans by his merch booth both before and after his performance, selling hats, hoodies, CDs, and copies of his first ever book, Rapper‘s Guide to an Enlightened Mind. Seeing him before the show, you could get a sense of how draining the tour life can be, as he seemed low on energy but was somehow able to turn it up by the time he got on stage.
You’d have no idea how exhausted Robbie G was feeling by the way he performed, as he kicked off his set with “Incredible,” nailing his flow and getting the crowd energized with that hook. He’d continue into some newer songs that were released just before the COVID-19 pandemic that we haven’t been able to see live yet, including his One With The Elements opener “Ready For Me,” and his New Years party anthem, “Ball Drop.” While some in the crowd had been chanting for Tech N9ne before Robbie G hit the stage, everyone was fully with him at this point, as he got the crowd to shout “fuck cancer!” and light up their phones as he dedicated a song to his late stepmother. He’d follow this up with the throwback “Do What You Do” and had the crowd bouncing by the end of his set, as he went topless to perform “Back To The Rap,” jumping down to the barricade to clap hands with the fans up front.
After getting the stage warmed up, Robbie G would humbly thank the crowd before making way for the next artist to rock: King Iso.
King Iso is a relatively newer artist signed to Tech N9ne’s Strange Music label, having featured on some of Tech’s more recent albums and released three of his own through the label, including the less-than-a-week-old 8 P.M. Med Call. While I’m admittedly unfamiliar with much of his own music, I do know one thing that Strange Music artists need to be able to do, and that’s rap really, really fast. Performing for his first time in Toronto, King Iso came out spitting that chopper flow you’d expect, performing some songs off his other 2022 album, Get Well Soon, including “6 AM” and the Rittz & Twista-featuring “Self Destruct.” While these early songs definitely showcased Iso’s speed-rap ability, he would prove to be more than just another fast rapper, as the content in his next few songs is what drew the crowd in.
Many of the songs King Iso performed had a focus on overcoming mental health issues, and between songs he talked about surviving a drug overdose himself. Songs like “I’m Okay” especially hit, as he poured himself into the lyrics and you could feel the message as he rapped “the biggest lie I ever told” in the chorus. Also choosing to go topless, Iso would continue with more tracks off of that Get Well Soon album, getting the crowd to light up their phones again for an emotional performance of “Hypocrite” before closing out his set with the more upbeat “Help Yourself.” He’d thank the crowd and get everyone hyped to see Tech N9ne coming up next, encouraging that “Aah-ooh! Aah-ooh! Aah-ooh!” chant the Technicians know so well.
The Technicians were out and ready to turn up for Tech N9ne, as they were chanting for him constantly until eventually the 2019 track “N9na” dropped, and the anticipation built. While the track would have been an excellent opener for his set, this ended up being a fake-out, as the track just played without Tech coming out to perform it. Instead, Tech N9ne came out to his hometown “KCMO Anthem,” and the crowd got hyped when he hit the stage, all singing along to that chorus “K-C Mo’, Rooollllllllllllll!!!!”
Wearing an all-black outfit along with a black crown and black sunglasses, bringing on those King of Darkness vibes, Tech would continue into “E.B.A.H.” and had the crowd in an aggressive mosh pit by the time he got into “No Reason.” We haven’t had that many mosh-worthy Hip-Hop artists in town since our COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, and so this crowd was ready to go off. Tech N9ne rocked some more mosh pit-worthy tracks, performing classics like “Riot Maker” and “Straight Out The Gate,” getting the fans to sing along to the Serj Tankian chorus on the latter song. With more than twenty albums worth of music to choose from, Tech N9ne would only perform one verse of each song to go along with the hooks, giving himself more time to cover more material. He’d include classics that he can never leave out like “Einstein,” as well as rarities we haven’t seen him rock for a few years like “Bout Ta’ Bubble.”
Being a frequent collaborator and having an endless list of artists he’s worked with, Tech N9ne speculated with the fans on who he should “catch” next, dropping names like Jay-Z and J. Cole as he performed “Who Do I Catch.” He’d keep it in 2011 for a few songs, following up with singles like “Unfair” and “He’s A Mental Giant” before getting into a familiar “Choppers” routine. While Tech N9ne’s dance routines to go with his raps were still on point, his choreography with Krizz Kaliko for these songs was missed, as he did the choruses to “Midwest Choppers” Part 1 and 2, followed by his verses from “Worldwide Choppers” and “Speedom (WWC2).” Being used to performing these songs with Krizz Kaliko also rocking his verses and singing the hooks, Tech N9ne would acknowledge Krizz’ absence, shouting him out along with Eminem, who features on the latter track.
By now there were plenty of articles of clothing thrown on stage. Guys were throwing sweaters and t-shirts on stage hoping for an autograph, and ladies were tossing their bras at Tech N9ne. With Tech having said in the past that having bras thrown on stage is an affirmation of putting on a great performance, Tech decided to invite a couple ladies from the crowd to join him on stage. He’d set up a mic stand and stay in one place as he rapped his guest verse on NF’s “Trust,” the ladies dancing around him with one dropping to do the splits as the heavy bass in the beat dropped. After killing that monster verse, not distracted at all by the sexiness surrounding him, Tech N9ne abruptly went backstage and gave the ladies a chance to find their place back in the crowd.
With Halloween less than a month away, Tech N9ne had a fitting horror-themed interlude before he returned to the stage, amplifying those King of Darkness vibes. The interlude turned into that gothic intro to the K.O.D. deep album cut, “Killing You,” and Tech graced the stage again while wearing a clown mask and rapping into a megaphone. Having been going to Tech N9ne concerts for years, this was my first time seeing this track performed, and the way he rapped through the megaphone into the mic was an incredible way of recreating the vocal effect and unique energy from that song. He got the crowd bouncing to the beat as he did some call-and-response in place of the second verse of “Killing You,” ending the track by shouting into the mic “I am the motherfucking clown, bitch!!!!”
Tech N9ne would keep up the Halloween theme by performing some of his darker tracks, doing the full trilogy of “Psycho Bitch” Parts 1-3, and got the crowd singing along to another K.O.D. favourite, “Blackened The Sun.” Wearing the clown mask the entire time, Tech N9ne kept it in 2009, taking a seat in a chair placed on stage to perform “Red Nose,” the fans still singing along with him to every word of the emotional track. After killing his gothic clown segment, Tech N9ne would take another short break backstage, removing all his masks and accessories to return to the stage with his face fully revealed. As he’d put it, it was time to enter the “G-Zone.”
The next segment of Tech N9ne’s performance was full-on party mode. He told the crowd he’d be doing hit after hit, and that’s exactly what went down as he ran through a medley of hooks to his party tracks, setting it off with “Let’s Get Fucked Up.” The hits would mostly consist of throwbacks, including several tracks off of his 2001 album, Anghellic, like “It’s Alive,” “This Ring,” and “Twisted.” There would be a bit of a scuffle involving some ladies in the crowd, and Tech N9ne would pause the show to check with security that all was good, reminding the crowd we were all there for a good time. Not letting any of that negative energy take over his show, Tech would then dedicate the next couple songs to the ladies in the house, teasing the chorus from “Areola” as a joke before performing the sexually explicit “That Box.” After doing one for the ladies, Tech would bring it back to the fellas, performing a classic fan favourite with “Dysfunctional,” although the presence of Krizz Kaliko was again missed on this song.
Fans continued to throw items on stage for Tech N9ne to autograph throughout his set, although he didn’t have a pen to sign anything with. There were sweaters, t-shirts, CDs and even a chain tossed on stage, Tech reminding the crowd every time that he didn’t have anything to sign with and tossing the items back into the crowd. This would continue between nearly every song as Tech pushed through his set, continuing on with 2019’s reflective yet braggadocios “Like I Ain’t,” and getting into some of his best-selling hits. Doing a segment of strictly gold and platinum-selling hits, or newer singles that are striving for those plaques, Tech would do a medley that included the classic “Caribou Lou,” followed by “Er’body But Me.” With clothing continuing to be tossed on stage by fans, Tech paused again between songs and picked one up that had the image of someone named Chris who had passed away, which triggered him to hang the shirt over one of his monitors and dedicate the next song the fallen homie.
The next song would be another gold-certified hit that fit the mood, “Fragile.” Tech N9ne got the crowd to help him sing the mellow vocals by Wrekonize and Kendall Morgan before he went in on his verse. He’d surprise the crowd by continuing the song and letting Kendrick Lamar’s verse play, bigging up K-Dot as he adlibbed the guest verse and got that extra energy from the crowd. Tech would continue this theme of bigging up his famous collaborators, next performing the platinum-certified “Hood Go Crazy” to get everyone dancing again and similarly letting 2 Chainz’ verse play as he bigged him up. Another fan tossed some more gear on stage, this time including a marker for Tech to sign it with, and Tech took some time to sign several items that were left lying on stage for him to autograph.
With time running out, Tech N9ne decided to give the crowd a preview of some new music. He announced that he was working on his next album called Bliss and performed a new song off of that upcoming album called “They Know Me,” featuring fellow Kansas City rapper The Popper, who happened to be celebrating his birthday. Tech N9ne brought him out and they both killed their verses, getting the crowd to all chant along to the chorus despite many only hearing the song for the first time. After giving The Popper a quick birthday shoutout, Tech N9ne would perform one last song to close out the show, bringing back King Iso to perform their single off of his ASIN9NE album, “Face Off.” The crowd got hyped one more time as both emcees rocked their verses, turning all the way up when that Krizz Kaliko chorus hit, and they got an extra burst of energy as they let Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s verse play, this song of course being the actor’s rapping debut.
After getting a ton of energy from the crowd, Tech N9ne would give the fans one last salute before ending the show, performing his quick “Stamina” interlude before thanking everyone and telling them to get home safe.
Overall, this was one of the most energetic concerts of the year. Maybe it was from being near the front row for once, or the lack of smaller venue shows having that mosh pit energy for the past couple years during COVID, but this felt like the most hyped Tech N9ne crowd I’ve ever seen. The crowd was turned up the entire time, knowing all the chants, filling in the lyrics and singing along to all the hooks. There was crowd surfing, mosh pits, fans wearing face paint, and a never-ending barrage of merch and clothing being thrown on stage. While Krizz Kaliko was still missed in his absence, Tech N9ne was still able to crank the energy in the building all the same, as he fed off of the crowd’s excitement for his performance and gave the fans a deep dive through his extensive discography. My only gripe was wanting to see Tech N9ne take more advantage of King Iso being in the building and perform more of their collabs together like “Bad Juju,” “I Don’t Fit,” or even the brand-new “R.A.P.,” but it was still a dope setlist that took us through the years, and we at least got that big finale with “Face Off.”
Tech N9ne continues his tour through Ontario with shows in London, Waterloo and Ottawa this week before heading to Nova Scotia and Quebec. A special thank you to Embrace Presents, Live Nation, and R-Evolution Media for putting this tour together and letting me review this show.
Check out this playlist of Tech N9ne concert videos from all the times I’ve seen him over the years.
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