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Strange Music for the masses

Master of the underground hip hop realm Tech N9ne heads into the darkness on K.O.D.

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Who: Tech N9ne

When: Monday, March 22, 9 p.m.

Where: Garfinkel's

Cost: $24 in advance at Clubzone.com

Anyone who caught the Rock the Bells all-day hip hop show at Deer Lake Park last summer will probably remember Tech N9ne as the upbeat entertainer that kept the sun-drenched crowds enthralled with party bangin' beats and raucous refrains of "Show your titties, baby! Show your titties, baby!"

So his fans will be forgiven, then, for being a bit confused by the overwhelmingly dark, almost creepy contents, of his latest album, K.O.D .

Tech N9ne (also known as Aaron Dontez Yates) has been ruling the underground realm of hip hop for almost 25 years. Strangely enough, while he's clearly developed a very loyal fan base over his time in the industry (after K.O.D.'s first week on shelves, it came in #1 Indie Album, #2 Rap Album, #14 in Top 200 on the Billboard charts) he's shied away from the mainstream world of urban hip hop.

"That's how it worked out because they didn't want to take chances with me, baby!" he said during a recent interview. "We'd go out knocking on doors at MTV at the time, and I didn't have a story, so nobody wants nobody without a story. So we built our story up."

Though he definitely had stage presence and character, Tech was hard to market to major labels.

"I know I was a black guy with red hair, but that was something they didn't know what to do with! 'Where do we put him? Is it alternative? Is that hardcore? Is it gangster? Yeah. It's a little bit of gangster, its a little bit of rock and roll...'" he trailed off with a laugh.

"They couldn't label me, so it was hard to get them to open the door for me like they are now."

So in 1999, fed up with "bull" from the big labels, he broke off on his own, forming the independent label, Strange Music, with Travis O'Guin.

"This is what it's all about after two ballsy people get together," he reflected. "We create strange music and the things they didn't know how to do, we knew how to do it and we knew that we could do it. It's going like a forest fire because we did take a chance, and that's a problem I have with a lot of major labels: they don't want to take a chance with new music because with new music and new, innovative stuff, you could possibly go down."

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