Delivering his 20th studio album and showing no signs of stopping, Tech N9ne's takes an introspective interstellar journey in which he distances himself from Earth in order to get a better look at it.
As he says on the introduction to “Fresh Out!,” Tech N9ne is the most successful independent rapper in the world. Whether you enjoy his music or not, that fact is pretty much indisputable. As a result, Planet feels like Tech fully embracing the idea that he doesn’t really have much to prove to anyone anymore. Now nearly 50 years old, Tech has managed to maintained the lyrical and musical intensity of a man half his age, an intensity that that many people never even reach. Clocking in at just over an hour, Planet is a dense cinematic experience to a world of Tech’s imagining. Rage, loneliness, and a Speedom-mobile are your guides on this Planet as the album’s first words inform you that you've made a successful journey from Earth to Tech’s planet P.Y.U.N.E.
Despite Tech’s traditionally unorthodox practices, the variety of tracks on the album is fairly surprising. Some of the sonics sound incredibly modern while others, like “Ain’t Nobody Want None,” harken back to the b-boy traditions of the 70s and 80s. Some songs find Tech singing about tearing the club up, others explore his battles with addiction and loneliness but all of them display his ability to eviscerate a beat. Over the past twenty or so years Tech N9ne has proven himself capable of holding his own on any production he’s come across and Planet is no exception. Majority of the ambience is handled by in-house producer Seven with additional sounds provided by Mr. Porter, Joseph Bishara, Michael Mani, and Dem Jointz.
After being disappointed by the lackluster reception of his 2016 album The Storm, Tech felt the need to retreat into himself and create a new home of his own. Much of Planet is a boastful beating of the chest for Tech N9ne however the album is also full of deeply personal and introspective lyrics about his recent divorce and his distanced relationship with his children. There’s a great range of emotion shown on the work as Tech jumps from song to song however there’s a sense of paranoia and anger that pervades throughout the entire work. Even the apparent party anthem, “No Reason (The Mosh Pit Song)” is deeper than it appears. On the surface level is simply a pretty decent, if not somewhat basic, trap song with a surprise Machine Gun Kelly verse on it. Upon further listening (and research) it turns out that the song is a direct barb at a newly formed music label, Strange Entertainment, that Tech is suing for copyright infringement.
Given the speed and density of Tech’s lyrics it is periodically difficult to comprehend what he’s saying on first listen. Some of the tracks are so fast and multi-sylabllabic that it’s hard not to see the album as a very determined effort to mainstream hip hop. What is abundantly clear is that Tech is enraged. He’s angry not only with the state of hip-hop but on a grander scale the state of the world we live in. As if it weren’t bad enough that racist cops are targeting black youth but the youth aren’t even making good music any more. “Comfortable” is easily one of the best tracks on the album because of how much fourth-wall-breaking Tech does both his art and the reception to it. He spends the entire song listing the various outlets and people that he feels comfortable speaking to and the places that he feels his music is respected. For Tech there’s no reason to engage with those who don’t try to understand him. Planet epitomizes Tech Nine’s determination to “Never Stray” from the path he’s chosen no matter how hard it may become.
As to be expected from a Strange Music release, there are some incredibly left field tracks on the album. The most out there of which being “Brightfall” and “Red Byers” “Brightfall” hardly sound like a rap record and feels as though it could have come off the “Pick Of Destiny” soundtrack. After first explain his religious upbringing and the cognitive dissonance that arises when studying multiple spiritual practices. Tech looks back on the evils that he’s done in his life and way that darkness manages to worm it’s way back into a life no matter how righteous one has become. “Brightfall” is incredibly ominous and features a wailing chorus accompanied by cascade of dismal sounding organs. These questions about the meaning of evil and perspective are present throughout the album. On “Red Byers” for example,Tech addresses the problems that arise in the hood simply due to the different perspectives that people possess. Suburban cops who’ve never been to bad neighborhoods shouldn’t patrol them because they bring their prejudices with them. Marginalized youth who’ve grown up in terrible environments are violent, guarded, and idolize street heros as a result of the life they know. Both attitudes of both groups are simply a product of their unique development. Problems arise however when these opposing groups meet each other with a lack of empathy in a place of inequality.
Planet is by no means an easy listen and it's not for everyone. However, Strange Music has never really concerned themselves with “everyone,” instead honing in on their diehard supporters and consistently putting out new music. There’s a something somewhat off-putting to the album initially, however it seems to be the very palpable anger and unease that Tech N9ne was feeling during the recording of the work. That being said, when given some time Planet reveals itself to be a multi-layered conceptual journey presented by one of hip-hop’s best rhymesayers.