The Kansas City rapper is alive and well, and determined to 'keep pumping light'

According to numerologists, nine is a sign of completion. As of 2019, Tech N9ne, whose moniker represents “the complete technique of rhyme,” has a long list of accomplishments. His pioneering, independent hip-hop label, Strange Music, just turned 20. He recently released his 21st album, N9NA. And his Bou Lou craft beer was launched nationwide this year.

But the Kansas City rapper is far from being finished.

“I still have places I've never been,” said Tech N9ne, who will visit Newport Music Hall on Wednesday, May 29, as part of his “It Goes Up” tour. “I've never been to Japan. I've never been to China. I've never been to Africa. … I feel like I have to keep showing out until I get my music to everyone.”

The fans who have heard N9NA are calling it one of his best; his rapid-fire flow creates an infectious energy over contemporary trap beats — even as the content has him reflecting on the past.

“Way back in '99, homies who saw me called me homo,” he raps on “Lord of Weird.” “I was on a mission blacks feared 20 years ago but now they love it. Isn't that weird?”

“People weren't ready,” Tech N9ne said of his unique style, which included everything from red hair to imagery that caused some to speculate he might worship the devil. “Because I made it, everybody sees that you can do something different and do it independent and still make money.”

But the success has come with great sacrifice; On “I'm Sorry,” the emcee addresses relationships with his children, siblings and other family that have been neglected over the years.

“[It] was hard for me to write, but it needed to be said to the people that I love,” he said.

His loved ones and fans also had a scare when they saw headlines proclaiming the death of “Tech 9,” mistaking the Philly battle rapper for the Strange Music co-founder.

“I was flying from Canada back to the U.S. and I couldn't respond to people,” Tech N9ne said. “As soon as I landed … my phone just went berserk.”

And people continued to leave “rest in peace” messages on his Instagram account, well after the confusion should have cleared.

“I'm like, ‘But I'm still posting, what do you mean?'” he said. “Yes, I do have a social media team, but they cannot walk and show their shoes that they're walking in, in real time. … I say, ‘I will [rest in peace] tonight, and I'll wake up tomorrow and then I'll rest in peace again the next day.'”

The experience has allowed Tech N9ne a brief window into what it would be like to make the ultimate completion of life.

“I can't see not breathing, so that was weird for me,” he said. “I'm doing everything I can to keep myself healthy. … And keep smiling and keep pumping light. All I want to pump is light in a dark world.”