Tech N9ne answers the phone. He's somewhere in Canada, tripped up on time zones, with a fitness trainer named Jaws.
"I'm in the middle of a workout right now," N9ne says. "That's why I'm breathing hard."
He isn't breathing that hard. How could he? The machine-gun-fast rapper, who has collaborated with everybody from Red Man to Rob Zombie, has world-famous breath control. N9ne confesses he took a cruise in July and his belly grew, so he's trying to burn it off. Lucky for him, he says, it's working.
Jaws gives N9ne, Stevie Stone and Jeffrey "Frizz", two other artists on the Strange Music Canadian tour, physical obstacles they have to complete every day. Rapper Krizz Kalliko, who's also on the tour, isn't working out because he's on a low-carb Keto diet and doesn't have the energy to train, says N9ne.
We're speaking in advance of his latest album-release show, at Red Rocks, today, October 13. The new record is a collaboration between Strange Music artists, called Strange Reign, a followup to the label's album Dominion.
After finishing Dominion, "the synergy was so wonderful between all our artists that we just kept recording music," N9ne says. Every time the label's producer, Seven, sent out beats, the musicians would say, 'Let's just do another one. Let's just do another one.'" Originally, the project was going to be titled Dominion: Part II, "but we didn't want confusion, so we just gave it its own name, Strange Reign. It's time to reign supreme once again, you know?"
Aaron Dontez Yates, aka N9ne, whose fan base spans hip-hop, rock, metal, EDM and beyond, has built a loyal following by being unafraid to share raw emotions in his songs.
"I've tapped into emotions, because that's what we all have in common even though we're different: different races, different religious beliefs, different cultural differences," he says. "One thing we have in common is emotion. Everybody has happiness. Everybody has sadness. Everybody has madness. Everybody has confusion. I tapped into that. I gave people my life, my life story, whether it be bad or good."
He has written about depression in "Suicide Letters," a song that helped his fans deal with self-destructive thoughts. And many have connected with his candor about his grief around his mother's death.
But his music doesn't begin and end with suffering.
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"That don't mean I don't party in the midst of it," he says. "We have to party the pain away, so I wrote a song, 'Party the Pain Away,' and people connect."
At meet-and-greets and on social media, N9ne's fans reach out to him, asking for his support and thanking him for writing music that has saved them.
"People come to the meet-and-greets, like, 'My mom...my dad...my brother just killed himself,'" he notes. "I'm my fans' psychiatrist. I wanted to be a psychiatrist before I did music, when I was in school. I ended up getting both of my wishes: I'm my fans' psychiatrist, and I'm a famous rapper."
Tech N9ne, 6 p.m. Friday, October 13, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison, $40.