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The Immersion: Tech N9ne Destroys Rap With “Sickology 101”

Posted by Dharmic X on 01/17/13 | Filed under Top Stories, Opinion, Tech N9ne, The Immersion, Strange Music
The era you grow up in often determines the music you listen to, because ultimately, that is the music you have instant access to. Despite my willingness to do research and my ability to dig deeper than the average sixteen year old, I was influenced by a very small subculture within hip-hop; specifically, the underground rap of the late 2000s. The era where blogs (RefinedHype included) started to coalesce and became major platforms for releases. The era of nearly one hundred new songs and five hundred new “freestyles” dropped every day. The era of 360 deals and secret major label signings.

A lot of older heads that I talk to speak glowingly of earlier eras. Underground hip-hop has evolved over the span of the last twenty years, much in the same way hip-hop as a genre has evolved. I have friends who talk about the days where future legends began to record, where demos and b-sides were collectibles that mattered. Friends like Nathan grew up on Rawkus Records, Def Jux, the Pharcyde, etc; the underground movements that started to get more widespread notoriety in the late 1990s and into the new millennium.

The music was rich, the beats were layered, and rappers of that time period weren’t just rapping for the sake of rapping. There was content that actually stood out. Your favorite emcee at the time was putting out albums or singles, not a weekly series or a monthly mixtape.

But as a product of the Saturation Age, I grew up learning to filter out the real from the fake.

I had been put onto Tech N9ne the previous year, when he released the critically acclaimed Killer album. That said, what made me download “Sickology 101” when the single leaked were the two features, both of whom had appeared on other records together. At this point, Crooked I could do no wrong, even if a solo album didn’t seem remotely in sight, while Chino verses (forget about full songs) were coming sporadically at this point. The minute I saw the lineup, I knew this was a must-listen.

To borrow a phrase from Ice-T, “Sickology 101” is a full-length 3:45 breakdown on “The Art of Rap.” Each verse showcases each emcee’s specific skillset when it comes to ripping the mic. Tech N9ne starts the record off in a mesmerizing, frenetic delivery filled with cadence and harmony variation. To be honest, it took awhile for me to fully appreciate the skill in the verse, simply because I couldn’t comprehend that he was saying, “Switchin' the pattern, bust out that quick midwest chatterin'

Some people hate but it ain't matterin', but the people gather, it's flatterin'” until much later on. To this date, however, I marvel at how he was able to rap on beat while dramatically altering deliveries, not only keeping a steady flow but integrating a melody, telling wack rappers, “If you can’t keep an octave in the pocket, you need to stop it.”

On the other end of the song was Chino, who displayed bar-battering punchlines galore from the jump, warning that “everybody start locking your windows and doors” in a delivery that got my hyped every time I played the song. These weren’t ordinary jabs; these were brutal uppercuts that knocked out rappers. After all, the Puerto Rican Superhero would “rather hear Hannah Montana than half of these rappers on the radio.” The last line obviously stung the most, in typical Chino fashion, and it came in a very timely manner. “I am teaching Sickology, try to follow how every punchline hits like Chris Brown’s fist in the face of Rihanna.” As mindblowing as these lines were, they felt effortless, the way Chino always rhymes.

I’ve always felt that Crooked I’s verse was the best on this song, just because this was the essential thesis on how to rap for any unsuccessful emcees currently out there. Crook broke down cadence, consonance, similes, punchlines, syllables... he pretty much brought out every trick in the book and utilized complete mastery. It was a dominant performance, as the Long Beach native put it, “I change the pronunciation of words, per se, the English language gotta do whatever my verse say.” By the end of this sixteen bar display of artful dominance, I really felt like I was a helpless bystander, after all as Crook concluded, “this song is a war zone, and you listeners in the crossfire.”

“Sickology 101” doesn’t have a particularly deep meaning. The song is a way for each of the three emcees to show what they do best and thereby prove to the rest of the rap community that they are light-years ahead of any foreseeable competition. Was it intelligent hip-hop? Of course. The vocabulary and techniques were crazy. But this wasn’t the “conscious hip-hop” of the Rawkus Records days. This wasn’t the zany rhyming, sound, and structure of Def Jux. This was just raw lyricism, over a beat that honestly didn’t matter (no knock on Wyshmaster, who ironically enough also produced this.

But the power of the music couldn’t be denied in my ears, as I’d walk around school muttering the words in my head or blasting the song on my iPod walking back home. And despite having perhaps a diluted background in hip-hop, compared to my elders who grew up in a richer era of the culture, songs like this instilled a deep passion for the culture in my heart, a passion that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Besides, to claim that this era has been completely devoid of substance would be a complete lie...

See Also: The Immersion: Meet the West Coast’s Most Underrated Emcee, One-2

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