Tech N9ne is known as a lot of different things: a critically-acclaimed hip-hop artist, a live performer with a cult following, the head of an independent record label. And now we know that he was also a victim of sexual assault.
Tech opened up about being sexually assaulted in the seventh grade on his most recent album, Something Else, his 13th studio LP, which was released Tuesday through his Strange Music imprint. The Kansas City, Missouri, rapper has been active for more than two decades, but this is the first time he's publicly acknowledged being assaulted. From Something Else's seventh song, "I Am Not a Saint":
"My brain is so gung ho.
Though the last name is omitted for legal reasons, Tech's rhyme scheme makes it easy enough for friends, family, and associates to derive who his assaulter was. Still, the details aren't relevant. What matters is the fact that a prominent MC was open enough to share something about an issue that's taboo in hip-hop.
Tech N9ne's life has been far from easy. Born Aaron Yates, Tech never met his father, and his mother suffered from both epilepsy and lupus. He would explore abandoned buildings in his neighborhood with his friend Brian Dennis, trying to catch a ghost on film. Dennis was shot dead in 2003. As a professional, Tech has battled drug and alcohol addiction, a divorce, and lackluster album sales. His horrorcore rap style and "King of Darkness" moniker make even more sense knowing that he was a victim of sexual assault.
Only about 10% of sexual assault victims in the United States are male, and male sexual assault victims often suffer from "disrupted reality," heightened anxiety, and a sense of alienation, among other possible effects. But Tech isn't rapping about his sexual assault to garner sympathy or add more shock value to his music. He's trying to raise awareness and help other victims.
"When they see someone they look at on a pedestal going through the same thing, that’s where we connect," he told hip-hop news site HipHopDX.com. "It will make them more comfortable coming out and saying, 'That happened to me, too.' So I’m sure I’m going to hear that after this album .... I think it’s important for people to let loose and let their demons out, because if you keep them in, it will drive you crazy."
Sexual assault is an issue that's seldom articulated so thoughtfully in hip-hop. Everyone from Eminem to Rick Ross has drawn attention for rapping about rape in some capacity, but Tech's confession is one of the first instances of a healthy conversation about the subject. It's the latest of unlikely subjects to be discussed by the genre, in addition to topics like gay marriage and abortion.
The doors are wide open for honesty and admission in hip-hop. If a macho rapper who spits better than just about anyone in the game can come out as a victim of sexual assault, who knows what will follow.