Whenever a recording artist forges new ground, there is always a risk. When Tech N9ne added horrorcore to the sonic lexicon during the 1990s, he blazed a trail. Who knew whether anyone would care?
But it worked out for the Kansas City native, who will perform Friday at the Cotillion. Tech N9ne, aka Aaron Dontez Yates, proved to be ahead of his time. Back in the days when major labels ruled the landscape like bloated dinosaurs, Yates was in full do-it-yourself mode. Tech N9ne albums have always been released by Yates’ label Strange Music. The charismatic rapper has become an indie hip-hop star.
His work isn’t mainstream but Yates is supported by a cult of fans. “The great thing about what I do is that I have autonomy,” Yates said. “I spend my own money. I get to decide what I want to do.”
That’s another reason Yates was ahead of his time 20 years ago. There is a price to pay when you’re banked by corporations. Many major-label artists, even some of the most venerable, follow the power of suggestion. Dig up a generation-old clip of Aerosmith and A&R man John David Kalodner telling the once-mighty band how to record a power ballad.
“You have to deal with all that crap when you’re part of the machine,” Yates said. “I’m proud that I have never been in that world. We built our world, and the object is just to make the best music possible for the people.”
Just a few spins of Yates work screams that he is a maverick who answers to no one but himself. Check out his dynamic 2013 release, the aptly titled “Something Else” which features some intense horror rap, a children’s choir, System of a Down guitarist Serj Tankian and the Doors’ Robbie Krieger, John Densmore and the now late Ray Manzarek.
“When I was a kid, it wasn’t just about R&B,” Yates said. “I listened to rock and roll and I loved it. I especially loved the Doors. If you open yourself up to all styles of music, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get into all kinds of music.”
The lyrics from Yates’ 2015 release, “Special Effects,” have a Doors-esque connection. His angst-ridden lyrics are deep and clever ala Doors late frontman Jim Morrison. The tunes are powerful, hedonistic and at times menacing. It’s a welcome change up from the mannered, predictable music that dominates radio.
“It’s about doing what you want to do,” Yates said. “You can’t worry about anything else.”
Yates thinks he’s better since he’s cleaned up. “I stopped doing drugs,” Yates said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything. I don’t do acid or anything anymore. I think my lyrics are better and I think I’m better right now. I’m in a really good place now.”
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 28. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg, Wichita
Opening act: Krizz Kalico, Ritz, Mayday, Stevie Stone, Ces Cru and Big Boyz
Tickets: $31.50 in advance, $35 day of show
Information: 316-722-4201, www.thecotillion.com