Even Absolute Power won't allow Tech N9ne to party within city limits.

Against the Grain 

Even Absolute Power won't allow Tech N9ne to party within city limits.

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For the Shooters 21 gig, 36 highly visible security guards, including eight of the club's own, paroled the venue. There were three minor disturbances during the seven-hour span, but all were squashed immediately, with guards swarming to the scene within seconds.

It was an environment that might have comforted rap-show-phobic venue owners -- if they'd only waited for O'Guin to finish sketching out the logistics before showing him the door.

"Nobody would have it," O'Guin says. "Nobody will do a rap concert in Kansas City unless you do something at Starlight that's a major event. The Beaumont Club won't have it because of what happened there three years ago. [A shooting incident outside the doors of a Def Comedy Jam show left two dead.] The Uptown Club helped us out with a show, but they won't do any others. Nobody wants to host 'that element.' There's a lot of stereotyping."

One tangible reason some venues shy away from hip-hop shows is the performers' and promoters' disregard for schedules. "They end up having these rosters with twelve fucking acts, and it never runs smooth and always runs over," O'Guin says, citing a Lil' Flip show at the Uptown. The venue pulled the plug at midnight with three acts, national headliner included, left to play.

For this reason, O'Guin didn't invite other local rappers to fill the sizable gap between the time the party gates opened and the time Tech started his spirited set. He considered abbreviated appearances from Calhoun, Kaliko and Young Gunz (who spit serious gangsta fire on Absolute Power's "Gunz Will Bust") but ultimately decided "this night is about Tech, so let's keep that focus."

This evening was also about Tech's diverse fanbase, members of which sported mullets and picked-out Afros, skimpy skirts and stylish suits, eager suburbanite smiles and street-hardened perma-scowls. Many rappers as hard as Tech attract audiences that won't tolerate the likes of candy-sweet crooner Mario for long, but there was room for every musical demographic at this show, including pop fans who danced contentedly to the saccharine fare. Also, most urban artists, if they were for some reason exiled to a Grain Valley-like outpost, might not draw the locals even if they did inspire city-folk to make the road trip. Tech, however, plays almost every obscure Missouri train-stop town, from Cameron to Booneville to Excelsior Springs.

"We do raves out in the woods," O'Guin explains. "We drive down these dirt roads until we find a stage in the forest, and then there's cars for days. It's some Blair Witch-type shit."

At the moment, however, there's little time for haunting unsuspecting campers. The party's over, and Tech must return to the campaign trail, schmoozing with radio stations nationwide and attempting to convince programmers to spin his single, "Slacker." And though there's cause for sales optimism, especially given that Best Buy is giving Absolute Power prominent placement, O'Guin recognizes the pitfalls of the current climate.

"There's a dramatic decline in the business," O'Guin says. "And while we're a great independent story doing major, major shit, we're still independents."

On the road indefinitely for the next few weeks, doing radio station events and spot shows, Tech finds himself in the usual role of the independent artist: opening for established stars, hoping to connect with new listeners and network with upper-tier talent. With his immediate energy, he's well-suited to be a warm-up act, and he loves playing the part. "I want to go first, get it out the way and fuck it up for everybody else," Tech says.

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