Hardcore rap workhorse Tech N9ne continues his prolific run with his 11th solo studio album -- and 17th overall -- The Storm. After nearly two decades in the game, he's audibly weary from his years as an independent artist. Despite a loyal fan base of "Technicians" and his success as Strange Music label head, the mainstream remains uncracked. Much of that frustration seeps into The Storm, with a darkness cloaking everything. Serving as a spiritual sequel to his 1999 debut, The Storm is split into three parts, each one delving into a different part of Tech's psyche. "Kingdom" is the hardest-hitting, featuring passionate and speedy bars, hefty bass boom, and a couple club bangers. Tech's veteran status keeps each boast afloat, while the muscular beats bolster each track's power, especially on "Erbody But Me." Even though Tech wears the crown, Worcester, Massachusetts rapper Joyner Lucas and mixtape wunderkind Logic steal the show on "Sriracha," which joins Beyoncé's "Formation" as one of 2016's best odes to hot sauce. The track is fiery indeed, as Lucas blazes through his verse at light speed, challenging Tech's own verbal wizardry. Like his past work, this effort once again crosses genre lines, with one leg remaining in the darker corners of the hip-hop world and the other firmly planted in the territory occupied by his rock fans. This is the point where Tech ventures into the next realm with "Clown Town." Tapping into his Juggalo side, Tech recruits Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis for a madcap ride on the goth metal carousel of "Starting to Turn." Singer/songwriter Kate Rose returns for another collaboration on the vulnerable, sax-laden "Hold on Me." Outlaw country twang infuses the horrorcore "Poisoning the Well," a sharp look into the political landscape of 2016 that gives a shout-out to Flint, Michigan. On the final third of the triptych, "G. Zone," Tech's street side offers some of the most inspired nuggets on The Storm. Aside from the straightforward "Buss Serves" -- which rides a window-rattling Too $hort sample -- "G. Zone" features left-field guests Boyz II Men, resurrecting their sexed-up 1991 single "Uhh Ahh" on "Buddha," and Gary Clark, Jr., who unleashes a face-melting solo on "No Gun Control." Floetry's Marsha Ambrosius elevates "Anywhere" with shimmering lightness as Tech sprints his way through verse after verse. Throughout the album, his bars are impressive, but toward the end of The Storm, his vulnerability and brutal honesty prove he's hungry and determined as ever. "The Needle" stands out for its uncomfortably frank examination of Tech's career, self-doubt, and his future in the game. Reflective and conflicted, it reaffirms how he's managed to last this long: through the support of his fans. Wherever he goes after The Storm, this is a testament to Tech's commitment to his craft.
The Storm Review
by Neil Z. Yeung