Thereâ€™s one thing you cannot deny about King Tech: He knows his shit. Nationally recognized as one half of the notable radio twosome, Sway & King Tech, the Oakland-bred DJâ€”or the King of Techniques, as heâ€™s known around the wayâ€”has become something of an elder statesman in the hip hop community. Heâ€™s seen it all: the prolific rise and untimely deaths of 2pac and the Notorious B.I.G., the premeditated emergence of Ja Rule, and the birth of copycat rap. And amidst it all? Tech is still Tech.
Format caught up with the legendary DJ to talk about what heâ€™s been up to. Along with Sway, Techâ€™s partnered with urSession.com to host a 100K fan-driven emcee battle that gives emerging rappers a chance to showcase their lyrical pedigree. Aside from bragging rights, the winner receives $5,000 cash and exclusive airtime on â€œThe Wake Up Show.â€ Listen up; you might just learn a thing or two.
â€œYou had to get on â€˜The Wake Up Showâ€™ to get that emcee stamp.â€
Format: What was is like growing up in the Bay?
King Tech: Growing up in the Bay was great, man. You know, I think it has more upsides than downsides. I know that when we came to L.A. there was definitely that view that L.A. dudes do not like Bay area guys, and Bay area guys do not like L.A. dudes. I donâ€™t know why that was, exactly. We heard that when we came out here in 1994, but I think it was a matter of like three of four weeks into â€œThe Wake Up Showâ€ and we had so many L.A. cats knocking on our doors. And about four to six weeks into it everybody was like, ‘These cats are cool, theyâ€™re just some straight up hip hop heads and theyâ€™re going to change the game up out here.’
Itâ€™s ironic when I talk to L.A. cats about poppinâ€™ and breakinâ€™ and all that era; they donâ€™t know too much about Bay area history, man. Then when you start schoolinâ€™ them on it like, â€˜this guy was better than this guy,â€™ theyâ€™re like, â€˜Nah, really?â€™ Most of the cats, though, I just think they donâ€™t know. The Bay just has a ridiculous history, man. You know, we put â€œThe Wake Up Showâ€ together out there, and other cats came out of the Bay, obviously Digital Underground, Too Short, of course probably the greatest rapper of all time, 2pac. And then you had the breakinâ€™ scene, which was huge. You know, I think the Bay deserves way more props than it gets, but it is what it is.
Format: Going off what you mentioned, how people said â€˜You were going to change the gameâ€™ when you first came to L.A.â€”do you think youâ€™ve change the game? And not just in hip hop, but in the community in general?
King Tech: You know, I donâ€™t know man. I do know at the time, in â€˜94, L.A. was starving for some real hip hop. And it couldâ€™ve been us, Iâ€™m not saying we were the only dudes that loved hip hop, but by the way we worked in the Bay, we had put ourselves in a position to voice our opinion and get it done. We had history and credentials behind us. Sway and I, we werenâ€™t really in radio, we were putting out our own records at the timeâ€”it was just us, Too Short and Digital Underground. At that time, you couldnâ€™t bite anything. If you bit anything in the late eighties you were just whack out-the-gate. It wasnâ€™t like now, where this dude sounds like this dude, who sounds like this dude who hasnâ€™t put out an album, but you listen to this dude because youâ€™re waiting on your other dude to come out. Itâ€™s stupid. It doesnâ€™t make sense. At that time, you had to really be original.
I donâ€™t know man- I just feel like everything in hip hop right now is getting reused. But at that time, you just had to be super original in everything you did. Like if there is already a guy named Glasses Malone [an up-and-coming L.A. rapper] you canâ€™t be Glasses Malone. You canâ€™t be Glasses anything. But now, I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if there was a Glasses Malone somewhere in Utah. But to go back to what you asked, we opened the doors and just showed so much love to everybody. We opened the doors so everybody could rap. We found Rass Kass, we found Xzibit, we just started finding dudes through battles and then all of a sudden it was like Whoa!
Format: You guys have interviewed a lot of people, like you said, Rass Kass and Xzibit, to Pac and Biggieâ€”what is one of your more memorable moments from the show?
King Tech: I would have to say the last interview with Biggie right before he passed away. I remember that night because we had become friends with Biggie over time and we were always involved in his West-Coast career. Every time he came out here, he was like â€œI gotta go see Sway and Tech, those are my people.â€ And we didnâ€™t really believe we were his friends until we went to New York for The Source Awards, where all that stuff jumped off with Suge Knight and Death Row and all that. But me and a friend of mine broke out to a restaurant, because we were like, â€˜it was too much chaos [at the show].â€™ Somebody tapped me on the shoulder, and it was Biggie. He was like, â€œYo, I want you to meet my wife,â€ and we were like uhhh, alright. It was Faith [Evans] and she had her head down like, â€˜Iâ€™m trying to eat and not trying to fuck with yâ€™all.â€™ [Biggie] was kind of like, â€œNo, these are my real friends from the West Coast.â€ And I was like, â€œWow.â€ We had really become friends. And at that time, there werenâ€™t that many other rap shows out there; you had to get on â€œThe Wake Up Showâ€ to get that emcee stamp, especially for the West Coast.
You had Bobbito and a few other local shows, but if you came out here, you could do a bunch of radio, but if you didnâ€™t do â€œThe Wake Up Showâ€ you wouldnâ€™t get your full props when you left. Labels used to tell artists that this is when you had to be a real emcee. So the night Biggie was on, the last night, Pac had passed away and I felt in my heart the way Biggie was acting was that, â€˜If Pac was gone, I could be this new don/ boss dude.â€™ His rhymes seemed like they were all going toward Pac, even if they werenâ€™t. And even when heâ€™s freestylinâ€™ you could hear him, when he took a gasp of air, I thought to myself, â€˜this dude just committed verbal suicide.â€™ Heâ€™s on L.A. radio, and every rhyme seems like heâ€™s dissing Pac; I looked at Sway like, â€˜what is this cat doing?â€™ And it was, he got killed a week later. That was how the game was back then, though. I do think B.I.G. is to blame, but Puffy is a little bit to blame also. Being an executive, you know being out here you had to have super-duper security back then. I think that those two individuals dying changed the rap game forever. Itâ€™s never going to be the sameâ€”ever.
If you think about it, there could have been nobody looking like Pac, with the rag in the front knot and all that. It could have been no Ja Rule if Pac was alive. It could have been no DMX; it could have been no 50 Cent. Everybody just piggy backed off what Pac was doing.
Format: There really could have been no Jay-Z either, or at least to the enormity heâ€™s reached.
King Tech: Jay-Z was rapping at the time. He would have been around; he just wouldnâ€™t have become god. He wouldnâ€™t, all of a sudden, been thrust into the [the role of] next dude. If those cats were still around, they could have had at least another ten-year run. But you never know, man.
Format: So whatâ€™s up with this MC contest â€œThe Wake Up Showâ€ is doing with urSession.com?
King Tech: This contest with â€œThe Wake Up Showâ€ is taking up more time than people think. It wasnâ€™t just something we slapped together in a few weeks. This has taken almost two years out of our lives. In the last eight months weâ€™ve really focusing on this contest. We just had our top 20 come to the studio last week. Crooked I came in and did an interview and was kind of schoolinâ€™ dudes on the game, because there were a lot of young cats in there. Crook has been through so many ups and downs; heâ€™s like a damn-near rap veteran of the game. He just broke it down, like what happened with him and how he did it.
Format: Can you get into some of the specifics of the contest?
King Tech: Itâ€™s pretty easy man; we made the simplest system [possible]. We went and got 22 of the hottest producers that we could get our hands on, and I know 99 percent of these cats real well. These dudes charge anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000 a track. So we estimated and we actually got over a quarter-million dollars worth of beats. So we called it the 100K battle and weâ€™re giving away $100,000 worth of beats. Thereâ€™s a $5,000 cash prize and the winner gets to come on â€œThe Wake Up Showâ€ and just murder it. The whole show will be about him. And weâ€™re going to help guide the dude through his career and help him get a deal and all that stuff. All you got to do is go to the site, click on â€œ100K Battle,â€ all the beats pop up and you just do what you gotta do.