Hi-Tek Producer Hi-Tek, known for his work with Talib Kweli as Reflection Eternal and on Rawkus Records, is back with his latest edition to his Hi Teknology installment. He give a hot exclusive interview with WHO?MAG ranging from working with Dr. Dre, working with G-Unit, his situation with Babygrande, and about his latest album. Check this out!!!
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the new album Hi Teknology 3? Hi-Tek: It’s in stores now. Basically, it’s the third installment of my Hi Teknology series. There are a lot of up and coming artists on this well. It was very experimental for me and exciting.
WHO?MAG: I noticed on the album you keep the big names to a minimum. Why? Hi-Tek: There were a couple of reasons. Last album, I had a lot of established artists on my album and I wanted to switch it up on this one. At the same time, I wanted to stay away from clearing. The industry on the business side of things has really gone crazy. I got into a little trouble with Interscope last time because I had too many Interscope artists on my album and I wanted to make it exciting and not use established artists. I just used up and coming artists that I felt good about.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Ghostface, Young Buck, and the Outlawz? Hi-Tek: That’s family right there! I’ve been working with them guys for a while. We rub shoulders and break bread for a while. Young Buck and I have the same management. I also produced stuff for G Unit and 50 Cent, so it’s like family. With Ghostface, I’ve been doing stuff with for a while. The beats are so much that they can’t say “nah I’m not going to rap on that beat!”
WHO?MAG: Of the three installments, which is your favorite and why? Hi-Tek: I would say the first one because I was hungry going into it. It’s always exciting when you don’t know what the future is. I didn’t know I was going to be at this point in my career. The first one was a real big accomplishment just to get the album done because that wasn’t even the plan to do the album. It just happened that way. I got a nice number one hit off the record which was a nice hometown flavor too. I was really ground breaking. I was more excited with the first one I would say.
WHO?MAG: I know you’re under Sha Money XL’s management. How did you hook up with him and how did you end up producing for G Unit? Hi-Tek: I know Sha Money for a while. It was basically I fired my management and I was looking for new management. I reached out to Sha Money for advice every once in a while. I’ve known him since I started going to NY. I reached out him and he was down. Even though I was in a bad position, he came in and helped me out. I hooked up with G Unit through [Dr.] Dre. When I hooked up with Dre, one of his projects was G Unit, 50 Cent, and anything else that was under the Aftermath umbrella.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Dr. Dre? Hi-Tek: I hooked up with Dre through a guy named Mark Brown. I think I was submitting some music for WC. WC was working on an album some how. They played the beat that I gave to WC. Dr. Dre was producing some stuff for WC too. Somehow, Dre heard the beat and wanted more from me and the rest is history.
WHO?MAG: How is your production process when you’re in the studio? Hi-Tek: Ah man! I go off of pure vibe on how I’m feeling that day. I’m always thinking in the mode of looking for sounds or something more interesting to the ear or something different. I’m trying to make that ground breaking music. Something that’s going to pop to the next level. I just go the studio and vibe out playing some drums. Trying to play around with the music and let it come to me. There’s no really set formula.
WHO?MAG: Have you ever had any issues with sample clearance? Hi-Tek: Oh yeah! During my whole career it comes with the territory. What I didn’t clear it came back and haunted me. (laughs) Maybe 3 or 4 years later which was the song I produced called “Move Something” from the Reflection Eternal album. There was a sample I used I didn’t think it really had to be cleared. Dude called personally to the record label and hawked us down to get his money.
WHO?MAG: How was the hip-hop scene in Cincinnati growing up and now a days? Hi-Tek: Growing up it was real live! I was into break dancing and whole hip-hop scene real strong. I was like 7 when I was really introduced to hip-hop. Just a lot of real b-boys, rappers, producers, and beat makers. Over the years when crack hit, it seemed like the city kind of died. I think crack hit Cincinnati like in ’89. Ever since 89, everything started going down. It’s different man. Everything is kind of scattered. Everybody was kind of doing their own thing and actually guys got the confidence as far as the business. Like it’s come together. We’ve been getting a lot of support from the radio. Getting their independent labels and their bread where it’s supposed to be. As far as a hip-hop scene, I don’t really think we have a hip-hop scene. I think hip-hop is just different as a whole. It ain’t like it used to be, but it’s definitely different.
WHO?MAG: How did the song 1999 come about and the production process behind it? Hi-Tek: At the time, I was staying in my crib, which was a one-bedroom apartment. I just had the MPC, no furniture. I had the MPC, turntable, and some records. Basically, I worked on beats almost everyday. At the time, I started getting into conceptual beats. I guess that’s what you would call production. Something where the song is basically done and all you need is the rapper on it. I came up with the concept 1999. The thing about going into the new millennium was real strong at the time and what was going to happen. There was a lot of energy put behind that beat and that whole concept. I played it for Common and I didn’t know. I was kind of unsure about a lot of artists at the time, but we were good friends through the Black Star project. I played it for him and he fell in love with it. I think what happened was he had a single deal with Rawkus and he wanted me to the b-side. He was loving it and he wanted to get Sadat X on it. Sadat flew me to NY and put it down. It was a wrap.
WHO?MAG: I know you’re working with Dr. Dre on Detox. Can you talk about that? Hi-Tek: It’s simple, Dre allowed me to do what I wanted to do which was go to the studio and come up with fresh ideas and hit people with some music that is going to be ground breaking. The main thing is for him to give me a slot, a cat like myself a chance, I got to come with some hot sh*t. The reason why he’s even giving me a slot is because I can come with the sh*t and I’ve proven myself. He basically allowed me to do what I needed to do in the studio. I just try to submit the best music to him because at the end of the day, he’s the only one who has Detox in his head as far as what it’s going to really sound like and when he’s going to put the cap on it. I’m just trying to come with some sh*t.
WHO?MAG: How is it working with Dre in the studio? Hi-Tek: It’s intense! Dre is just a legendary cat and at the end of the day, he just brings a lot of energy. He’s a genius. You can tell by his approach to music and his ideas. He’s a real producer man, like the Quincy Jones of hip-hop.
WHO?MAG: I want to you clear the rumor. Does Dr. Dre really do his own beats still? Hi-Tek: Dre is a producer. A lot of people get production confused with just being a beat maker. Dre is an all around producer. A lot of cats are just programmers they don’t necessarily produce. You can punch up on some drums and program some drums and kick some snares and make a little beat, but that is not producing. Dre, James Brown, Quincy Jones, and George Clinton are some of the best producers ever! Didn’t even have to touch an instrument to call themselves producers. That’s the thing that people get it confused. You’re the conductor and you tell this person to play this and play that. Basically, now a days it’s not as detailed as far as band, because now everybody got computers and somebody can make a foundation, which is a beat, but that’s not a producer. The producer is one who takes it to the next level and finalizes the song. That’s what Dre is and he’s a programmer. He knows how to touch that MPC. He can play the piano. He’s an all around incredible producer. That’s where people get it confused. Like if somebody came up with a scrap beat, that doesn’t mean that they’re a producer.
WHO?MAG: What are your thoughts on downloading, bootlegging, and the decline of CD sales in general? Hi-Tek: I just hate it. It’s very depressing and it’s taking the excitement out of hip-hop. There’s no anticipation to the music. I think technology is really killing the music.
WHO?MAG: Equipment-wise what do you use? Hi-Tek: I use the MPC, Pro Tools, and I use a lot of modules, outboard gear. From analog equipment like Wurlitzers and Moogs and digital keyboards like Motifs and Tritons. Not the same thing everybody else uses. I have the MPC3000.
WHO?MAG: Can you talk about the new Reflection Eternal album you’re working on? Hi-Tek: Yeah! Basically, we’re in the gym training, working on the album. It’s fresh right now. We’re trying to get the vibe back. We’re both excited about working. We’re trying to get the business hashed out and really get down to business with the whole album, just trying to come up with a good vibe and some good songs.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Babygrande records? Hi-Tek: Some idiot hooked me up with them man! Basically, I was doing a deal with direct with Koch. Then this idiot came in and told me about this guy named Chuck [Wilson, owner of Babygrande records] over here and wanted to do the album and said it was better place.
WHO?MAG: Any plans to hook with any other Babygrande artists such as GZA or Jedi Mind Tricks? Hi-Tek: Nah, not really I don’t even know them cats. If it was brought to the table, maybe I would work with them, or ran into them, or spoke music. I don’t really think that that label is really into bringing their artists together and really doing what labels would do like real labels would do, like legendary labels like Motown. I just think they are in it for the money.
WHO?MAG: Talk about the Mood album you produced back in 1998? Hi-Tek: Those were the real fun days, just me being me working hard having a lot of beats and guys around me. The Mood guys were some hard working dudes. I always took trips and kept thing exciting. I didn’t really grow up with them cats. We were all from different hoods. The reason why I even hooked up with them was because they kept the music exciting. They were always into something and taking trips back and forth to NY. Staying into the music. I needed an outlet for the beats I was making. We hooked up and I basically got them their deal with TVT. By producing for them and giving them some quality music, that was like my start to the whole industry. That was like the first time I got my check for a beat. It was crazy how it all started. Just working with them guys was really exciting. Legendary more than I would have even thought. Now that I look back, it’s rare that you find people that are just into the music. That’s how everything got started. The Mood cats are really scattered. I’m the only one who kept it towards going. Just trying to make the right moves. I think them cats made a lot of bad business decisions, which kind of tore them apart.
WHO?MAG: What is your fondest memory thinking back when you were on Rawkus Records? Hi-Tek: Just the whole Rawkus period. I had my discrepancies with the label, but overall, I really love what they did for me. I love the whole thing that went down with them. I f it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be no DJ Hi Tek. I wouldn’t say there wouldn’t be a DJ Hi Tek, but they helped put my name on the map. I got to give them props for that. They definitely brought that underground hip-hop to the forefront. I would say the first video we did for the Reflection Eternal album, which was the song called “Move Something”. I just knew it was real and they would spend a lot of money. I was more of a producer who just kept my head in the studio. Once we started doing videos, and started seeing that I had like 2 or 3 songs on the countdown at one time that I produced or either I was in the video. At that time, Rawkus was really killing it and I was a part of it all. I was really the backbone for the sound. It was just a beautiful thing that was going down.
WHO?MAG: What advice can you give to up and coming artists and producers reading this interview? Hi-Tek: Just stay focused. Stay in your own zone and stay original.
WHO?MAG: Do you still add cuts and scratches to production work you do? Hi-Tek: Yeah, a little bit. I was thinking about that the other day actually. I got to make sure I throw some cuts on some of these beats. (laughs) I just strayed away from that.
WHO?MAG: Any last words? Hi-Tek: I just wanted to encourage everybody to go support my album Hi Teknology 3 and support good music.