DJ Hi-Tek is too oft forgotten since his came into Hip-Hop attached to Talib Kweli as Reflection Eternal. Although Tek was largely responsible for Black Star, it is Train of Thought that remains a popular bid for the best album in the last five years. Easily put, Hi-Tek is to Cincinatti what Kanye West is to Chicago.
While it could have been easy for the Hi-Tek to stay in bed with the Rawkus underground hip-hop movement and sleep comfortably with his critically-acclaimed Thought, he has recently branched his services out providing production efforts for the likes of Snoop Dogg, The Game, and most recently dishing two tracks out to 50 Cent.
Still hitting the Protools as hard as ever with future projects on Dr. Dreís Detox and 50 Centís movie soundtrack, DJ Hi-Tek took some time out of his busy day in the ĎNatti to speak with AllHipHop.com about, among other things, Talib Kweliís struggles on Beautiful Struggle, his thoughts on Dave Chappelleís situation, and why he needed a box of tissues after Dreís Detox invitation.
AllHipHop.com: Talib Kweli received very little critical love in 2004. I want to keep it greasy. What was your initial reaction to Beautiful Struggle?
DJ Hi-Tek: I mean, truthfully, I think when you first come out with a record like the Reflection Eternal record, which was a classic, I think itís hard to top that. People are listening for that same thing, and what that same thing was was a producer, one producer basically shaping a whole album, which took about two years to record. Truthfully, from me to Talib: Iíll let him know that. I think he needs that producer that will basically be there with him and give him his real constructive criticism, instead of letting Talib do Talib, which is making music. A lot of producers Ė you might get a Just Blaze or a Neptune beat Ė some dudes, they get so busy, itís hard to get them into the studio to really produce your record, let alone mix it. Mixing is part of making the record, too. Itís like the icing on the cake. I mean, I feel to this day, itís cool to have a Kanye, a Just Blaze, Neptunes, and all that, but if the s**t donít match up, it might be too much heat. It might be too much heat in too many different direction. Thatís what I think the album became, instead of having a top, middle, and a bottom.
AllHipHop.com: Why didnít he stick with a formula thatís already worked for him?
DJ Hi-Tek: I donít know, man. Thatís probably a question you would have to ask him. Thatís something Iíve still been trying to figure out.
AllHipHop.com: What about the follow-up to your debut solo album? Youíre doing material for everybody else. Has there been time for that?
DJ Hi-Tek: Yeah, Iím working on it right now as we speak. Itís been a struggle though. Itís hard to do a compilation album when you donít really rap. Itís not like a Kanye album; itís more like a Detox or a Chronic album, where Iím just featured on certain tracks. Itís hard. I been working on it for like three years now. Itís just been off and on. First I had a budget through MCA, then they folded. Then I was on Geffen, but I got off of Geffen. I got them to release me. Iím a free agent right now, so right now Iím just working on my album out of my own pocket. I got a lot of nice features. I got Mos Def, Raphael Saadiq, Snoop, Slim Thug, Kweli of course, Nas, Busta. Who else? My artist Iím producing, Dion. Heís on The Game record [ďRunniníĒ] I produced. Iím still working to get other people right now.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned Slim Thug. What do you think of the whole Southern, Crunk movement?
DJ Hi-Tek: It is what it is, man. Itís just a rhythm. Itís a movement that, if you donít feel it, you gonna be wack trying to do it. You really got to ride with the track, just like if you was an East Coast rapper riding the track. So, that Crunk is whatís popping right now. Thatís just got something to do with the moon and the stars. That s**t is hot. You know, Mike Jones, I love that s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Mike Jones seems to be the favorite, even amongst those who donít feel Crunk.
DJ Hi-Tek: Yeah, and itís like, I donít love it because itís a fad. I knew Mike Jones was gonna blow before he blew just because I can understand when I hear something new and fresh. Slim Thug, the same with him. They like the new Geto Boys of Houston and itís new s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Oh yeah, and off the beats for a second, I heard Main Flowís album last year, Hip-Hopulation. There was like this short little freestyle clip of you rapping. Is that something youíre interested in?
DJ Hi-Tek: Man, f**k Main Flow! Itís a little personal, but I donít appreciate somebody putting me on an album where Iím featured, and I donít even know about it. Whatís the point? Why did Hi-Tek come out of nowhere? Yeah, he put it out there like Ďfeaturing Hi-Tek.í That just sold you 100,000 more units. He ainít cutting me in though, man! [laughs] You ainít cutting me in, man.
AllHipHop.com: Moving on, how do you feel about whatís been going on with Dave Chappelle? I know heís a friend.
DJ Hi-Tek: I know Dave and Dave was on Reflection Eternal. He came through and blessed the album a lot. We got stuff from Dave that we didnít even put out. I mean, we done had a lot of talks. He had a lot of talks with me about success Ė about doing what Iím doing and staying focused. He just gave me some real knowledge on, once I get here, what to do. I just can imagine how receiving that much money and just the pressure of being a comedian, thereís so much attention with people cracking the whip like, ďBe funny, be funny.Ē I just think he needs a break to recollect and be to himself so he can give the people what they want.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah. I think that he said something to the effect that the people right around him were always calling him a genius and telling him how great he was. After awhile, he started to question that and that really got to him.
DJ Hi-Tek: Yeah, man, I can only imagine. I do the same thing! Thatís why Iím in Cincinnati a whole lot. I get tired of people calling me Hi-Tek. I got to come back home and get called Tone sometimes. And thatís maybe what Dave is trying to get. He needs to get away from people say, ďDave! Dave Chappelle! Iím Rick James, b*tch!Ē That probably ainít even funny to him no more, you know what Iím saying?
AllHipHop.com: Hell no. That joke was so funny that itís like, it wore out the joke real quick and you just want to punch people for even saying it.
DJ Hi-Tek: Exactly, so I understand. I just want the brother to, if he gets my message, I just want to tell him peace and keep your head up. Do what you got to do and get your head right. If you donít have your mental right, then you donít have nothing.
AllHipHop.com: Youíve been staying busy with Snoop and G-Unit. On The Massacre, did you actually get in the studio with 50 or how did that set-up work as far as you landing on his album?
DJ Hi-Tek: Nah, actually, the ďGet In My Car,Ē I did that track around the same time that I produced a track for Game called ďRunniní.Ē I had gave it to Dr. Dre. I did a song deal with Aftermath, which was like a ten-song deal and that was two of the tracks I had gave them. They wanted to keep both of those, and one of the tracks they gave to Game, which was ďRunniní,Ē and the second one was ďGet In My Car.Ē And the ďRyder MusicĒ track, I did that out in Cali. I produced that out there. 50 Cent was in the studio, but I was in another studio. I tracked over to the other studio, but I didnít actually get into the studio with him.
AllHipHop.com: When you produce tracks for different acts, what is the difference between producing for somebody like 50 Cent as opposed to producing for somebody like Talib Kweli Ė or is there a difference?
DJ Hi-Tek: Nah, thereís not really a difference, man. Because with both Talib and 50 Cent, they both were really musically-influenced, so they hear the track and they basically spit what the track told them to spit. Like ďRyder Music,Ē if you listen to the track, that sound like ryder music, something to ride to, you know? And ďGet In My Car,Ē itís like 50, heís really melodic like that. Heís the gangsta melodic rapper to me. He really kicks a lot of melodies to the track, but he spits a lot of gangsta s**t.
AllHipHop.com: So as Kweli has done his new solo thing, how has the transition gone for you with your new collaborators?
DJ Hi-Tek: Yeah, man, them dudes really put me down with a lot of production. Iíve been on the G-Unit album and the Lloyd Banks album Ė also, the D-12, Game, and now Iím producing for the Detox album, too. So, between that whole camp and just personally, I met up with Young Buck a couple times, and he told me, ďMan, besides me, I think 50 is your biggest fan.Ē So, he was just telling me Iím 50ís favorite producer, just musically. I might not make every track or every album, but I just was told that 50 really loves my s**t, so it just feels good that people respect what I do.
AllHipHop.com: So you know that when you give them something that theyíre going to flip it into something that you would be proud to have your name on, too?
DJ Hi-Tek: Yeah, they give me the respect of mixing my own records, too, like as far as sending it back, me tracking it, putting ad-libs, the flavors, the finishing touches to it. Basically, ďGo Ďhead, Tek, do your thing, and we appreciate it,Ē and I appreciate that, too.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned the Detox album, trying to slip that in there. Iíve heard that you and Nottz is doing work on there, too. So, that album has been on the shelf, off the shelf, how does it feel that Dre hand-picked out of respect to get put onto something that is going to carry his legacy behind it?
DJ Hi-Tek: Man, it makes me want to, cry! [laughs] No, seriously, itís just like a dream come true. I just worked hard to get to this point. Thatís the epitome to me. I ainít even really going to speak on it too much, because itís not actually done yet. But, Iíve been told by Dre personally, ďStop sending me tracks. All I want right now is Detox records.Ē Iím in the lab everyday trying to come up with that one Detox record.