When you think of musical Mecca’s, Cincinnati, Ohio may not be the first place that comes to mind. However, for the better part of three decades, from the nineteen-sixties up through the late nineteen-eighties, the ‘Nati was the birthplace of some of the most important R&B, funk, and soul records to ever be produced.
Legendary artists such as James Brown, Bootsy Collins, The Isley Brothers, Zapp & Roger, and Babyface & The Deele, all called Cincy their recording home. Cincinnati, along with sister cities in southwest Ohio, Hamilton, and Dayton, all collectively produced prominent groups, from The Ohio Players to Midnight Star.
Unfortunately, as the ‘80’s progressed, Cincinnati’s more conservative policy makers began a campaign to “cleanse” the city of “immoral” influences, beginning with Cincinnati’s one-time Mayor, Jerry Springer, the ‘Nati’s original hustler, Larry Flynt, and eventually any semblance of a thriving artist community, were all forced into permanent exile from the Queen City. And by the time hip-hop appeared on the local scene, it was immediately suppressed. National hip-hop acts such as N.W.A. were banned from the city. By the early ‘90’s, a new generation of ‘Nati artists, including the hip-hop group Mood, began the arduous work or rebuilding Cincy’s once renowned artist community. Unfortunately they’ve been unable to reach the prominence of their funk forefathers, having to attempt to establish themselves in a musical ghost town.
So when a musician like Hi-Tek manages to emerge from such a stifling environment, the entire city views his success as our success. However, with assistance given to out-of-towners such as Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, and Kool G. Rap, many in the ‘Nati wondered if Tek would be the next Cincy artist to abandon his hometown’s restrictive musical climate. But never fear, Hi-Tek has returned to the city of his birth to find new talent, record a new album, and hopefully begin a new era in the already historic legacy of Cincinnati music.
ALLHIPHOP.COM: I remember seeing MCA Records print ads advertising your new album, along with all of their other hip-hop releases, over a year ago. So why is the album just now gettin’ set to drop, what was the delay?
HI-TEK: Just tryin’ to come up with the right songs, and I was workin’ on Jonell’s project, my R&B act I got on Def Jam. I was tryin’ to do two albums at the same time. Creatively, one producer doin’ two albums in a four month span, it ain’t gonna happen. If you want it to be dope, it ain’t gonna work.
ALLHIPHOP: Give me some details on the new album, like who’s featured on it?
HI-TEK: The new album, I got a couple of hometown acts, Piakhan, Big D, Jonell, and then as far as West Coast, I got Snoop Dogg, Raphael Saadiq, and my man Joe Beast, he’s from Pittsburgh, he’s on Aftermath, I got Mos Def, Common, Kweli. I’m just workin’ on different joints, tryin’ to spread it out.
ALLHIPHOP: Do you have a tentative title for the album?
HI-TEK: It’s called Hi-Teknology Vol. 2.
ALLHIPHOP: Since it’s got the similar title, is the new album cut in the same mold as Hi-Teknology, how is this album similar or different to your first joint?
HI-TEK: It’s different. I don’t think it’s what people expected from me, ‘cause it’s more me. That’s why it took longer too, ‘cause I wanna make sure I give it what I really wanna do this time, not the typical, Common’s, Mos Def’s, and regular stuff, kinda spread it out on this one, ‘cause I’m from Cincinnati, I ain’t from New York. I just happen to produce for a lot of New York rappers.
ALLHIPHOP: So are we gonna hear you on the mic some more on this joint? I think you could be one of the better rapper/producers in the game. Your verse on “The Blast” was pretty thorough.
HI-TEK: Appreciate that bro. Yeah, definitely spittin’ on here. I had to do somethin’. I just had to get my confidence up. I used to rhyme a long time ago when I first started workin’ on my beats. Most producers know how to rhyme to the track, if they do know how to rhyme, they rhyme to it better than the person they give it to, or whoever they produce it for, because you feel the beat. That’s basically what I do. I don’t consider myself no MC.
ALLHIPHOP: Yeah, production is still your bread and butter, and you just seem to keep expanding your resume. Didn’t you just do some stuff for the new Rakim album?
HI-TEK: Yeah, we worked on a joint about six months ago. Ra, he’s a slow worker like me, but it’s a good thing, ‘cause you wanna make sure it’s right. If you get caught up in the whole political part of makin’ music, I think you limit yourself. Unless you’re like the Neptunes who’re fluent with it. I wouldn’t really consider myself at that point yet. Like, I experimented with the album I’m doin’ now, as far as the R&B, it was experimental. Well, the first song I did for Jonell, the “Round and Round” song became a hit. That was experimental, so from there I got into an R&B album. And you gotta know a lot more about R&B to create an R&B album. So I was tryin’ to do somethin’ different.
ALLHIPHOP: So you’re tryin’ to branch out into other genres?
HI-TEK: Yeah, whatever kind of music, ‘cause hip-hop is the same as rock was back in the day, it’s in every part of music in a certain way. Everybody want those bangin’ hip-hop drums.
ALLHIPHOP: You’re definitely branching out, but a lot of people wanna know why you recently haven’t been working with some of the folks you came in the game with, most notably Talib Kweli?
HI-TEK: I just kinda branched off to do my own thing, not really just to do my own thing, just kinda strayed away from that, not purposely, since I think that’s my mission. It ain’t no love lost or nothin’ like that. It’s just a lot of it be political, money issues, and a lot of egos involved.
ALLHIPHOP: I know you had some financial disputes and other problems with Rawkus that kinda ties into that. So do you still have a business relationship with the label?
HI-TEK: Yeah, I gotta signed deal with Rawkus. They always shout me out, we still talk, ain’t no love lost.