All The Above

As part of the Aftermath production crew, this Ohio native produces for superstars like Snoop and 50. Find out why he’s getting back in the studio with Talib Kweli for a new Reflection Eternal album.
Can a truly great producer ever be pigeon-holed? If you ask Tony “Hi-Tek” Cottrell, Cincinnati, Ohio’s most famous hip-hop producer, versatility is the key to success. He first made his name by shaping the sound of Rawkus Records in the late ’90s through his work with Talib Kweli (with whom he formed the group Reflection Eternal) and Mos Def. But then he went left—linking up with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath production crew and Sha Money Management has plugged Tek into the Interscope system, allowing him to produce for marquee superstars like Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, The Game and Young Buck. Throughout it all, Tek has kept his creativity front-and-center with two installments of Hi-Teknology albums, where he hones his own rhyme skills next to an all-star lineup. Now, it seems like he’s going back to his roots—after he drops his new album Hi-Teknology 3: The Underground, where the producer works with some underappreciated talent, he’s going back into the studio with Kweli to start work on the new Reflection Eternal album.

What’s Dre like in the studio?
I haven’t had many sessions with Dre, but the ones that I have had are real intense. His mind is so far out and you’re always wondering what he’s thinking. It’s always exciting. He’s just a broad thinker and his experience is the key to his success. That’s just somebody I admire and someone I’d like to be like when I grow up [laughs].

You were already a well-established name before you linked up with Dre. Did you ever have any reservations about working with him, like maybe your work wouldn’t be recognized?
Yeah, truthfully, when I first got the call from Dre, my initial thing was, I’ll do it but…There was a track that he wanted for a project and I was like, I’ll give him the track as long as I get my production credit. Because I would hear all these rumors that he didn’t give producers their production credits. So, I was like, “Yo, I’m Hi-Tek” and it wasn’t like I was feeling myself but I got something to prove too and as long as I get my production credit, I’m cool with it. I definitely respect Dre to the utmost fullest, but I felt like I had to get mine too. And his initial answer came through a third person. It was like [if you want your production credit] “come out and produce.” I was on a plane the next day. Now, I really understand what he means. You can’t really call yourself a producer unless you’re in the studio producing. You know there are people that are just beat-makers and then there are producers.

So what’s the difference between a beat-maker and a producer?
Well…anybody can make a beat. You can make a beat hitting on a table. But the difference between a producer and beat-maker just making a beat is…[takes deep breath and pauses]…You look at Quincy Jones, James Brown or George Clinton. Half the time they didn’t have to touch an instrument. It was all about what was going on in their head and a musician would play this and the guitar player would play that and the drummer would play this and they would turn all of that into the sound they were thinking about in their head. That’s what you call a producer. They hear the song in their head before it’s recorded—that includes the vocals and the music. When you got stuff like Frooty Loops and other programs, anybody can make a beat. That’s not production. Production is when you can see the vision and take a vocalist and hear how they sound on a track before they actually record. And when they do, a producer can coach this person through the whole track.

How important is it for producers to come up under an experienced producer like Dre? Are you grooming any producers yourself?
Yeah, both. It was like a dream come true for me to even hook up with somebody like Dre. I idolize him, and for him to even acknowledge me is so much of a plus. The first time I shook his hand when he invited me to the studio, it basically stepped my game up. He didn’t even have to show me nothing. It solidified everything that was going on in my mind. It let me know I was on the right track. That’s the same way I treat the producers that’s coming up under me. I don’t really try to babysit them. I try to make sure they go through the things I went through to get where I’m at. If I give them too much, they’re gonna get spoiled.

The bouncy track “Cash Rules,” on Cassidy’s new album, doesn’t sound like the typical Hi-Tek beat. Was that deliberate?
One of my young producers, Sparks, helped me with that. That’s more of his sound. That’s how he comes with it. I came through and put the umph on it. I wanted to give him the chance to really help me give it that sound, because right now, that’s the sound. I collaborated with him on that track to reach out to that different crowd.

You’re managed by Sha Money now. What kind of opportunities have they opened up for you?
He definitely already had the relationship with Dre, who is everybody’s boss that I deal with. With Sha Money in the picture, it really allows me to concentrate more on the music so I’m not banging my head over the business too much. Before I was doing too much of the business. I needed someone who understands the creative part and the creative steps it takes [to make music]. Because he’s a producer at heart, he understands what it takes to make a piece of music and the time constraints. And at the same time, he’s a good business man. I’ve been in the game for a long time and I needed to be able to communicate with somebody on a real level.

In the past you’ve stated that the Cincinnati hip-hop scene had a lot of room for improvement. But on this album, you have a track named “Ohio All Stars.” Has the scene in your home state improved since then?
Yeah, it has. A lot of guys stepped it up. A lot of record labels, independent labels, stepped it up in giving guys opportunities. Before, those guys were solely depending on me like I was the only outlet for the city. They didn’t understand what I was going through with my business and it forced a lot of guys to really step it up and say “Fuck Hi-Tek. We’re gonna do it on our own.” That’s what I really wanted them to do. That song, “Ohio All-Stars,” really shows genuine love. It’s like we’re all in it together.

Who should we be looking out for from Ohio?
You gotta be on the lookout for my man Cross. He’s representing Garnett Entertainment, a Cincinnati-based independent label. He’s like the first cat on the “Ohio All Stars.” Another Garnett Entertainment representative [is] this cat named Showtime. He’s doing his thing. There’s another cat named Chip Tha Ripper. He’s from Cleveland. He’s doing his thing too. Also check out Rob G., another cat from the Nati doing his thing.

How is Hi-Teknology 3 different from your previous albums?
One thing I never got to do with my albums is give back to the street, and where I come from. So I wanted to do a lot more street joints and get back to the original blueprint of giving more up-and-coming artists a chance. I went back to that and it felt more exciting to me to do that. Now that Hi-Tek has solidified himself in the hip-hop game, it gets kinda boring—as far as my album goes—when I do songs with well-known artists. I wanted to go back and do something more exciting…It’s a great body of work, but due to time constraints, I didn’t get to really rap a lot on this album. I wanted to, but time didn’t allow me. I wanted a lot more collaborations, but due to time, I just had to work with what I had and still made a great album.

Why did you put it out so quickly?
Really, I was trying to get the album out quick because I didn’t want it to run into my next venture. Right now me and Kweli are trying to get into this Reflection Eternal album, and I don’t want nothing else to distract me. I like to do things one thing at a time. I wanted to get this album out and move on to the next thing. At the same time, I didn’t want to make people wait for so long for the next album. After this I’m going into Reflection Eternal.

Have you started recording with Kweli yet?
We’re trying to get it on. We’re working out the deal with Warner Brothers right now and it’s coming along. We haven’t really started recording, but it’s looking like we both have the time to start recording now. It’s always been about the time to be able to really sit down and create another classic. I don’t really want to get into the album unless we get into it for real. So now that we’re both done with our albums, what else can we do besides come together and do it from the heart?

When it’s all said and done, is Hi-Tek going to be viewed with the greats like Dr. Dre, Pete Rock and Premier. Or, do you feel like you’re already there?
Nah, I don’t feel like…Well…You know what, I definitely feel like I’m there. I’ve accomplished part of my dream, but I feel like there’s more to prove and more to solidify in the game. I still need to work on the business side of my career; not the music. A lot of times it’s about how it’s projected and how people receive it. I think I made a lot of bad business decisions that have prevented me from making it to the hall of fame. I still got a lot more to prove.

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  • jk21

    reflection 2… i cannot wait


    TEKZILLA Still doing his thang.I’ll cop pt.3

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  • http://www.myspace.com/larrybrite Larry Brite


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  • ri067953

    Yo, Tek was able to come to Aftermath and not really compromise his sound and I respect him for that. Even before he was part of Aftermath, I remember Snoop saying that he wanted to work with Tek because he was digging the sound of the Reflection Eternal album. I think that Tek can be put in the same class with Dre and Pete Rock and Premier because he has a great sound, he is versitle and is a great producer.

  • cruz

    Fuck this bitch ass nigga Lil Wayne all day

    Carter 3

    • BIG ROB

      Stans like these are what makes hip hop fans not like Lil Wang. He must be 5 years old.

      • cruz

        You Big fat azz nigga big rob

    • money

      “Fuck this bitch ass nigga lil wayne all day”


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  • http://www.tonmazta.tk Ton Mazta

    Oy yeah Oy yeah! Hi-Tek the Terrorist. His beats are remarkable. I was watching him since The Massacre album when he did “Get In My Car” for 50. Now as a rapper, I’m more enthused to work with him than any other producer. Keep it up homey. Stay grindin’. And hopefully I’ll meet you to the top yknawmean. Yall better keep your eyes out for this nigga.


  • http://xxlmag.com Kane Corleone

    HI TEK beats are bangers,hardly ever disappointed with his sound.OHIO STAND THE FUCK UP!

  • ronluvgurlz

    hi-tek and kweli together again. man dats guarantee to be fire like dre’s detox album. at least for the real hip-hop heads

  • http://koolkidkulture.blogspot.com/ Koolkidkulture

    Between Tek and DJ Khalil, Dre doesn’t need to make any more beats for a looong time.

    Boost Mobile Anthem 2.0 exclusive pics and audio

  • 92FS

    Good interview….n Cruz just stay in your room and jack off to ya Lil Wayne cds because you just fuckin irrelevant…PUSS!!

  • Killa Skeem

    Hi Teks Beats are dope but he still hasnt recorded near enough classics to be compared to Pete, Premier, & Dre. Fuck the business side he needs more classic records.

    • beatz23

      word couldn’t agree more

  • Bizza Bobby

    My first thought when seeing his pic was soooooo TRACY MORGAN. LOL

  • http://myspace.com/youngdeuce513 Young Deuce aka Princinnati

    Ohio stand up. Hi Tek has been doin it for years and he’s finally getting his due. Now that we supporting Ohio and especially Cincinnati hip hop, we will be the next city to really get our shine. Do ya thing Tek.


  • Cincinnati’s Own Champion

    cincinnnati is definately in the building…be on the look out for Champion, coming soon.

  • Party Hardy

    Tek, get that Dion record out to man! My boy been on the shelves for a minute. Can we get some of that new school Marvin Gaye? PUT THAT DION OUT TEK!

    • big b’zy

      Dion’s signed to Aftermath, a known graveyard for new artists. i hope he drops somethin’ soon, but i don’t know. i wish he had had his own single on HT3 though.

  • Party Hardy

    Ohh yea, and in case ya’ll don’t know who Dion is, you done heard him and prolly don’t even know his name. Remember ‘Runnin” on The Game’s Documentary? Ole English- Doctors Advocate? Keep it Moving – Hi-Teknology 2? F**kin wit you- Straight Outta Cashville? Ryder Music – The Masacre?
    C’mon Tek. We need that!

  • joe80

    Khadijah “Queen of the City” from Cincinnati and Sparks are the next big thing to come out of the Nati you hear it hear first!!

  • Collossal Collinss

    Dr dre is a god
    I want to make it very clear that There is no producer on earth today that can be graded or equated on the same class with Dr dre .
    People should stop equating human beings with gods.
    Dr dre is an angel,The ancestors of Dr dre are King david (who produced the salms)who begot Solomon (who produced Songs of solomon)who begot Dr dre who is producing the most market valuable artist of today.

    Snoop dog……………over 15 million copies
    Waran g and nate dog….over 10 million copies
    The dogPound…………over 5 million copies
    Lady of rage………. over 2 million copies
    2pac shakur………….over 20 million copies
    LL col j………over 2 milion copies
    Black street……over 2 million copies
    Eminem……………over 70 million copies
    Truth hurts……….over 5 million copies
    50 cent ………..over 25 million copies
    The game………over 7 million copies
    Busta rhyme……over 1.5 millon copies
    Mary j blige……over 6 million copies
    Gwen stefani……over 2 million copies
    J Z highest sold album in a week.
    Nas etc etc etc etc etc

    Dr dre Makes artist or changes the status of such artist to a higher level, that is exactly what angels does thats why they are gods
    And Dr dre cant be different.

  • Colron

    He missed one. NiQ is the hottest rapper outta OH. 614 stand up. http://myspace.com/niqmusiq

  • Che Guevara

    Don’t do it Tek….how many fuckin’ albums does kweli sell…like maybe 2 and those go to the white back-packers. I can’t believe this nigga has a record deal. His voice is sooo annoying. Go back to selling books kweli.

  • Latino Heat

    wont hold my breath for reflection eternal. its been 7 years if they wanted to do it they would have years ago. hi tek is dope though. as far as the last dude that posted, i dont think hi tek cares about albums sold. if he did his albums wouldnt come out on babygrande. he’d try and sign to a major. i think hes more about his art. and the other dude, i dont know where the fuck he got those numbers. truth hurts,5 mil? lady of rage , 2 mil? i think your dick ridin a lil 2 hard homie. i think dre’s finally gettin exposed a lil. people are tired of waiting on detox and im starting to believe he really does steal beats. hes been getting accused of it for years.

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  • 513jubaby

    yeah!!!!!!!!!!! Cincinnati 513 stand up….yes hi tek put us on but he forgot my big bro vino from da nati he definitly one of the hottest in the city and yes showtime cold too a-1 zone 15 in here 513 all day get at us

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  • ohiointhisbitch

    That nigga Mr. Skeme is the best rapper in Columbus – period

  • Jasmine Johnson

    Come people we all know who is the most slept on rapper in the nati……PIAKHAN Come on be real with yourselves…Tek knows..Reflection eternal wouldnt be shit with out khan on it. These simple ass non inspiring copycat as rappers dont even hold a candle to khans lyrical genius! For once Cincinnati stand up for real for what is righteous and just.

  • http://www.dynamicproducer.com dynamicwayne

    Dude is a beast!!