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. Dre’s Detox and 50 Cent’s movie soundtrack, DJ Hi-Tek took some time out of his busy day in the ‘Natti to speak with AllHipHop.com about, among other things, Talib Kweli’s struggles on Beautiful Struggle, his thoughts on Dave Chappelle’s situation, and why he needed a box of tissues after Dre’s 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 it’s 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: I’ll 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 – you might get a Just Blaze or a Neptune beat – some dudes, they get so busy, it’s hard to get them into the studio to really produce your record, let alone mix it. Mixing is part of making the record, too. It’s like the icing on the cake. I mean, I feel to this day, it’s cool to have a Kanye, a Just Blaze, Neptunes, and all that, but if the s**t don’t match up, it might be too much heat. It might be too much heat in too many different direction. That’s what I think the album became, instead of having a top, middle, and a bottom.
AllHipHop.com: Why didn’t he stick with a formula that’s already worked for him?
DJ Hi-Tek: I don’t know, man. That’s probably a question you would have to ask him. That’s something I’ve still been trying to figure out.
AllHipHop.com: What about the follow-up to your debut solo album? You’re doing material for everybody else. Has there been time for that?
DJ Hi-Tek: Yeah, I’m working on it right now as we speak. It’s been a struggle though. It’s hard to do a compilation album when you don’t really rap. It’s not like a Kanye album; it’s more like a Detox or a Chronic album, where I’m just featured on certain tracks. It’s hard. I been working on it for like three years now. It’s 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. I’m a free agent right now, so right now I’m 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 I’m producing, Dion. He’s on The Game record [“Runnin’”] I produced. I’m 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. It’s just a rhythm. It’s a movement that, if you don’t 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 what’s popping right now. That’s 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 don’t feel Crunk.
DJ Hi-Tek: Yeah, and it’s like, I don’t love it because it’s 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 it’s new s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Oh yeah, and off the beats for a second, I heard Main Flow’s album last year, Hip-Hopulation. There was like this short little freestyle clip of you rapping. Is that something you’re interested in?
DJ Hi-Tek: Man, f**k Main Flow! It’s a little personal, but I don’t appreciate somebody putting me on an album where I’m featured, and I don’t even know about it. What’s the point? Why did Hi-Tek come out of nowhere? Yeah, he put it out there like ‘featuring Hi-Tek.’ That just sold you 100,000 more units. He ain’t cutting me in though, man! [laughs] You ain’t cutting me in, man.
AllHipHop.com: Moving on, how do you feel about what’s been going on with Dave Chappelle? I know he’s 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 didn’t even put out. I mean, we done had a lot of talks. He had a lot of talks with me about success – about doing what I’m 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, there’s so much attention with people cracking the whip like, “Be funny, be funny.” 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! That’s why I’m 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 that’s maybe what Dave is trying to get. He needs to get away from people say, “Dave! Dave Chappelle! I’m Rick James, b*tch!” That probably ain’t even funny to him no more, you know what I’m saying?
AllHipHop.com: Hell no. That joke was so funny that it’s 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 don’t have your mental right, then you don’t have nothing.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve 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 “Get In My Car,” I did that track around the same time that I produced a track for Game called “Runnin’.” 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 “Runnin’,” and the second one was “Get In My Car.” And the “Ryder Music” 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 didn’t 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 – or is there a difference?
DJ Hi-Tek: Nah, there’s 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 “Ryder Music,” if you listen to the track, that sound like ryder music, something to ride to, you know? And “Get In My Car,” it’s like 50, he’s really melodic like that. He’s 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. I’ve been on the G-Unit album and the Lloyd Banks album – also, the D-12, Game, and now I’m 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, “Man, besides me, I think 50 is your biggest fan.” So, he was just telling me I’m 50’s 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 they’re 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, “Go ‘head, Tek, do your thing, and we appreciate it,” and I appreciate that, too.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned the Detox album, trying to slip that in there. I’ve 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, it’s just like a dream come true. I just worked hard to get to this point. That’s the epitome to me. I ain’t even really going to speak on it too much, because it’s not actually done yet. But, I’ve been told by Dre personally, “Stop sending me tracks. All I want right now is Detox records.” I’m in the lab everyday trying to come up with that one Detox record.