Hi-Teknology 3 is coming in December. How are you feeling right now?
I’m feeling real confident. I love it. It was rushed at first. I really only had a month to finish this project. It went from being 40% done to 100% done in a month. For me to do that in such a short time, I’m really happy.
I know you like to take your time with music, so that must have been a challenge getting it done.
Yeah. It’s crazy. I really got put to the test on this one. I proved to myself that I could really work under pressure. I could always work under pressure, but there was more this time.
Did you do anything differently on Hi-Teknology 3 that you didn’t do on the first two?
Yeah. This time, well, it’s not really totally different, but every Hi-Teknology has its different flavor, but at the same time, it’s still Hi-Tek. You’re still going to have my signature sound, but there’s going to be something different. This album has a much more street feel to it and more of a ‘hood flavor. I think that’s what really makes it different. I think it’s really well-rounded. I really did it in that fashion. That’s how I’ve been in the game, whether people have noticed it or not. I’ve been away for so long and from my fans’ standpoint, it’s hard. They might not see my growth, musically, because I hadn’t dropped anything before Hi-Teknology 2 since the first Hi-Teknology. There were four years in between the first one and the second one. Even though I wanted to do something different on the second one, I wanted to make sure I gave my fans the pure, straight music. I really didn’t concentrate on trying to make an actual sound on Hi-Teknology 2. I really wanted to give this more of a street edge and get back more to the streets, because I’ve never really had the chance to do that.
Fans know you have great diversity when it comes to your production, but do fans ever underestimate your ability to make hard music for the streets?
Yeah. I’ve always been able to do that and I’ve always done that, but the way that it’s exposed and the way that people receive it and are able to get it is different. I’ve done stuff for 50 and Dre’s whole roster. It’s just that people don’t really look at me in that fashion. People always look at what you came out with first and your approach to the game and they’ll always hold you to it. That’s cool. I don’t let that hold me back and it doesn’t affect me at all. That’s why I did the first album like that. I didn’t want Hi-Teknology 3 to sound like a whole album I would do with 50 Cent. You have to let your fans grow with you and if you don’t give them enough space, they might not understand your next project. They weren’t growing with me in the studio and they don’t understand where I’m at musically. With this album, I really just sprinkled that in there. The next project may be a whole project for the streets or it may just be a Reflection Eternal album again.
You were rapping a lot on Hi-Teknology 2. Did you fall back from the mic on this one?
I fell back on this one due to the time constraints. I did a lot of ad-libbing and I wrote a lot of hooks. I did that because I like to take my time when I’m writing and that’s the thing – I didn’t have time to take my time with writing so I really fell back from that and recorded it. This is a great album.
What are your goals for Hi-Teknology 3?
The first goal was to get the album done. Now that it’s done, I’m just going to try to promote it as best as possible. I may get on a couple of tours and that’s about it. I’ll move onto this next thing.
When you made Hi-Teknology 2, you made a quick video showing the making of a Hi-Tek beat. A lot of producers don’t let fans in like that. What made you want to do that?
Actually, I didn’t even show much. It was like a Scarface movie. If you think about Scarface, they never actually showed a lot of blood. In the beginning part where the Columbians rob them, they never really show him getting his arm chopped off. They just show the blood dripping down and you knew what was going on. That’s what the video was. I don’t really think I let them in. It was the way I did it. I gave them the basics. Anybody that gets in the studio, they still have to do what they have to do. They still have to make a hot production.
I don’t really have a problem telling people about my records anymore. I used to be real secretive about that but I learned that everybody has their own approach. I could give somebody the record that I used to make a hit record and they won’t do it the same way I did it.
How do you see your production techniques changing over the years?
I think I’ve become more musical. I have more knowledge of all the music and I have more musical techniques as far as putting changes in my music and just textures and my mixing. The mixing has a lot to do with making the actual music. You have to project to the people what you’re actually trying to do. I stepped up my mixing game. Just musically, I’m trying to withstand the test of time. I’m trying to be like that veteran that Dre is. He’s like my No. 1 mentor, man. He’s been in the game since I was, like, 8 years-old and maybe even before that. He always reinvented himself. I try to stay current and listen to what’s going on. I don’t dictate what’s going on in hip-hop, I’m just a part of music.
What’s the best advice Dre has given you?
He said I make my best music in Cincinnati. I tried to move to California, which never happened. He said, “Tek, you make your best music in your comfort zone, which is Cincinnati,” which is true. I think that’s 90% true. I would still do the same things if I was in California or New York, but I think a lot of my influence comes from my surroundings. Me growing up in Cincinnati, it just gives me that original feel.
Are you using more live instrumentation today?
Yeah, yeah. Definitely the live instruments bring a lot more to the table when you’re making a hip-hop track. I use the Motif, the MPC 3000 and the Pro Tools. I use a lot of different things. Whatever I can get my hands on, I use. I can make a sound with a pop can. I can step in the studio and make a beat with no sounds. (laughs)
Are you using any computer programs to make beats?
Truthfully, a lot lately, I’ve been going straight to Pro Tools and doing everything live.
Your singer Dion signed to Aftermath last year. How’s his project coming?
That project fell apart when he signed to Interscope. That fell apart. He was signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath and that kind of fell apart. It definitely wasn’t creative differences. I think it was just, maybe, Dion being a fresh artist and not really knowing the difference between just being an artist and handling the business at the same time. He was a fresh artist and dealing with Dre, Dre really expects the highest of everybody. If you look at the roster and what he’s done, everybody is at a million records or better and everybody has really been an outgoing artist there and I don’t really think Dion at the time was really an outgoing artist. That comes with time and separating your personal from your business. You can’t expect nobody to do that for you. He’s all over my album and he’s all over Hi-Teknology 2. He’s doing various other projects. We have a single out with Young Buck and the Outlawz called “Driving Down the Freeway.” He’s just growing as an artist.
What’s next for Dion?
We’re in the process of just working it out right now. We have, like, 70% of an album done. It’s incredible, man. He’s an incredible artist. We’re working it out right now. We’re trying to get the best deal for him.
You’ve been working with more up-and-coming rappers lately than you have in the past. Are we going to see you take any rappers under your wing and help develop them?
It’s hard to find those rappers. Well, for me, I guess. Singers, I think they come more naturally for me. I work good with singers and melody a lot better than I do with rappers. Really, to me, as a rapper, you have to be that Biggies, that Nas, that Jay-Z, that Kweli, and there aren’t a lot of those cats out there so I don’t like to waste my time with a lot of these rappers. If you don’t have that character in your voice and the love for your art and you’re sitting there waiting for me to produce you…I really find it hard to come across those rappers. I’ve come across a few lately and I’m not going to say any names, but hopefully they stay focused. Hopefully they stay focused. A lot of times, it’s a waste of time with rappers.
You used to be managed by Zach Katz and now you’re managed by Sha Money XL. What made you want to leave Zach Katz and work with Sha Money?
I really don’t want to get into it. With Zach, we made a lot of money together, but I think he was in it strictly for the money. He wasn’t the type of manager to build an artist and really capitalize off an artist’s track record or what they’ve done. I think he was just in it a lot for the money and not really understanding that a lot goes on in an artist’s life and doing what it takes to help them become a next-level artist. Anybody can just send out a beat CD and sit in the office and make calls all day. When it comes to taking an artist to the next level, that’s a whole ‘nother game. You have to be a great manager and that’s what you have to be able to do.
Are you making different beats now that you’re with Sha Money?
Yeah. I’ve been knowing Sha for a long time and I’ve seen Sha grow. I have a lot of respect for him and I always wanted to get with somebody that’s just as about their business as they are about their music. And Sha is a great producer. There’s nothing that I can’t talk to him about. We come from the same background and he understands music. He’s a smart businessman. I admire him at the same time. He allows me to just be in the studio and that’s what I would like to be able to do. I would like to be in the studio and have him run with the ball once I hand it to him and know that he’s going to run for the touchdown.
Fans have been hoping to hear you and Kweli work together again on a whole album. Do you think a Reflection Eternal reunion will happen anytime soon?
Oh, yeah. I see it. It’s going down as we speak. It’s pretty much almost official. We’re going to do it through Warner Brothers. Kweli dropped his album this year and I got my album done. We’re both ready to focus on Reflection Eternal. We talked about it and the label is excited and we’re ready to get into it now.
What kind of music are you guys going to make this time around?
Only time will tell. Only God is going to control this. I’m really trying to make sure that we don’t stray from the original formula and I think that’s really up to me to bring it musically and bring him that top quality. I really want to give that to my fans. That’s what’s most important.
The last time we spoke, you talked about how you and Kweli had grown apart. Are you and Kweli on the same page musically?
Yeah, definitely. Me and Kwa, we started off the same way and we ended up in the same place. We both had the same drive for music. We both wanted to do our thing. I brought something to the table and he brought something to the table and once we got there, we created a beautiful album and once we looked back, we were like, ‘We did it.’ We got great reviews and we were the rookies of the year. When the business came into it, that’s what really tore us apart. The business didn’t help his creative drive and my creative drive. So it kind of tore us apart. Now I feel like Kwa has done three albums of his own and I did three albums. Now it’s like a full circle. We both have a lot of experience in the game and we’ve both accomplished a lot. We’ve sold a lot of records, we gained a lot of fans and we gained a lot of respect. I think this is the perfect time for us to create another album. I think we grew apart but we’re back together.
What did you think of Talib Kweli’s last album Eardrum?
I liked it. I think it’s the best album he’s done as a solo artist. I really like that album. He has a lot of songs on there that I really like. That’s really all I can say. I think he really did his thing.
How’s Dr. Dre’s Detox coming?
It’s coming good, man. At the end of the day, Dre has the final say and what the final straw is for the album. I really can’t say what’s going on in Dre’s head. He’s a perfectionist. I do know that. I’m a perfectionist and he’s, like, ten times more of a perfectionist than I am. He’s been in the game for so many years and his track record is flawless. He’s definitely not trying to drop a brick. He’s just trying to make the best project possible and he’s not even going to let his fans dictate when he’s going to drop it. His fans are really going to appreciate this man when he drops this record. I just feel blessed to be a part of it.
Do you build with other producers signed to Dre and does it ever get competitive between you guys?
It’s neither. We all do our own thing. They actually are out in L.A. now working together. I was supposed to be there but I had to deal with some family issues, so I wasn’t able to make it. But they’re at the roundtable now, working on some projects that Aftermath has. We have a lot of respect for each other. I have a lot of respect for all three, DJ Khalil, Focus and Denaun. I really look up to those guys and I think it’s vice versa. We all have a great working relationship.
Where do you want to take your production in the future?
I don’t know, man. I’m going to do it like Pootie Tang. I’m going to make the first silent record. (laughs) Nah, man. I think musically, I’m just trying to be consistent like Dre and always reinvent myself. That’s my main thing, to not get old school and to not lose that spark. I mean, everybody goes through that phase, but you have to know how to control it and you have to know how to reinvent yourself. It’s very possible to stay in the game until the day you die.
What’s next for Hi-Tek?
To build my own label, to find some rappers and to find some singers to really build this label and do my music the way I want to do it.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I want everybody to go buy my album Hi-Teknology 3. If you like good music, that’s what you’re going to get. I just encourage everybody to support good hip-hop.