Hi-Tek Interviews

Hi-Tek: Ryder Music Interview

Hi-Tek: Ryder Music Interview by Todd Davis

Tony Cottrell, or as he is professionally known, Hi-Tek, is a Cincinnati, Ohio based music producer, who is solely responsible for crafting an array of stellar tracks for an elite list of Hip-Hop heavyweights. The son of singer Willie Cottrell, of the Willie Cottrell Hi-Tek Reflection Eternal InterviewBand, Hi-Tek is very much an artist in his own right, with a series of three successful solo albums, the most recent being his just released Hi-Teknology 3, as well as his offshoot project, Reflection Eternal, a collaborative effort with wordsmith, Talib Kweli.

MVRemix recently touched based with Tekzilla to discuss his latest endeavor, which features contributions from; Raekwon & Ghostface Killah {‘My Piano’}, Young Buck & (the) Outlawz {‘God’s Plan’}, the above mentioned Kweli {‘Time’}, Little Brother {‘Step It Up (Remix)’}, Kurupt {‘Back On The Grind’}, in addition to singers Estelle {‘Life to Me’} and Jonell {‘Know Me}…

MVRemix: How does this new CD measure up to your first two solo records?

Hi-Tek: I think this one (is) a lot more…Well, not a lot more, (but) I think I experimented a little more on this one. Even as far as production, and as far as the artists I chose.

MVRemix: It’s been subtitled ‘Underground’ – How come?

Hi-Tek: Well actually, underground was…What’s the word? Underground was a title that I didn’t necessarily choose for this album. It was a brief talk between me and the record label before I actually even started on the album, and they kinda stuck that in there. I didn’t really agree with that, so the actual name of the album is just Hi-Teknology 3. Underground was something we talked about, and they kinda ran with it. But, it still kinda fit the script. Meaning, you know, the approach was to do a lot more underground up ‘n’ coming artists for this album.

MVRemix: Yeah, I did notice that there are a lot less commercially viable acts on Hi-Teknology 3 – Was this a conscious decision you made even before going into this album?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, every project I do has a conscious decision. So, I’m never going in like blindfolded, Ya know? I just always try to strategize around with what I have to work with.

MVRemix: Take me back – How did it really all begin for Hi-Tek?

Hi-Tek: It began (for me) when I was like about 7, (or) 8 years old, when I first heard ‘Planet Rock’ by Afrika Bambaataa. I was…We had just moved from like the suburbs to the projects, and that’s when the breakin’ scene was big. It was really, it was hitting the city…It had hit the city, and the ghettos really (was) where they really embrace Hip-Hop, and where it was really, really going down. They always loved to dance and breakin’ was just a big thing, and just really brought a lot of people together. And, ever since then, man, I’ve been involved in Hip-Hop and music in general. But, I would say that’s from the Hip-Hop standpoint. But, from the music standpoint, I was born into that. My father, he had a group, and they…I used to be like in the band practices sometimes, and he always played good music around me. So, I always had the music around me.

MVRemix: You mention both your father and the legendary Afrika Bambaataa. But, growing up, who else influenced you to do what you do today?

Hi-Tek: I’d have to say my mother most of all. She always supported me, even when I was breakin’, when I was like 7 or 8, running around these streets and, you know, trying to get in the clubs. You know, when you a group, we even had a lil’ manager back in the day, and a lot of times we would have to go into clubs and I would have to be with people that wasn’t necessarily family, and she just always would screen certain people, and she always supported me. She never held me back. So, she’s like my biggest inspiration.

MVRemix: Being that your dad was already a musician and knew first-hand about the business, was he more-so for or against you becoming an artist?

Hi-Tek: I definitely think, man, he was against it more so than with it, ‘cause he really didn’t pay attention to it. I think it just comes from maybe his thing really not working out when they was doing it. And, at the time when I really was telling him how serious I was about doing it, I had had my first son and I didn’t have a job, and he just was, kinda, instead of encouraging me, he just was like, “Don’t depend on the music. Don’t use this as your only outlet.” To me, I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to hear none of that. So, I didn’t really take it as a negative hold back. I just used it as a positive and kept doing it.

MVRemix: So then, when exactly did it go from being a hobby to your actual profession?

Hi-Tek: In 1990…’bout ’96. A group that I was producing for out of Cincinnati called Mood, M-double O-D, they basically got a deal with TVT Records, and I was partially the reason why they got the deal because I produced the record that got them noticed. The beat was crazy! We were doing our thing. We had shot an underground video. And from there, man, like by me not being in the group, it was actually a plus because they signed basically the worst contract they could ever sign. I was just grateful that I wasn’t in the group, and I was just basically 50% of the production side. When I got my first check from that, I used to run back and forth to New York and I didn’t know anything too much about the business. I used to read books on the music business, just learning, and basically when I got my first check for a beat, man, it was just like, “I could do this!”

MVRemix: How do you describe the style of music that you create?

Hi-Tek: I describe it as high tech. That’s why they call me Hi-Tek! That’s been my thing, my whole (thing), ever since I (first) called myself Hi-Tek. It’s always been that approach – (Me) just trying to be high tech.

MVRemix: So your moniker actually derived from your sound?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, yeah. Music came first. (It) produced the name from trying to be original and complicated with the music. (I would) try to be different. That’s how I came up with Hi-Tek. And also, my friend actually gave me that name. A guy, one of my mentors, that put me on the turntables and taught me how to deejay and scratch. He would call me Hi-Tek ‘cause I was always the youngest. I mean, everybody I hung with was at least 4 or 5 years older than me, but the way I learned so fast and just caught onto things, he just was like, “Man, you Hi-Tek, lil’ Hi-Tek!” And, it just stuck with me.

MVRemix: What has been the key to your success?

Hi-Tek: Just staying humble and respecting other artists, and respecting music in general. (Always respecting) the greatest artists that ever came, because it’s, like, really nothing that we’re doing now that hasn’t been done before. It’s just kinda doing it in a different way. So, you gotta just stay original and just constantly listen to different genres of music and respect the musicians.

MVRemix: Outside of music, is there anything else that you’d like to branch out and pursue?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, I mean, besides music I’ve just been really just trying to get my life right and my money right just by making great investments from the accomplishments that I got out of music. So, you know, like, real estate, and eventually I’ll (come) full circle (and) I wouldn’t have to totally depend on music. So, I would…After I make sure I’m established as a human being without music, I would start my own record label.

MVRemix: Now you are also a staff producer with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment – How did this connection come about?

Hi-Tek: Well, Dre is a very established, well respected perfectionist, man. He’s…I mean, he’s been in the game, like even he’s one of my biggest inspirations like (back) when I heard ‘Planet Rock’. I mean, also you had on the West, ‘cause you had, like, World Class Wreckin’ Cru Dr. Dre, and that was like one of my favorite records, too — Dr. Dre ‘Surgery.’ So, like Dre, to me, is one of my biggest inspirations from the way he re-invent himself. And basically, I hooked up with Dre, this was after Reflection Eternal, Black Star (and) all of that, and even Snoop, I had hooked up with Snoop on a whole separate note, before I hooked up with Dre. And, Dre heard my beat CD through WC. WC for some reason, or somehow, he got a-hold to it and heard the beats and wanted to hear more from me — And, ever since then (we’ve worked together). Actually, like the first track I did with Dre, he rapped on it. He rapped on my track, (and) a lot of people don’t know that. That’s the first track, and that was crazy! It was a song called ‘Hollywood’ I did.

MVRemix: So, does that mean that you are actually involved in most all of Aftermath’s releases?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, it’s more like 90% of projects. Certain projects they have their own vision (for already). Like him and Eminem, they usually go in and do what they do ‘cause Em is a producer in his own way, in his own right, too. And, it’s like 90% of the projects (though) I’m involved in. He kinda let me do my thing and do me, and I just try to bring some of my best work forward.

MVRemix: Speaking of Dre and Aftermath, is there any light that you can shed on the oft delayed, long overdue, and super secret forthcoming Detox opus?

Hi-Tek: Well, like I said, I just try to bring my best work forward and at the end of the day I’m just following Dre’s lead. And, he really…I guess, in his mind (knows) when it’s gonna come out and when it’s done. I really don’t know that much about it as far as…Well, I shouldn’t say that I don’t know much about it, but I don’t have that much say so into when it’s done. That’s Dre’s project! I just try to fit in where I can get in at.

MVRemix: With that being said, you definitely will/do have some involvement with Detox though?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, most definitely!

MVRemix: You are also working with a new R&B vocalist, Dion, through your association with Aftermath Entertainment, correct?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, that’s something for the future. Dion’s an artist that I worked with for the last four years. I groomed him. I actually met Dion through a talent search, and just involved him with a lot of projects that I was doing. Actually, the prize for winning the contest was to work with me and sign a deal with Hi-Tek productions. And Dion, once I started working with him, he just fit into the whole Hi-Tek movement. It took awhile, but it started working out.

MVRemix: Are you happy with the current state of Hip-Hop music?

Hi-Tek: I’m always, you know, I’m not gonna say always happy with it, but, I mean, like I said in the beginning of the interview, like I’m trying to be, like, a Dre, where I constantly re-invent myself. I may not be necessarily happy with Hip-Hop right now, so it just allows me to fall back and stay in the lab until my calling comes again, and just try to constantly re-invent myself. Because at the end of the day, it’s always gonna be a time where you don’t like something when you get older, ‘cause even when I was doing my thing and Hip-Hop was young, 10 years ago or whatever, 15 or 20 years ago, my mother and a lot people just didn’t understand it and we pushed it on ‘em. And now, look at Hip-Hop now! So, it’s like I just look at it the same way. I’m getting older and they gonna judge me and they want Hip-Hop to be a certain way, but I don’t think we gonna change what’s gonna naturally evolve out of this.

MVRemix: To date what has been your personal greatest Hip-Hop moment?

Hi-Tek: I don’t know, man. I just really get a good feeling out of when I hooked up with people who I wouldn’t normally hook up with, like when I hooked up with Dre and Snoop. Well really, when I hooked up with Snoop and then I hooked up with Dre. It just was, like, my music reached out to the West Coast – I didn’t never think that was gonna happen. And, then one time Snoop came to Cincinnati to work with me in my small one room studio, and it just was like, “Man!” I just couldn’t believe it. And, it was just a big plus. Everything I’ve done to this point (has) been a big plus. Like, I’m a fan first and foremost. I just try to play my part, and a lot of my dreams have come true up until this point. So, I’m still living it, man.

MVRemix: What is your current 5 to 10 year plan in this business?

Hi-Tek: Man, I just see myself as an executive. A person in the music (business) that really means a lot to other up ‘n’ coming artists, and just being real inspirational to everybody that’s trying to do this music thing.

MVRemix: And finally, are there any future plans for you to reconvene in the lab with Talib Kweli to record and release that highly anticipated Reflection Eternal sophomore record?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, Yeah, it’s going down! We’re just…We’re hashing out all the business and logistics, just to make sure we comfortable to make sure we get this album to the people the right way.

MVRemix: It still sounds a little premature in the making, but is there anything special that you are looking to do with the next Reflection Eternal LP?

Hi-Tek: Yeah, man, I just think fans and people in general just really want to see us work together again, and want to hear that sound again. We left the game at a standstill when we didn’t drop another album, so it’ll be a (breath of) fresh air for us and the people.

MVRemix: Any parting words?

Hi-Tek: Man, just…I just want to thank all my fans and anybody who take the time out to read this interview. And, I want to encourage everybody to support my project instead of downloading it for free. Go buy the album, enjoy the cover and the credits, along with the music!

Original Hi-Tek Interview