It was no doubt a shock to Hi-Tek fans that after a five year gap between his first albums, he’d launch right into his third just a year later. “Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip” showed a tremendous musical growth from his earlier work in general, replacing the hard, spare beats he’s known for with a much more lush musical landscape. It would be unreasonable to expect that to repeat itself here and Hi-Tek doesn’t. All he’s done with his third album is make more good beats.
Hi-Tek’s productions have always been some of the best in the genre, and “Hi-Teknology 3” keeps up to that standard pretty easily. It’s not as slow as the second, nor as consistent, but that works in its favor. As good as “The Chip” was, it got bogged down occasionally by too much music that sounded the same. This album generally goes along the same lines, but Hi-Tek isn’t afraid to throw in a curveball every now and then. Case in point: he snaps out of the slow, blue feeling of “Life to Me,” and right into the (ironically) guitar-laced “My Piano,” rhyming head to head with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah:
Hi-Tek: “Is it the love for the money, or the love for the game?
Is it the love from the honeys, or the love for the change?
Is it because most of these little niggas is wack
Or is it because the game is yellin “bring that real shit back”?
Is it because of the limelight, I’m just tryin to be famous
Or is it cause the game dying, and I’m just trying to save it?
Maybe I’m just obsessed with it, just in love with the music…”
The problem with this album isn’t Hi-Tek at all, it’s the rappers on it. When it’s top-tier MC’s like Raekwon, Ghostface, or Talib Kweli, the music is excellent. But those are about the only rappers who turn in special performances on the whole album. In other places, like the half-hearted “Step Ya Game Up,” the rappers fail Hi-Tek miserably. “Ohio All-Stars” just shows why Ohio isn’t really on the hip hop map yet, and even the Tupac tribute of “God’s Plan” is a good cause executed poorly.
Like “The Chip,” this album has a significant R&B presence, but it doesn’t work as well here. There’s nothing wrong with any of these songs, “Life To Me” is particularly excellent, but because most of the hip hop tracks are harder, it creates a disorienting effect. The fast pace the album heads towards in its middle makes the slower R&B songs sound tedious and dull. When taken on their own, they all work well, but they’re hard to get into with the rest of the album.
What works best are the slower hip hop songs at the end of the album, “Step Ya Game Up” is a track that also appears on Little Brother’s “Get Back,” but is just as effective here. Phonte’s complaints about maturing women are both clever and funny, and his light-heartedness fits right in with the casual nature of the music. This is even more true with the Reflection Eternal reunion of “Time.” Kweli and Hi-Tek sound, as always, like they were born to make music together, as Kweli’s flow manipulates the beat perfectly, making a four-second loop sound like a four-minute composition.
If “Hi-Teknology 3” suffers from anything, it’s a lack of vision. Hi-Tek is a very good, even excellent producer, but he doesn’t do a great job of selecting artists to work with, or making a cohesive album in this case. The album just doesn’t sound very united in its sound, and it really suffers from a couple of jarring changes in tempo and intensity. Despite this, its still a worthwhile pick-up, it will just function better in your mixes and playlists than as its own listen.