Hi-Tek :: Hi-Teknology
Label: Rawkus Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Produced by Hi Tek for Hi Tek Productions, Inc." Those may seem like
simple words, but how often do you pick up an album these days where
every single track has the exact same production credit? Rappers and
their record labels are increasingly fickle these days, calling on each
and every "flavor of the minute" producer to bless them with a track.
And to be truthful, what no name MC wouldn't gladly hand over a bag
full of money to be blessed with three minutes and forty seconds of
a certified banger by Pete Rock, DJ Premier, or Timbaland?
Add Hi-Tek to that list. From his Cincinatti homeboys in the group
Mood, to his Reflection Eternal partner Talib Kweli, to flavorful
rappers like Common and Mos Def, Tek has produced jam after jam.
Don't assume he's a hired gun though - these days he works almost
exclusively for Rawkus Records, coming back with more and more hits
like Nice & Smooth. Therefore it should come as no surprise
that his "Hi-Teknology" album
is on their label, nor that every single beat on this LP is his.
If you heard him rapping with Talib Kweli on "The Blast" you may
have thought this would be a solo album showcasing his mic skills,
but it's more a showcase for how good he makes other artists sound.
Only on the title track does he really get down on the M-I-C.
Clearly, this was a wise decision. Of course there are many producers
who can come off nice when they rap: Diamond, Evidence, RZA, and so on.
With this album though Hi-Tek has the upper hand. It's a complete
role-reversal - the producer picking his favorite artists, instead of
the other way around. Even if his choices may be somewhat predictable
they are no less pleasing. Common gets soulful with Vinia Mojica over
Tek's plucky beat on "The Sun God",
and Talib Kweli presents the "Theme From Hi-Tek" with his intense
lyrical flow density. Other tracks like
"Suddenly" and "Breakin' Bread" with the members of Mood are certified
bangers, even if the latter's first verse loses a couple of cool points
for the umpteenth "Teddy Pendergrass" punchline heard in rap.
Heads may be caught a little more off guard though by his work with
underground thug rap hero Cormega on "All I Need is You." The song
is an intriguing mix that is spiritually kin
to Q-Tip's beat on "One Love" by Nas, but lyrically akin to the song of
almost the same name by Method Man and Mary J. Blige; a match that's 100%
natch when Jonell comes in to sing the hook. In keeping with this
theme of underground hardcore from the Rotten Apple, legendary Black Moon
MC Buckshot pops up on "The Illest it Gets", a heavily beat driven
banger with a few varied synth notes.
Although radically different from Da Beatminerz beats we've come to
know and love Buck rapping over, the stripped down sound is a perfect
way for him to "melt hot rocks and spit lava" over the track.
To be succinct, not a single one of the cuts on this album is wack.
To listen to an album produced end to end by Hi-Tek one would expect
nothing less. Not being wack in this case is not necessarily synonymous
with perfection. Tek achieved near pefection on Talib Kweli's solo album
with songs like "Move Somethin'", "Down for the Count" and "Good Mourning."
It's hard to lower high expectations, and simplistic and repetitive
beats like "Get Back Pt. II" and "L.T.A.H." aren't up to his standards.
"Where I'm From" featuring Jinx Da Juvy is so much like Talib's song
"The Blast" it could have been called "Part Deux." What happened?
In theory Hi-Tek may have been pressured to get an album out to keep
new Rawkus product in stores. Rather than living in a world of excuses,
we'd all like to live in a world with songs the caliber of "2000 Seasons"
and "Respiration." Don't get it twisted - this is a great album, and
even a good mood album (no pun intended). It's just with this much
talent pooled together in one place at one time, it seems like Hi-Tek
only gave it 80% of his all instead of 100%. Rather than being bad
or wack in any way, this album is just occasionally uninspiring.
It's a good listen though, and definitely a recommended purchase for
anyone who was already a fan of his hit-making hip-hop beats.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: May 8, 2001