Hi-Tek - conducted by Todd Davis  

Hi-Tek: Ryder Music Interview

December 2007

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 Band, 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.

>> continued...

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Hi-Tek Interview

"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."