Cincinnati producer shows
own skill on new 'Hi-Teknology'
****Out of five stars
By Maurice Bobb
Daily Cougar Staff
Think back to the early beginnings of rap,
circa 1984, when there was an MC and a DJ at a party exciting the crowd
just because they enjoyed the art
form, the delivery and the music.
Now, that love has been replaced by bottom
lines and the ever-present pursuit of bling-bling dreams and platinum records.
Also lost in the fray is the
DJ -- the maestro behind the turntables
who spun the records that the MC rocked the mic to. Weive somehow forgotten
that if it werenit for the DJ,
none of this hip-hop culture would mean
Tyler Borich/Rawkus Entertainment
Cincinnati's Hi-Tek, a former
DJ to seminal rap duo Black Star, demonstrates his own considerable talent
and wide range of influences on his new
Enter Hi-Tek, former DJ to Black Star,
a socially conscious rap duo out of Brooklyn. Recently, Hi-Tek collaborated
with Talib Kweli, an underrated
MC who made a name for himself as a solo
lyricist. What Hi-Tek has done, though, is make an album in the vein of
former do-it-all DJ Pete Rock.
Hi-Tek is from Cincinnati, and he lets
his roots show on this album. "Iim letting people know that there are MCs
in Cincinnati and that weire doing this
from the heart," he says. "We just arenit
on the bandwagon. Theyire my people and Iive been working with them for
Cincinnati rap group Mood, featured on
"Breaking Bread," has been collaborating with Hi-Tek since 1992. Queen
City denizens Ravi T, J-Fresh and
Sen Sai were also instrumental in Hi-Tekis
"Thatis why I'm here now. I had a lot of
mentors that looked out and took the time to teach me and had love for
me … I learned from them," he said. "A
lot of people that are doing it now weren't
doing it before it had a shine to it. People don't really understand where
hip-hop comes from, and thatis
why they donit understand what makes you
Hi-Tek doesnit rhyme on this release. Rather,
he orchestrates a fusion of smart production with the varied talents of
rappers on the verge of stardom.
Guests who dropped by the studio to bless
the mic include Common, Buckshot, Mos Def, Cormega, Slum Village and, of
course, partner in rhyme
Cormega and Hi-Tek met on the dance floor:
"She sang a song in my ear at a club," Hi-Tek said, "and her style sounded
good. From there, it was
like, ‘Letis record that tomorrow.i" The
song "All I Need Is You" was the result.
Standout tracks like "The Sun God," featuring
the bankable Common, and "Theme from Hi-Tek," featuring Talib Kweli, make
this album a must-listen.
The return of Buckshot of Black Moon fame
is, in itself, a treat. Hi-Tek finds old-school funk beats to compliment
the chosen ones with intricate lyrics
that weave definite jam material.
Far from being a commercial vehicle, Hi-Teknology
will probably never reach the platinum success of a Nelly or a Jay-Z, but
it will please the real
hip-hop enthusiasts who revel in the purest
form of the medium.
Hi-Tek described Hi-Teknology as "more
sporadic" than his previous work with Talib Kweli and Black Star.
"Iive got R&B," he said, "but Iive
also got Kweli and Cormega. You'll have to pick out what you want. Thereis
a lot of different styles. It definitely
illustrates how I get down."
Newcomer Jonell blesses three tracks with
her soulful voice. She is definitely one to look for on her own release
in the future, as is Kweli, who may
finally get due recognition for his talents
in the cipher. Now more than ever, the possibility of a new Black Star
album is an appealing one,
considering that both Mos Def and Kweli
have established a following. And with Hi-Tek displaying his flair for
production with Hi-Teknology, Black
Star should see much success in the near
Go out and pick up this one -- that is,
if you can appreciate hip-hop stripped down of the bling-bling nonsense
that has all but ruined the art form.