Hi-Tek's new album hits stores tomorow, and he's been doing interviews and other computer thangs all over the place to promote it. We figured instead of just dropping another "What was it like making Black Star..." Q&A, we'd have fellow Cincinnati beat dude Pase Rock (who you might know from Five Deez, or his current gig as part of the Spankrock crew) get on the phone and just shoot the shit with his old classmate. Check it after the jump. As a bonus beat, we have a sweet DJ bag to give away from Stanton, with space for records, a laptop, needles, headphones, etc. It's been embroidered with the Hi Tek logo and signed by the man himself! Email us with your name and "Hi Tek Bag" in the subject line, and a winner will be picked at random this week.
The first time I was ever on stage was actually with you in ’88. You remember that shit? We started doing the Kid N Play kick step.
And we was two of the shortest people in school.
This is true. I got with The FADER and I was telling them stories of me and you in elementary school, how you was like the best tumbler.
That goes way back, that’s crazy.
I actually learned a lot of shit from you in the studio as well, you thought I was high and wasn’t paying attention.
Nah, nah I didn’t. I got mad respect for people I’ve known for a long time. I’m just a loyal type of dude. Where was that [studio], Beat Box?
Beat Box, Mannie’s crib, everywhere. I was actually there when you made “Cincinnati.” You made that shit in like ten minutes.
I came to New York the next day, I didn’t finish the song, Jay laced it.
I was laying on the couch and you walked in the door. I was high as fuck I remember, and I was like, “What the fuck you doing here?” And you just walked over to the beat machine and turned out a beat and I looked up and you was finished and you bounced! You came through for like 20 minutes.
Yeah, it wasn’t that long. I had to dip, I was going to New York. I didn’t get to finish it. I didn’t even hear the hook.
On this new album, you got your pops on the record right?
The Willie Catrell band, right?
Is he playing now or did he just put that together for your record?
We did the song three years ago, and when I first banged it out it started off as a family jam session, so I made it a priority in my life, since I didn’t grow up with pops like that. We lived in the same city, but he didn’t raise me or nothing. Instead of me being like, “Fuck my daddy,” it was more like, let me bring the family together. I just invited everybody to the studio: moms, pops, they get along, so you know… Back in the studio, all close family and I miced up all the shit and we just have a family jam session. So pops actually, he wrote that “Josephine” record like 30 years ago, before I was born and shit.
So you just took it and flipped it?
Pretty much. I didn’t even play nothing on that record, I just produced it. Pops played the bass, my uncle played guitar, moms was playing the strings and the keys. It was real. And the way it’s coming out, the response is good, that’s what I wanted to do.
Yo, when I heard that record, that shit was amazing before the verses even came in.
Ghostface and Pretty Ugly [are rapping], so just to see that, it’s hitting emotions. I’m on the move and hustlin’ all the time. I know my accomplishments and sometimes I forget about my goals because I’m living them. Once I set a goal I just put myself in the mode and start trying, instead of like, once I get to the goal, celebrating.
Was that something you always wanted to do?
I sorta planned it. The first plan was just to get pops in the studio. That alone—I didn’t care if it came out or not.
Is he still playing?
Nah, pops is, you know…
Yeah he’s chillin, he likes to hunt, fish… I just made it a priority to get a relationship with him. I probably won’t get to do the same thing in my lifetime.
That’s major man, that’s real major.
It’s just a big accomplishment for me.
You’re rapping a lot on this record, what compelled you to pick up the mic?
On some real shit, I don’t get caught up in the politics, if you can rap, you should put it down whenever you can. It’s about how you ride the beat and it’s about what you say, so if you actually listen to my lyrics, the lyrics actually make sense and they actually pertain to my life. Any time you hear me rap, it’s more about me and my life and my accomplishments. Especially with that “Music For Life” joint, I had to really lay that out and I had to hold my own. You got Nas and Common on the song, you got to slide yourself in there. And really, why would I not say nothing on my record? I’m not gonna consider myself an MC or a rapper, I’m just pretty much somebody that’s got something to say. I started off rapping, I always rapped, I just never took it real seriously.
What year did you actually start making beats, I know it was in the ’80s?
I started with the beats in like ’85, started out with pause mixing and shit.
For as far back as I can remember you always approached it like, “Yo, I’m making a record,” even if you wasn’t making records. You was working with like no name people from the 'Nati and making them sound like they was the shit. Like hoodrats, like taking some girl from on the corner, like, “Yo, come in the studio right quick and I'm gonna make this record.” I just thought that was amazing, I was still in high school just watching you make these records that was never coming out, and a lot of people don’t have that.
It took batches of beats for me to hook up with someone like Talib Kweli. For real, I gotta give it up for him because he always shouted my name out. When we first started and he would perform I wouldn’t even be DJing, I would be standing in the crowd watching his show, he always gave it up to me. That alone got me started. It starts people knowing my name, I gotta give it to Kweli, that’s my dog forever man. For somebody to keep shouting my name out like that, that’s how to get noticed. There’s a lot of producers, they put in a lot more work, have bigger records than me and all that, but they don’t have a face with the name. It’s like my beats are talking. I let the basslines talk.
I’ve been in your studio in Cincinnatti, you wasn’t there. You got one of the only SS [consoles] in the Midwest. Take that shit seriously. It’s crazy, it’s not just a studio, it’s like a compound. Why did you choose to stay in the 'Nati instead of moving to New York or LA?
To be honest, the whole movement has been about putting the 'Nati on the map in a real way. That’s why I always rock my 'Nati hat, not just on some represent the city shit, but to represent music that come from this city. I feel like I’m the next Bootsy [Collins]. Anything anybody say anything about Cincinnati, they think about Hi Tek. That’s what I want. It ain’t from the publicity, it’s from the respect of the music. A lot of people think I’m from Brooklyn too, but they know I represent the 'Nati. At home I make my best music, Dre told me the same thing. I was wanting to make a move and just be out. I came to Dre and was like, “I’m ready to move.” Dre got dough to be like, “Come on Tek, I’ll take you under my wing” or whatever, but he honestly told me, “Man, anytime I get music from you, the hottest shit come from when you in that zone in the 'Nati.” And I gotta totally agree with him, 100%. It’s definitely got its own chamber that come from the 'Nati and doing shit in the 'Nati. I’ve done my pieces in Cali and New York and all that but I make my best shit at home.