One of urban music’s most dynamic, respected, and prolific producers, Hi-Tek has been named a 2022 inductee to the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame. He joins fellow honorees Bootsy Collins, Dr. Charles Fold, Otis Williams and the Charms, and the Isley Brothers. Hi-Tek is the first and only hip-hop artist among these musical icons.
“This means everything,” says the man born Tony Cottrell, who has produced material for 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Anderson .Paak, among others. “This is bigger than receiving a Grammy. Being acknowledged by your hometown is one of the biggest commemorations you could ever have.”
Hi-Tek also landed prime placements on the Lyricist Lounge compilations (Talib Kweli’s “The Manifesto”) and the Soundbombing series of albums (Common and SadatX’s “1-9-9-9”) soon followed. In the midst of releasing a string of acclaimed Hi-Teknology solo albums throughout the next decade, the Ohioan crafted some of the most soulful yet bonecrushing work of Game (“Runnin’”), 50 Cent (“Best Friend”), G-Unit (“Eye For An Eye,” “GUnit”) and Snoop Dogg (“I Believe In You”), while also delivering innovative R&B material forJonell (“Round And Round,” “Don’t Stop”), Dion and others.
In the midst of this work, Hi-Tek became a staff producer for Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. His first placement with Dr. Dre’s company was “Hollywood,” from singer Truth Hurts. The song featured Dr. Dre rapping over Hi-Tek’s music, a noteworthy achievement for Hi-Tek, a fan of Dr. Dre’s work with N.W.A, The D.O.C., Snoop Dogg and others.
“That was a big thing for me, Dre rhyming on my track,” Hi-Tek recalls. “I remember him calling me a few times and asking me if I really liked it. The fact that he was asking and trusting my opinion on whether or not he should keep his verse blew me away. It also built my confidence as a producer. I mean… it’s Dr. Dre.”
That growth included additional work with Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks, D12, Xzibit, 213, Syleena Johnson, De La Soul and others. Hi-Tek had become a go-to producer, someone artists actively sought out and recruited to appear on their albums. “Cats showed me love,” he says. “The same love and passion artists were getting from my music was what they were giving back to me as a person and artist.”
As Hi-Tek’s work in the studio progressed with Aftermath and other big named artist, his biggest hit came from his collaboration with emerging rapper-singer-drummer Anderson .Paak. Hi-Tek produced his breakthrough single “Come Down,” which went gold and propelled .Paak’s Malibu LP to gold status, too, selling more than 500,000 copies.
Hi-Tek’s growth included additional work with Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks, D12, Xzibit, 213, Syleena Johnson, De La Soul and others. Hi-Tek had become a go-to producer, someone artists actively sought out and recruited to appear on their albums.
A self-taught musician who learned by trial and error, Hi-Tek benefitted from having worked as a struggling musician on a budget. In the 1990s, he may have only had a few hours in the studio a week, so he had to make his time count. Furthermore, the studio and recording technology was basic by today’s standards, so Tek learned how to be patient while making music, while conceiving it and creating it. He learned how to interact with singers, songwriters, musicians and rappers and both a personal and business level, which is somewhat of a lost art.
This unofficial training allowed him to develop his musical ear, his production skills and a solid musical foundation. Thus, as recording technology exploded in the 2000s, Hi-Tek was able to use his skills learned in the 1990s to modern recording techniques and giving him a decided advantage over those beatmakers who only made music on a computer.
“You don`t necessarily have to be a musician to be a producer,” he says. “You just have to know how to hear it. As a producer, you`re catering to what an artist`s sound is but never forget why they came to you in the first place. Naturally, my soul comes out through the music. It`s a gift.”
For Hi-Tek, he`s been able to live out his dreams while providing top-quality music to artists and fans alike. “A passion for making music is in my blood,” he says. “I love making music. To see it come to fruition is amazing to me.”
His fans say the same thing.