Hi-Tek Biography

Firmly entrenched as 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 is one of the few beatsmiths who has delivered aurally supreme, emotive music that seamlessly travels between sounds, styles and genres while always containing heavy doses of soul. The Cincinnati-based maestro created the sound that catapulted the independent New York rap renaissance into the mainstream in the late 1990s through his work with Mos Def and Talib Kweli as Black Star (“Definition,” “Respiration”) and with Talib Kweli as one-half of the group Reflection Eternal (“Fortified Live,” “The Blast”). During this time, Hi-Tek also landed prime placements on the Lyricist Lounge compilations (Talib Kweli’s “The Manifesto”) and the Soundbombing series of albums (Common and Sadat X’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 bone-crushing work of Game (“Runnin’”), 50 Cent (“Best Friend”), G-Unit (“Eye For An Eye,” “G-Unit”) and Snoop Dogg (“I Believe In You”), while also delivering innovative R&B material for Jonell (“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.” 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.

All the while, 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. “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.”

A self-taught musician who learned by trial and error, Hi-Tek benefits 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 there 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 have 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, giving him a decided advantage over those beatmakers who have 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. You have to know how to be in tune even when the note is out of tune. 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. They came to you to work with you for you. It’s important for me to mesh the two. Naturally, my soul comes out through the music. That’s something that happens naturally. I can’t even explain it. 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. I’m a creative person at heart. I love putting things together. I enjoy the way things come together, either starting from scratch or starting from a raw thought. To see it come to fruition is amazing to me.”
Hi-Tek’s fans say the same thing.

Back to Classical Roots Main Page