REVOLT TV presents 'The Produce Section,' a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, The Produce Section is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals; the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip-hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
In this edition of "The Produce Section," we cover producer Hi-Tek, whose production helped spearhead a renaissance for independent, socially conscious artists in hip hop. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hi-Tek's genesis in the rap game came with his production on local rap group Mood's breakout album, Doom. However, after striking a working relationship with Talib Kweli, who was featured on the album, Hi-Tek's stock as a boardsman began to skyrocket, with many of Kweli's peers seeking out his talents. Earning credits on numerous classic albums during the late '90s and early aughts, the Ohioan quickly proved himself to be one of the more respected producers among purists and fellow beatsmiths alike.
After dominating the underground and indie rap scenes, Hi-Tek's stature rose even further after finding a fan in Dr. Dre, who enlisted him as a staff producer for Aftermath Records. This period would translate into some of the biggest hit records of his career and solidify his reputation as one of the elite boardsmen of his era. Today, with more than two decades worth of timeless material under his belt, Hi-Tek continues to churn out tracks for veterans and newcomers alike, a testament to his dedication to the craft.
In our latest installment of "The Produce Section," we highlight 11 of Hi-Tek's most iconic beats that define his excellence behind the boards.
1. "Fortified Live"
A round of applause sets the tone for this crackling backdrop, which served as one of Rawkus Records' earliest singles and helped launch Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Hi-Tek into the public consciousness. Unpacking various elements from "Tom Drunk" by U-Roy and Hopeton Lewis, the Cincinnati native made a memorable first impression with this free-wheeling jam session.
For the creation of this classic beat, Hi-Tek draws from the catalog of Boogie Down Productions, revamping the group's 1987 cut "P Is Free" and other tracks from the group's catalog. Released as the lead-single from Black Star's eponymous debut, the song peaked at No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100, earn Hi-Tek the first bonafide hit-record on his resume.
Elements of "Theme From The Fox" serve as the foundation for this composition from Black Star's debut album, which Hi-Tek reinforces with booming drums and live instrumentation. A minor hit at the time of its release, this single became one of the definitive records of the indie-rap movement and is regarded by many as the crown jewel in the producer's catalog.
"Ain't No Use" by Sweet Blindness gets looted as Common and Sadat X trade verses over this collaborative effort from the Soundbombing II compilation. Pairing the original sample with drum loops, scratches and various vocal samples, Hi-Tek reached a new zenith with this serene amalgam of sound.
5. "Next Universe"
Hi-Tek takes his wizardry to otherworldly levels with the instrumental for "Next Universe," his spellbinding contribution to Rawkus' Soundbombing II compilation. Layering sturdy drums with xylophones, synths and other wrinkles, Tekzilla gifts Mos Def with a sprawling soundscape that inspires a flawless performance from the bohemian Brooklynite.
6. "Move Somethin'"
Hi-Tek pilfers riffs from "Can't Stop Loving You" by Soul Dog, and "Shaft's Mama" by Charlie Whitehead for this booming soundscape from him and Talib Kweli's collaborative album, Train of Thought. Released as the album's first single, this horn-heavy composition positioned the producer and rapper as the second coming of Gang Starr, giving the duo instant cache within subterranean rap circles.
7. "The Blast"
Hi-Tek's stock as a boardsman rose to unprecedented heights after crafting the instrumental for this street-sweeper of a single from him and Talib Kweli's debut album. Powered by a drum loop and complimented by shakers and other elements, this track, which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks chart, remains Reflection Eternal's signature record and one of Hi-Tek's most popular beats thus far.
8. "Round & Round"
Mostly known for his work with rap's elite, Hi-Tek made a foray into the realm of R&B in 2001 with this cut from his own compilation album, Hi-Teknology. Flipping a sample of "Burlesque in Barcelona" by Jakob Magnússon, Hi-Tek reworks the original with crisp percussion, resulting in a selection that's breezy and a testament to his versatility.
Hi-Tek unleashes gunfire to kick off the proceedings on this explosive beat from The Game's debut album, The Documentary. Littering the track with drums, cymbals, and synths, the production stalwart delivers one of the premier instrumentals of his career with this offering.
10. "Ryder Music"
Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need of Love Today" gets sampled for this silky smooth groove from 50 Cent's sophomore album, The Massacre. A sturdy drum loop and synths are matched with a smoky vocal sample, a combination that comprises one of Hi-Tek's most unsung creations to date.
11. "Best Friend"
In 2005, Hi-Tek delivered the backdrop to this single from the soundtrack to Get Rich or Die Tryin', continuing his rise from the underground to the upper echelon of the mainstream. Taking a vocal sample and other elements from Valerie Simpson's 1972 cut "Silly, Wasn't I," Hi-Tek layers the track with tumbling drums, bells and piano keys, resulting in a lively composition that skyrocketed into Top 40 territory.
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