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Hi-Tek: Hi-Teknology

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Hi-Tek

Album: Hi-Teknology
Label: Rawkus

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Like Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Cincinnati's DJ Hi-Tek has maintained a remarkable level of quality in his work while evolving at a breathtaking rate. But Hi-Tek didn't come into his own as a major artist until "For Women," the last track on last year's terrific Reflection Eternal album: There, Kweli's vivid, poetic verses and Hi-Tek's haunting, elegant production combined with unforgettable results. Hi-Tek's growth continues apace with his solo debut, Hi-Teknology, an album that ranks among the best producer compilations ever assembled. A part-time MC, Hi-Tek handles mic duties on Hi-Teknology's title song, but stays behind the boards for the album's remainder, crafting astonishingly assured, eclectic beats for an assortment of MCs both established and up-and-coming. But, like Mos Def, Hi-Tek can't be confined to just one genre, as two of Hi-Teknology's best tracks eschew rap entirely for slinky, brittle R&B (Jonell's "Round & Round") and spacey, blissed-out soul (Mos Def and Vinia Mojica's "Git To Steppin'"). Kweli pops up for a pair of typically strong tracks ("Get Back Remix" and "Theme From Hi-Tek"), but, of all people, it's Cormega—an otherwise undistinguished Mobb Deep flunky—who scores the album's best song. Leaving behind his real-ass-thug shtick for a few minutes, Cormega achieves something approaching greatness on "All I Need Is You," a street-smart love song that's both sweet and propulsive. Elsewhere, Hi-Tek does his best DJ Premier impersonation on "Breakin' Bread," and does right by his Cincinnati compatriots in Mood with a stellar beat for "Suddenly." Serviceable but unremarkable thugged-out turns from Buckshot and newcomer Jinx Da Juvy on "The Illest It Gets" and "Where I'm From," respectively, slow the album's momentum a bit, but otherwise Hi-Tek maintains an impressive blend of street savvy and arty ambition. An essential solo debut, Hi-Teknology confirms what Reflection Eternal implied: that, over the course of a few short years, Hi-Tek has risen to the ranks of hip-hop's elite producers.