Hi-Tek Hi-Teknology 2

Since splitting from former Reflection Eternal accomplice Talib Kweli a few years ago, Cincinnati-bred producer Hi-Tek has quietly made some power moves behind the scenes. The results of getting hooked up with Dr. Dre’s production team has led to the beatsmith working with some of the biggest names in commercial rap, seemingly light years away from his underground roots. The increased star power is reflected when you compare the guest list on this record to the original Hi-Teknology album released five years ago. In the interim, Hi-Tek’s production sound has broadened and he’s obviously warmed up to rhyming on the mic a little more. With all these changes though it’s apparent that Hi-Tek, at least in approach rather than sound, has looked inward as opposed to favouring the chest-puffing bluster that accompanies many producer helmed comps. Themes of loyalty, intimacy and self-reflection are abundant despite the crowded guest list, and Hi-Tek even drafts in his father’s bluesy wail for the cautionary drug tale "Josephine,” featuring a remarkably lucid and on-message Ghostface. It’s obvious Hi-Tek hasn’t let his guests run rampant with mix-tape freestyles and his meticulously layered soundscapes almost demand introspection. While appearances by Busta Rhymes and the Game, and the excruciating "Baby We Can Do It” seem to exist for marquee value and crossover appeal, there’s plenty of material here that makes these missteps forgivable. "Can We Go Back” with Talib Kweli (who reunites with Hi-Tek on four tracks), thematically works on multiple levels, and the elegiac "Music For Life” with Common, Nas and a prescient voicemail from the late J Dilla is a perfect album closer and a defining statement from this underrated producer. (Babygrande)