Theory Hazit & Toni Shift – Modern Marvels

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Illect Recordings (January 12, 2010)
Reviewed by Trey Palmisano

Beats n/a
Rhymes n/a
Overall of of

It’s been a minute, but Theory Hazit is back and as fresh as ever. And if think he never left, you’re right as well. That’s because Theory is quite possibly one of the hardest-working beat smiths in the business. Between working out his own joints, Theory remains in high demand on the underground circuit and has worked with everyone from the renowned Masta Ace to lesser known emcees like 2Five.

The track “Modern Marvels” has been floating around for a number of months, building up anticipation and receiving high praise for its pulsing beat, surefire lyricism, and special guest appearance by the Lightheaded crew.

Coming off the success of Lord Fire, the Cincinnati emcee finds a new sound on the Modern Marvels album, experimenting with audio clips, ambient sounds, some old blues, and lilting vocal arrangements.

One of my more overt fascinations with this album is Theory’s disarmingly real approach to life and storytelling. If ever a person’s life were a thorn bush that needed careful navigating instead of a patch of daisies, Theory lays out life in all its stark desperation on a number of tracks. He’s very much engaged in the trench warfare of living in the shadow of the cross while the world crumbles down around him. From psychological issues with his wife and their intimacy issues to his son’s utter disrespect for him, the lyricism shows a level of maturity and honesty at the expense of the manic pretensions of greatness enjoyed by established hip hoppers in mainstream.  The hook on “Marvelust” repeats ironically how everything is so “marvelust” despite the less-than-optimal situations Theory rattles off, smacking in the face of the reality he’s living.

The lack of this chapter-and-verse approach that we’ve heard so many times before, allows Theory to challenge us to come at the situation without our preconceived notions and memory verses, and just learn to be in the moment. Sometimes perhaps we have too much faith in our bible scripts than we do in the God that’s at its center.

No one can deny that Theory is a master storyteller. It’s the world he lays out before us that tests our faith, rather than our pre-arranged formulas that don’t always filter easily into black and white issues. “Concealed Sorrow” is another beautiful example of just how bad Christianity fails on so many levels. Theory lays it out without resorting to a chapter-and-verse skewering of his subject matter. The song adopts a clever angle by refusing to judge, moving instead in a linear fashion to speak the facts, an altogether different approach than many of his associates who condemn homosexual behavior, but often forget that the person behind the “condition” is flesh and blood and in desperate need of some kindness, gentleness, and love. Theory’s silence allows the question to linger: could we have done something differently? This is the job of the storyteller rather than the judge. And this is where he establishes himself.  Of course the beats themselves are alive and well and never deign to disappoint. But that’s typical Theory fashion.

For fans of: Scribbling Idiots, Braille, Othello, Omega Watts, Cas Metah, JustMe, Wonder Brown

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