Broad generalization and telling observations — not necessarily mutually exclusive. To wit, it’s been said before that Christian-inflected MCs can be broken down into two categories: rappers who just happen to be Christians and Christians who just happen to be rappers. Cincinnati MC Theory Hazit stands firmly in the first category, the music and the message on his new LP, Extra Credit, are in correct proportion, and the album succeeds on its considerable musical merits. There will be those who count such artists out wholesale, no Jesus no how. They stopped reading after the second sentence. For everyone else:
Certainly, Extra Credit doesn’t reinvent any wheels. Even elements like Theory’s vocal inflection (a bit like Common, not quite so smooth) and the album’s production (plenty of chopped-up/sped-up soul samples) are traceable to his Midwestern turf. But it almost all works. From the thumping album opener “Lesson In Power” — a relentlessly ascending vocal sample over a heavy kick and a hand clap — to the more leftfield, 20-thumb-pianos-in-a-video-arcade sound of “T Minus Ten” to the surging storefront church organ of “Out With A Bang”, the tracks here give a solid, current sounding platform for Theory Hazit’s straight-ahead rhymes.
Straight ahead and totally competent, that is. “I got so much style you thought Theory Hazit was a group,” he boasts on “Gossip Synopsis”, not afraid to walk the treacherous fence between battle rhymes and faith (check “Dumb Dunces” for more examples). In fact, it seems the contradiction is fuel for his fire at certain points. On the album’s title track, Theory explains that while he might keep it on wax, he can’t account for the actions of more thuggish relatives.
A strange take on saber rattling maybe, but it seems that whichever direction he chooses to go, secular or not so, Theory Hazit gets by on his humanity. The braggadocio is human, the sense of humor (dropping rapid fire references to O.G. Readmore and the Ed Lover dance on “After School Special”) is human, the contradiction of being high in the church choir as a youth (one of the collected tales from “I Just Wanna Come Home”) — very human. It was Kanye West who made the point that it seemed like it was cool to rap about anything, except for Jesus. Much like the Chi-town giant, Theory Hazit proves his worth by rapping about everything, including Jesus.