The hiphop force is strong with Portland-based emcee/producer Theory Hazit. With a discography in the neighborhood of 22 releases ranging from beat tapes to EP’s to LP’s to instrumentals to remixes and collaborations, dating back to 2006, it’s an understatement to call the man prolific. It was following the 2015 release of his 4th official solo album, Fall Of The Light Bearer (which is already two releases and a beat reel old), however, that seemed to springboard Theory out from the underground, making power moves in a cutthroat industry.
Born in ’78 and having come up in Cincinnati, Ohio, one can sense a strong influence of 90’s era east coast boom bap present in the beats Theory produces. Less focused on bass drops and club popping, he takes a more soulful approach to production, sampling jazz guitar or creating his own drum sounds to emulate specific iconic beats from his upbringing. To that end, Theory even has his own drum kit sample library (including drums he used to produce Redman’s “Bars,” Kokane’s ”Plastic Surgery,” and more) available for purchase.
Though he may be quicker to speak to his beats and production work, Theory’s rap game is also very on point. His flow is effortless and lyrics deeply personal, exploring themes ranging from a troubled upbringing, to fatherhood in the wake of a failed relationship, and spirituality. And people are taking note. Just last month he joined Snoop Dogg, Kokane and Kurupt on stage to perform at the Crystal Ballroom.
Check out his latest beat reel for a taste of what’s to come and keep your ears open for Theory Hazit in 2016.
We joined Theory at Everyday Music on West Burnside to dig up five albums that in some way, shape of form have had an influence on his particular sound. After looking back through his discography, these picks make so much sense. Without further adieu…
Henry Mancini – Howard Hawks’ Hatari!
For Henry Mancini, as a composer, I didn’t need anybody to like show me who he was, he was popular enough to come across his sound. I always wanted to do stuff like Henry Mancini; compose. When I first started out making beats, I sampled him a lot. I didn’t even know the titles of most of his songs, I just went through them. I started out going to the library and checking out vinyl and CD’s – that’s just the type of libraries we had in Cincinnati – so I checked out all this stuff and I’d burn it or copy it in some way. I just was really obsessed with Henry Mancini, especially his string section and his choirs, they were pretty amazing. It got to the point where I actually hit up his daughters, and I was naive and ignorant so I didn’t even know he had already passed away at the time. This was like about ten years ago. And I introduced myself ‘yo I’d like to meet him… I’m a producer, an artist… I wanna meet this dude, is he speaking anywhere?’ and she was like ‘nah, he’s been dead for about like ten years now.’ I felt so bad. I just really wanted to be like him, you know as far as like making music, and especially hip hop. I got into Wu Tang, Busta Rhymes, and how DJ Scratch and RZA sampled a lot of that stuff with strings. So I was really drawn to that side of hip hop.
I talk about Ohio and of course I have to get Zapp and the Ohio Players. First of out, Roger Troutman, Zapp Troutman, Terry – I went to middle school and high school with their nephews and nieces. Same with Ohio Players, I went to school with their nephews. It’s pretty amazing to find out that they were down with each other and lived around the corner from each other in Hamilton, Ohio. It’s kinda weird. This is dope man, it’s very inspirational. Although the west coast has ran these sounds into the ground, it’ll still never really play out to me. These guys from “Funky Worm” to like you know “More Bounce to the Ounce,” “Doo Wa Ditty,” “Dance Floor,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” This is like Sir Mix A Lot, Ice Cube, all over this. But like, all those sounds; these days I’m like trying to emulate, you know recreate rather than sample. I’m just trying to figure out how they made these sounds. And, being in school for film, and you know recording like Foley, I’m learning how to design my own sounds, and so I apply that with music of course. It’s a cool little journey to like try to find your own sounds, and actually copy sounds, or like make sounds – like taking your fingernail up against this album cover here and making it sounds like a dog is barking, or an alien howling. It’s crazy man, it’s really crazy. So I’m studying like the Zapp-clap, and how do I make that happen. I was just like ‘yo…. that’s some hand clap, and a fat snare, and maybe it’s like pitch down…’ just trying to figure out all these layers.
Anything from this guy, it’s like same thing with Henry Mancini, I really like the strings, the guitar especially, the jazz guitar. Um… you know it’s just like the hip hop thing to do. I came up listening to Hi-Tek and Diamond D, and they used that string guitar. Especially just like listening to like older Mood and Reflection Eternal stuff, Dilla. You know I was out there in the midwest developing my sound, those were the guys that I followed after. I picked up Wes Montgomery for that, because you know whenever I wanted that feel, that sound, this was the go-to guy.
This record right here is famous for “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” I was messing around with this record earlier last year, and I was like, ‘yo I need to flip this “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”’ And you know I got into it, I was like, ‘ah this is cool but I’d rather just play it over,’ you know? Or some of the synths over this re-make. And then I got more into the record, and I was like ‘yo, the synthesizers on here are CRAZY. So I did this flip of “Carmella,” and it’s crazy. But yeah man, anything from this era you know got me on craigslist and ebay looking for old synthesizers.
I’m a really big fan of their sound. You know like I was saying, Ill Bill and Necro and Jedi Mind Tricks, they would sample stuff like this or would just remind me of this type of sound – they brought this type of vibe to hip hop. I like these guys and like System of a Down, because I like sampling this type of stuff, it’s nice and dark. it’s just a different texture and at the same time it’s melodic.