— Stephanie LaFlora
While casually scanning what’s new in gospel music releases on iTunes, I came across a gem. THR3E, Theory Hazit’s latest release, sounds like something you’d listen to back in ’95 while sitting on the porch of a Brownstone in Brooklyn. It’s a classic. I’ve yet to hear this sound from the Christian rap scene, so I made it my mission to find this guy and introduce him to you.
LaFlora: What message were you trying to communicate with this album?
Theory Hazit: I was really just trying to define, or let everybody know that we’re human and that in order to do anything you need the Holy Spirit. It’s about being in a fallen world; we live in a messed-up world.
LaFlora: So were you in a dark place?
Theory: Yes, I would say it was a dark place. You know, searching; trying to come up out of a dark place and shine a light in a dark place. Exposing some dark things and bringing it to the light for people to see, reminding people that it’s still here and you can’t ignore it.
LaFlora: You do that a lot. I saw your video for the song “Concealed Sorrow.” It packs a pretty powerful and equally controversial message about homosexuality among Christians. Did you get good feedback from that?
Theory: I got a lot of good feedback and a lot of negative feedback, but not the type of negative feedback that you would think. The good feedback was cool. “Christian rapper makes song about something that’s not addressed all the time or that the church usually ignores.” The negative feedback is that it was on some gay websites, and they were looking at it like me defending them in the wrong way.
LaFlora: What were you trying to communicate with that song?
Theory: I was trying to communicate that we need to address that issue in love instead of waving our fingers like “OH, THAT’S AN ABOMMINATION!” We definitely need to address it in love because it’s still a struggle; no matter what sin it is, they need help too.
LaFlora: Your sound is one of the most crossover sounds that I’ve heard. Why Christian rap?
Theory: I believe it’s a calling. I grew up in the church and I strayed away from the church and I always prayed regardless of my situation, but I know Christian rap helps me in my walk. It helps other people as well. How other people receive it encourages me. Plus, I can’t really sing. (Laughs)
LaFlora: Do you think Christian rap has a suitable platform?
Theory: I think it does. I might catch some flack for this but I don’t think it should be called “Christian” rap.
LaFlora: What would you prefer that we call it?
Theory: I really don’t care, honestly. I understand why things are labeled; it’s for other people to identify. I totally get that, but I’m not the one to put a stamp on it because I give songs to the Christian market and I give songs to the general market and it’s the same stuff — they both dig it.
I have Muslims saying they like it and people supporting me at my own church. If it were up to me I wouldn’t put any label on it. It’s hip-hop music; its just music to me. You don’t call Mos Def or Talib Kwali Muslim rap. They just do rap.
LaFlora: How do you measure success?
Theory: By being consistent. If there’s a demand for what you do, just put your material out there, and if people like it and demand it more … I measure it based on that. The opportunity for God to use you like that … God choosing you.
I’ve been getting messages asking me how many records I’ve sold or how did the numbers do for my newest album and I told them I don’t know! I don’t know because I don’t care! The only time I’d be concerned about record sales is if I ran a music label. As far as being an artist, I just want to get out there and do what I do and come back home. (Laughs)
LaFlora: Do you feel like you’ve had the exposure that you want?
Theory: Honestly, I’m going to be real human right now and say I don’t think so. I think everything had its time. I think Extra Credit got really good exposure. It actually put me on the map. All the other stuff that I’ve done in between that album and this album, except for Lord Fire, didn’t really do anything.
I felt like I was just making music and not really investing enough time into my projects or into my writing in order to be better exposed. And on top of that, people weren’t really doing what they were supposed to as far as getting the music out there. I just put it in other people’s hands hoping for it to do something. I think it will come in time as I continue to invest quality time into a project. Just make something really dope. It’s really all on me. It’s my fault that I’m not out there.
LaFlora: How does the gospel music industry respond to you? There are a couple of Christian rappers that are getting more exposure than in the past, like Mali Music, D.A. Truth, and people like that. How do you fit into that puzzle?
Theory: I don’t think I fit in that at all. Well, I think I do, but there’s a group of people that don’t think I belong there.
LaFlora: Why not?
Theory: I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I need to have a particular Scripture-based album? Maybe that’s what it is. Ultimately, I know what it is. I know that it’s God’s plan. I feel like I am one of the guys that are a bridge for rappers that are Christians and Christians that are rappers. I’m the in-between guy; I wouldn’t call it lukewarm, I’m just trying to bring cats together. I’m trying to do a song with D.A. Truth and then mess around and have him on a Dert beat. Dert is known for his work for The Tunnel Rap, and they were Christian rappers but they talked a lot about situations and how to handle them and not line for line out of the New Testament.
LaFlora: Perhaps, the industry does prefer more overtly scriptural lyrics, but you seem to enjoy doing you. How do you maintain your momentum?
Theory: It’s a desire; it’s a passion. If you love to draw, you’ll probably be drawing until you die. It’s really a passion I have. I love to do it. I love the challenge of making you like something.
Stephanie Imani LaFlora is coordinating producer of UrbanFaith.com and UMI Media. A writer, editor, and social-media whiz, she’s a 2009 graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting.