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The best kept secret in music


"Scouting Report: Theory"

Published: Tuesday - March 27, 2007
Words by Candace Simmons

Photo: Rosta Records

Flint, Michigan is known for being the original headquarters of General Motors and being the "not too far from Detroit" city, which birthed a fairly popular white rapper. What Flint isn't known for is breeding emcees that leave a lasting impression on hip-hop, but Natasha "Theory" Thomas is looking to change that indefinitely. Equipped with a tight nit circle of artists, a supportive fam (including her fiancé and fellow rapper/producer Main Event), and a seemingly strong knowledge of self, Theory is looking to prove herself as a lyrical, conscious and engaging emcee. Even though Flint is where she was born (and currently lives), Theory was raised in both Michigan and Germany (due to her stepfather being in the military), and attended college in Kentucky. Her music is as diverse as the places she has lived; however, it is clear that she has love for her hometown. "Flint is like any other city in this country and is struggling with issues of crime, a bad economy, and crazy politics," Flint says. "I want people to know that there are so many dedicated people in Flint... many of the artists here are activists as well." Theory isn't just rapping about the need for community improvement; she's making it happen with RAISE IT UP! -- a youth, arts and awareness organization that uses art, poetry and hip hop as a vehicle to help kids think critically and express themselves.

The theme of activism runs strong in her debut Homegirls and Hand Grenades (H&H). The album's title was inspired by one of Theory's favorite poets, Sonia Sanchez, who penned a book by the same name that was published in the early 80s. "The book really inspired me because it seemed to really capture the beauty of what it means to be black and female in the culture," she explains. "It was vulnerable and strong, I wanted the album to be that as well." Beside Theory's poetic side, there also lies a smart businesswoman. Admittedly, the first single "Woman to Woman" was picked like most singles, because of its mainstream appeal.

Of course, everything isn't quite as simple as picking a single. Theory has dealt with life's darker issues, including inconsistencies with her father and trying to gain respect as an African-American female. "I think that every little girl who has 'daddy issues' has to really dig deep within herself to find out who she is and what she wants. [And] being a young, black woman trying to find my way in the world, we always have to battle both racism and sexism," Theory says as she reflects on her life. "I appreciate my struggles because struggle is necessary to really become who you are supposed to be."

Theory has been singing and dancing since she was a child, but her earliest recollection of her "first real performance" as a rapper was in 1999, as a student at Kentucky State. A group of guys who called themselves The Corporation wanted to perform with a female emcee at the school's talent showcase. That's where she got her first taste of rapping in front of a crowd, and has been writing and performing as a solo act ever since. Apparently, Theory has a unique style. "My music is an honest reflection of me... whatever that means. I want to sound honest, always. I also want to be inspirational, not in a preachy way," she explains. "We have a ton of music at our disposal that tells us how to hate to value material things over people. We have enough of that." She adds playfully, "I also want it [my music] to be fun and smart-mouthed!"

Theory worked with her music partner and partner in crime, Main Event, to bring Homegirls and Hand Grenades full circle. Theory also worked with Tunde Olaniarian, a vocalist that complemented the song "So Alive", "he really added something special to the song" she says. Her love for poetry is shown through, Wisdom, "a hot, female, artist slash MC" who collaborated on Theory's album with some spoken word. Though the aforementioned artists may have supported the album artistically, Theory gratefully admits that James Anthony Jones of Mystic Melodic Music, who Executive produced the album, "really played a huge roll in the development of the album."

In the future, Theory looks to make music a full-time career, as well as expanding RAISE IT UP! to reach more kids. Her goal is to push the music so hard that even if she never gets a major record label's attention and lands a deal, she can be an independent artist making a decent living. "I want to be able to support my family by doing what I love to do and make music that people can really feel," she says.

Scouting Report

Just like a powerful singer that makes you want to belt out notes just like them, hearing a few verses from Theory makes aspiring rappers who gave us their hope for a career resurrect it. In those verse, you can catch subtleties -

"Theory: Homegirls and Handgrenades"

Do a search on Yahoo! Music for “theory” and you will find artists such as Screw Theory, Hate Theory, and Trip Theory, but none of them have a damn thing on indie hip hop female MC, Theory.

When she says in her rhymes that, “she’s small but big in all the ways that it counts”, she aint lying! When you listen to her rhyme, speak, or view her impressive bio you can’t help but feel humble next to her. She’s young, gifted, and talented as hell and I’m very blessed to be in her inner circle of artsy fartsy friends.

the?o?ry  [thee-uh-ree, theer-ee] - the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.

You be the judge.

Dangerous: I have your CD playing right now to get me in the mood.

Theory: Thanks! I have a hard time listening to it.

Dangerous: Because you find things that could be improved?

Theory: That and I'm still getting used to hearing my voice. Your voice always sounds so different from how you imagine it to be.

Dangerous: Yes, it does, but you sound fly so don't sweat it.

Theory: Thanks, sis, I appreciate that.

Dangerous: I have to admit, I am not a huge hip hop fan. Meaning I am not a hip hop head that knows everything hip hop, but I like you. When I saw you perform I was really impressed. Do you find that most people are blown away by your performance?

Theory: I don't know if it's blown away, but I think that people are somewhat shocked. To them, I don't look like a rapper or what they envision a rapper to be and I'm small, petite, female. They often think I'm gonna get up there and start singing.

Dangerous: Yes, that's part of it. People expect you to be less feminine as a rapper.

Theory: I think it shocks them, the novelty of it all, and the fact that I actually have lyrics and stage presence.

Dangerous: I think I expected you to be "harder". You really are sweet and personable and I like that.

Theory: I figured that if I did "me", I couldn't go wrong. I think that if I would have gone in trying to portray what I thought a rapper should be people would have been able to see through that immediately. Nothing about me says "thug" or "gangsta" and I'm fine with that. I'm much more concerned with being an artist who honestly expresses things as I see it and live it.

Dangerous: I think that's why I really dig you. You’re not a "gangsta bitch". I'm scared of gangsta bitches!

Theory: I'm scared of gangstas, period! They're so unpredictable. I don't have a problem confronting a situation or a person but there is an intelligent way and an ignorant way to do that.

Dangerous: Exactly, and too many people know the ignorant way.

Theory: In fact, it seems like the ignorant way is glorified. You're encouraged to slap somebody for stepping on your shoe. I think some people just feel that they have more to prove. I, on the other hand, don't.
Dangerous: Track 7 is playing from your CD. I can't recall the name because I don't have the case with me, but it's about you and Main (Main Event). That song reminds me of a relationship I had years ago.

Theory: Oh, yeah "Crazy". That song was one of the more difficult ones to record because it was just that personal and described a really difficult time that he and I had
but I don't think we would be as solid as we are today without it. So in hindsight, I'm very thankful for it but when you're going through it it seems like you will not survive.

Theory: That's beautiful! And, now my jam “So Alive” is on. That's my favorite song on the CD.

Theory: Yeah, that's my song too because Tunde came in and laid it down. There were so many people asking me about him after they heard the song.

Dangerous: He has a beautiful voice. When you see him in person you don't think he can scream like that.

Theory: I actually didn't even really know him before we worked together but now we're pretty good friends.

Dangerous: How did U hook up?

Theory: Tunde has many, many, talents but I first met him because he was doing a photo shoot for my old group, Neo Griot. He gave me his band's (Taste This) first album and I remember being impressed by his voice, so when I wrote this song I contacted him about coming up with a hook for it and we got in the studio and have been cool ever since.

Dangerous: So, I hear there's a new album in the works! Do you have all the tracks ready?

Theory: No, I'm not that far along yet. I've just started collecting beats from some producers and trying to get a feel for what I want to do with them. I'll probably be going into the studio in the next month or so to start recording some tracks.

Dangerous: We can expect this next summer?

Theory: Yes, that's the goal.

Dangerous: I know this may be unreasonable but can U throw my name in a rhyme on the new CD?

Theory: It's not unreasonab - By Dangerous Lee - The Uncommon Sense/ 2007 Associated Content

"Forum Explores the Rise, and Possible Fall of Hip Hop"


Forum explores the rise, and possible fall of hip hop
Sunday, April 08, 2007
By Sally York • 810.766.6322
FLINT - Lots of hip-hopping, but no Easter Bunny in sight.

About 200 people came to the University of Michigan-Flint's first all-day conference on "Hip Hop and the State of its Culture" on Saturday.

Students and others heard presentations on the 30-year-old musical genre: its history, increasing sexism and violence in lyrics and videos, black machismo and poetry vs. rap.

There was even a course on bling.

"It's not just music - it's a culture, dance, a style of dress, an attitude, the way you talk," said forum organizer James Anthony Jones. "Being as a lot of our students embrace hip-hop culture, we wanted to provide a forum to take a critical look at some of the issues it raises."

According to "Hip Hop: 101" session presenter Lamont Wright, the movement began in the late 1970s in New York City with poor black kids who converted abandoned buildings into dance clubs.

"They needed to vent their frustrations somehow, somewhere," Wright said. "They spawned a new kind of music."

With roots going back to slavery "field hollers," and influenced by the full continuum of black music in America - gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, funk, rock 'n' roll and disco - hip-hop in its infancy was music whose performers had something to say about their inner-city struggles, said Dawn Demps, a UM student who helped organize the conference.

"It was a positive message from the African-American community; it wasn't violent," Demps said.

But then, hip-hop songs by such pioneer groups as Public Enemy hit the music charts in the '80s, and the cultural scene it generated - deejays, emcees, break-dancing and graffiti art - grew, Wright said.

"The industry saw dollar signs," said Natasha Thomas, who led a presentation on "Shake That Money Maker" that explored who was responsible for hip hip's hypersexual images of women: Men? The music industry? The women themselves?

"It's a complex thing," Thomas concluded. "The men see us as objects. The music industry knows it's going to sell, and women in hip-hop have this attitude of committing themselves to be down for their men.

"But I don't see much love in hip-hop," she said. "There are very few love songs."

Hip-hop's future is in question, with not a single rap album in the music charts' Top 10 last year, Jones said.

UM student Gerald Stoudamire, 27, of Flint said the conference made him think more deeply about hip-hop.

"We need to change the lyrics and some of the images, for the children," he said. "We need to make it more optimistic."

Slum Village, a national hip-hop group whose members include Detroit natives, was expected at a performance Saturday night to close out the conference.

- The Flint Journal

"The Mystification of Ms. Hill"

With nearly 50 million albums sold around the world, Lauryn Hill remains an inspiration and enigma-and as one writer found out, these days, she's as elusive as ever
Words & photography: Will Jordan


JANUARY 8, 2007; 1:23 PM.

The corner of 5th and Molino is mostly barren and bleak-more like a film lot than an actual location-and right now, all the cast and crew are on a mandatory union break. The intersection is situated in the heart of what Kor Group real estate developers want to incessantly remind your hip, brand-obsessed ass is "LA's Art District," which is actually a bit funny if you know that the lofts in this warehouse building cost $300,000 to $1 million each (take that, Williamsburg).

The other thing the Kor Group wants you to know is that this habitat is renovated from "classic," "authentic" 1920s lofts. To Lauryn Hill's credit, this is no Bedford Avenue; between the seafood warehouse up the block and the I.M.C. toy factory, this area is almost deliberately dismal and full of cred-nary a hipster café or quaint independent bookstore in sight. It's alarmingly desolate, out of the way and, ultimately, sad. The building Hill recently inhabited? Industrial, gray, cold.

And yet it's 86 degrees in January. The midday sun beats down and I begin to sweat beneath my wife-beater and wonder what work e-mails are accumulating at my desk in West Hollywood while I chill somewhat aimlessly, solo on this block searching for someone- a figure-who feels like a faint memory. But it's those buzz words that keep repeating like a mantra. Classic. Authentic. Mysterious. Classic. Authentic. Mysterious.

What am I looking for? Apparently, someone who doesn't want to be found. URB's attempts to have Lauryn Hill participate in this story were unsuccessful. "I haven't gotten any response at all," says a manager after numerous attempts at securing an interview. The right price for a payout might have nudged her (it's been reported that in the past she demanded upwards of $10,000 to participate in one magazine's cover story), but. . .sometimes it's easier to just pace the sidewalk. At the very least, it's a cheaper exercise.

The Molino Lofts, as they are known, are the last place in Los Angeles where, I'm told, Hill kept residence before moving "south of Huntington Beach," according to an insider. Since she very deliberately withdrew herself from the fame whores of the music industry and public eye, the impact of Ms. Hill-as she insists on being referred to now-persists. She's an enigma. A fantasy. A living, breathing Rubik's Cube.

Talib Kweli's poignant homage, "Ms. Hill," from his mixtape Right About Now, dealt with both personal and publicized events. "That song is based on experiences I had with Lauryn early in my career, and how influential she still is," tells the rapper. The moment of inspiration came when he was at the BET Awards in 2005. "She was supposed to come back and perform after everybody else. I thought about how they always want Lauryn to come perform, but they are never satisfied with what she wants to perform."


It's hard to reconcile Hill's image with her public actions; her spiritual side with her professional reputation; her warm baby face, sweet, soulful voice with the harsh adjectives and phrases some who know her or have come into contact with her use.

How can one who claims to be so anti-materialistic consistently demand monetary compensation for coverage or interviews? (So do some of those near to her, by the way.) Hill's first concert with a live band in five years, back in October 2006, was for a corporate group of American Express's best customers at the ultra-chic W Hotel on Lexington Avenue in New York City. You can believe she got paid for that.

But earlier that same year, she showed up to perform at the small Catalyst nightclub in Santa Cruz, California-a beachside, hippie college town-and you can imagine half the crowd in Birkenstocks.

She's "not right in the head," "not the nicest person," "depressed" or "straight-up crazy," to quote a few who've recently experienced her mystery. Even Beyoncé chimed in last year, telling a publication that Hill's "story is the most tragic. I mean, her record was genius. But drama and demands and the pressure and all of the people giving so much access to so many things can be too much."

Nonetheless, while Beyoncé seems almost disgustingly OK with fame and was raised American Idol-factory-style by Papa Knowles as a media machine, Lauryn Hill's sometimes-televised meltdowns and struggles with fame reveal a very relatable humanity. Most of us can connect with conflict, not knowing ourselves, juggling life's stresses and responsibilities, or plainly, feeling pushed around. We all have insecurities, bad days and imperfections.

"I thi - Urb Magazine

"Theory Review by Urb Magazine Associate Editor"

"This album leaps from a dusty, soulful electric guitar hook, and it's clear from her first few bars that Theory has miles of raw talent just waiting to be molded and taken to the next level. She's proud, politically and socially conscious and an interesting combo of a girl-woman on the verge. Obviously influenced by Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah and other femcees, Theory is passionate, articulate and positive. Her beats are more street-corner than grimy, which suits her steadfast, hungry flow. 'Hear Me' deserves radio play as the chemistry between she and collaborator Yung Ciege comes off perfectly."

-Giselle Zado Wasfie, Associate Editor for Urb Magazine (Los Angeles, California)
- The Flint Journal

"Online Interview with Theory"


Online Interview with THEORY

By Rhapsode

I came across Theory's Myspace page like many folks, by clicking on one friend who is connected to another friend that is connected to yet another friend. When I got to her page the music kicked in automatically with a familiar sample scratch from Woman to Woman. I've heard a lot of great music on Myspace by independent artists. I've also heard my fair share of misguided tunes and so I was prepared for either. The old school sample could have been a simple cover up for a hidden crunk rap joint complete with female vocalist bragging about body parts and lyrical skills. Theory delivered well above expectation and then some! It is obvious that the Michigan native is carrying what folks call the "complete package". More than meets the eye, Theory presents a lyrical swagger that is both straight-forward in its delivery and wise in its content. She is a community activist, artist and entrepreneur. By the time Theory and I sat at our respective computers for a chat, I just finished listening to the four tracks on her Myspace page (for the umpteenth time) and knew she was one MC to watch.

rhapsodE: ok....let's get started...first of all....Happy Belated Birthday!!

theory: Thanks....I think I spotted my first wrinkle yesterday!

rhapsodE: the ripe old age of....


rhapsodE: what is pretty amazing is the fact that at 26 you are well on your way to a blooming career in music, folks have been hyping you all the way to philly! how does that feel? *by the way...playing your music as I type*

theory: feels really amazing. I feel like underground artists have an amazing support network and it feels really good to be a part of that. To know that many of the artists that I love and respect also appreciate what I do really makes some of the "other" aspects of the industry a little easier to deal with.

rhapsodE: it's true, this "business" comes with a lot of "others"....what are the "other" aspects that you've run into? and how did/are you handling them?

theory: Well, some of the other aspects are the non-supportive elements such as the venues that won't support hip-hop because they have these preconceived notions or other artists who get so caught up in competition, that it's impossible for them to truly support another. Then of course, us women have to deal with a whole slew of sexist expectations

theory: Overall, I've really been blessed because although these elements are always there, I've been fortunate enough that my positive experiences have far outweighed the bad.

rhapsodE: it's good that you are able to focus on the positive in lieu of the challenging aspects of the mention something significant that many women artists currently deal with...what you call the "sexist expectations" or just the overall experiences women artist face trying to hold down business while sustaining their does that resonate with you?

theory: I just think that women are not respected in this game. Not because they don't have the talent, drive, and dedication that men do but rather because men still control a lot of the business. Some men (not all) want to create an image for you that fit into their ideal. I've performed at venues with some of my male colleagues and the venue promoters just acted like I wasn't there. It's like they assumed that I was just someone's girlfriend or a groupie and they only addressed the other guys that I was with.

rhapsodE: lol...imagine the surprise when you step on stage and rip it!!

theory: lol...they are usually surprised because I don't look like an mc to them. But I know that my situation is not unique. I know plenty of women artists who are struggling to retain their autonomy and femininity in an industry that really doesn't support that.

rhapsodE: well you officially do a great job of holding it forward to your track *bumping it now* Woman II Woman..."we fight til the end b/c we know respect is deserved...we won't allow the media's image to demean us...[we are] the universe your heart and your mental..." etc. etc. these of course are the words Ive learned so far! lol...but a powerful anthem to woman...

theory: thanks Sis! I just think those are words we need to hear. I work with teen girls who really look up to all these celebrities on TV and I just want them to know that you don't have to be naked, or blonde, or skinny, or anything other than yourself to be beautiful. I'm not knocking the women who are in the industry. I'm not here to judge anyone. But I do believe that balance is important when it comes to representation. For every Li'l Kim and Trina, there needs to be a Lauryn Hill or Bahamadia getting the same kind of exposure.

rhapsodE: there's a word heard often "balanc - Writer Blocks Magazine


"Homegirls and Handgrenades":


Feeling a bit camera shy



"Theory's "Last Rider" lyrics are dope!" -Stic Man of the hip-hop group, dead prez

"This album leaps from a dusty, soulful electric guitar hook, and it's clear from her first few bars that Theory has miles of raw talent just waiting to be molded and taken to the next level. She's proud, politically and socially conscious and an interesting combo of a girl-woman on the verge. Obviously influenced by Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah and other femcees, Theory is passionate, articulate and positive. Her beats are more street-corner than grimy, which suits her steadfast, hungry flow. 'Hear Me' deserves radio play as the chemistry between she and collaborator Yung Ciege comes off perfectly." -Giselle Zado Wasfie, Associate Editor for Urb Magazine (Los Angeles, California)

"Theory is ferocious female empowerment with the rhymes and beats to back it up." -Organizers of the 2006 Diversafest Music Conference (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

"Theory reminds you of a socially and politically conscious Eve or a more fierce Lauryn Hill." -Chad Swiatecki, The Flint Journal (Flint, Journal)

"Like any real spitter, she drops knowledge that will leave shallow minds drowning and choking. This album is meant for "Hip Hop Heads" and those who chose to skip class are missing out because listeners are destined to learn from this microphone professor." -Javarr Mayes, Treal Magazine (Flint, Michigan)

"She's a very talented emcee and hip hop mom! Her cd got me through multiple Flint - Detroit drives!" -Rachel Raimist, Director of critically acclaimed hip-hop documentary, "Nobody Knows My Name", lecturer, educator, and co-editor of "Homegirls Make Some Noise: A Hip Hop Feminist Anthology"

"It is obvious that the Michigan native is carrying what folks call 'the total package'. More than meets the eye, Theory presents a lyrical swagger that is both straightforward in it's delivery and wise in its content." - Rhapsode, Writer Blocks Magazine (Philadelphia, PA)