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Magic man

Theo Martins kills 'em with kindness
By CHRIS CONTI  |  April 15, 2009


If the first quarter of '09 is an indicator of things to come for Theo Martins ( the Providence-based lyricist had better buckle up for what should be the biggest year in his budding hip-hop career. Do You Know Theo?, his official full-length debut, is slated for a "third-quarter release with a big college tour to follow." With no "MC this-or-that" moniker and clearly too self-confident to feel the need to hide behind sexist tirades or profanity-laced lyrics, Martins makes his mark with gifted wordplay, as evidenced on the mixtapes 85 Till Infinity and the Okayplayer-endorsed breakthrough The Birth. Founded by ?uestlove of the Roots, Okayplayer is an online homebase for the Coup, Little Brother, Dilated Peoples, and Common, among many others.

"The situation with Okayplayer was odd because everyone thinks that I ran up on their door with a CD, but honestly I received an email from them saying they enjoyed my music and such, so it worked out really well," Martins told me a few weeks before his four-night stand at South By Southwest in Austin.

The March issue of The Source dished props to The Birth in the Unsigned Hype column: "With a mix of introspection and braggadocio, Theo gets busy over dope production." Martins was also mentioned in the April issue of UK magazine Blag in their "Introducing" section.

Do You Know Theo? will include his latest single, "Say It Right," a bouncy, kinetic cut that cleverly loops the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," a mantra Theo has trademarked in '09. "Oh it's magic, baby," he confidently declares in the opening, as if you can almost hear him smiling in the booth, and the old adage "kill 'em with kindness" takes on new meaning when Theo fires it off. "There's Meaning" builds on MIA's "Paper Planes," while Martins proclaims, "My name is Thee-yo the Rhode Island hee-ro." He also quips and coasts over "Ridin' Down the Freeway" and Kanye's "Grammy Family." It's hard to deny the Lupe Fiasco comparison, and you're more likely to see him in a pair of P-Rod Dunks and matching flannel, shouting out his affinity for cardigans and North Face backpacks on "Hola Oh Theo." But the centerpiece is "Dillagence," where he drops a few sharp quotables: "I'm Stewie, a family guy, so only some comprehend me/I'm straight — don't bend me/The Fendi scarf I took it from my mother/Malik Yoba how I straight ran up under covers." Even better is his buttery delivery here: "And no I don't kick the flow like David Robert Beckham/I'm sorry, I'm more like a Freddy Adu, my wordplay soufflé serve it for two."

So if it ain't guns, blunts, and bitches, just what exactly motivates his lyrical approach?

"My environment, my dreams, and my aspirations all combine into forming my writing style," he said. "Simply put, I can't speak on things I don't know of.

"Art imitates life, and a lot of people get that order mixed up."

Martins graduated from URI last year with a degree in communications and minored in music composition. He was born and raised on the south side of Providence.

"I was really shy as a kid and my older sister used to force me to sing and focus on music," he said. "I would have tons of acting and music auditions, but as soon as I stepped inside I'd freeze up."

Now light years from frozen and fresh from his triumphant showing down at South By Southwest, Martins dished the down-south scoop via e-mail: "It's crazy down there man, a great experience, and I met a lot of other artists. I just wanted to expand and build, have a good time and really connect and brand my name and music. I honestly feel like if you are a musician or artist, SXSW is the place you need to be, and I truly feel like it was just a warm-up for things to come."

DRAKE + THEO | Edwards Auditorium at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston | April 29 @ 7 pm

Saturday is record store day

A shoutout to Mike Delehanty for booking a steady influx of prominent rap acts, and this week will see some big names hitting Providence, starting TONIGHT (the 16th) when Wu-Tang's official tenth man CAPPADONNA hits Jerky's. I still go bananas when that "Slang Editorial" beat drops; call 401.621.2244 for the full lineup. There's a great bluesy-type bill at Firehouse 13 (401.270.1801) with locals TALLAHASSEE BAND and ROUTE .44 opening for folk duo Avi & Celia. And a trio of freebie shows tonight with alt-rock acts ROSE THEORY and Fall River's FIGHTING THE INFLUENCE at the Blackstone (401.726.2181), MARK CUTLER & FRIENDS at the Greenwich Hotel (401.884.4200), and roots-acoustic trio THE WIPPETS stomping at Nick-a-Nee's (401.861.7290). Rock Hunt semifinalists pop up this weekend; on FRIDAY (the 17th), FAR OFF PLACE hit the Ocean Mist (401.782.3740) and on SATURDAY (the 18th), high-energy kids THE INTEL revisit Club Hell for an early show with A FAYLENE SKY (who may pull out their cover of "I Kissed a Girl") along with headliners THE SLEEPING and Australia's CLOSURE IN MOSCOW. Upstairs at Jerky's is a sick hip-hop lineup with AXE BUTANE, STARRS & MURPH, and indie legends JEDI MIND TRICKS. The RI Songwriters' Association presents PETE GENDRON, EARL FARIA, and LISA MARTIN at Brooklyn Coffee & Tea House on Douglas Avenue (401.575.2284). Saturday is also NATIONAL RECORD STORE DAY (unreleased live Pavement on vinyl? Beck/Sonic Youth split 7"? I'm there!), so head to Newbury Comics in Warwick for an all-day celebration with live sets from ERIC FONTANA, DEER TICK (around 2 pm), THE PROPELLERS, THE BLOOD MOONS, and SIX STAR GENERAL headlining. On TUESDAY (the 21st), blues ensemble SIT DOWN BABY continue their weekly residency at Tazza (401.421.3300) and on WEDNESDAY (the 22nd), AS220 offers an ambient/experimental lineup with Warwick's TRAINS THROUGH THE COUNTRYSIDE, POW!!, and A POST MODERN JOHN (401.831.9327).


Related: The block is hot, The Narcicyst | Self-titled, DJ Quik and Kurupt | BlaQKout, More more >
  Topics: New England Music News , Entertainment, Hip-Hop and Rap, Closure in Moscow,  More more >
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