Since Mac Lethal’s new album is the Kansas City, Mo., native’s first under the Rhymesayers stamp, I figured it would be heavy on the socio-political commentary and conspiracy theories, a reoccurring theme in the music of Rhymesayers’ greats Brother Ali, Atmosphere and I Self Devine.
What I didn’t expect, however, was how funny Lethal’s Rhymesayers debut “11:11” would be. Or how true.
He’s a gangly Midwestern white rapper, like many from the Rhymesayers crew. But unlike the rest of its roster, Mac Lethal can elicit smiles and head nods from serious subjects, whereas the rest need to make dark, serious songs about the world’s ills.
Mac Lethal fits the label’s image, but he has a knack for accidentally saying things that are so simple but oh-so honest, which is hands-down the best part of “11:11.”
In fact, Lethal wants the world to have a drunken dance party for all of our messed up problems.
“Pound That Beer” is like an Irish hip-hop version of a Gwen Stefani song. It’s upbeat, but with a heavy bass line, and a Stefani-esque marching band riff. It’s simple in its message, which is essentially summed up in the track title and expounded on throughout it. The track’s a pub anthem, a drinking song that is also danceable. It’s a fizz-filled, poppy song without much substance.
But as Lethal says in the song, it’s not supposed to be an intellectual track: “This is one of those ignorant anthems/Be intellectual all you want/but we’ve got the nectar of the gods here,” he says, taunting trendy, hipster, elitist hip-hop fans, those smug cats at the back of the show rolling their eyes and making highly intellectual comments about everything happening on stage and in the crowd.
He’s not waging war against any of his pet peeves; he’s just thrusting double-middle fingers in their faces.
Lethal excels in accidentally striking a nerve that delves deep into American culture. He’s not trying hard to expound his opinions, which makes “11:11” fun and easy to listen to. However, this simplicity does not devalue his message, because the underlying truth of the message rings true. Lethal says the things everyone thinks but no one says are worth mentioning, and he proves that it is worthwhile to mention these basic, little cynical thoughts.
Like in “Rotten Apple Pie,” which Mac introduces with “Look, I know you’re in the building, rapper/ Studios are always in the building; they’re not outside.” He goes on, in a slightly cocky but stoner-loping way, to complete a verbal drive-by of almost every American value, like how he slips in at the end of a line that text messaging is ruining the world; or in “Lithium Lips,” the closest thing self-proclaimed bachelor-for-life Lethal has to a love song, where he casually raps, “Girls learn sexiness/ Women teach class.” The song itself is slow and seductive, like the muse Lethal vividly paints through his lyrics.
Throughout “11:11” Mac Lethal is at his best when he sounds completely unaware of it. When he tries to be intellectual and witty, he sounds like the rest of the Rhymesayers clique.
It’s when he accepts that he has a farmer’s accent, a goofy thought-process and a warped view of the world and moves on from these themes that he speaks the truth and separates himself from the rest of the paranoia-plagued, lanky Midwestern rappers on his label.