Nowadays the art of rapping has deteriorated into nothing more than a “lather, rinse, repeat”-style cycle rather than a Byzantine lyrical structure. Make some 16 sentences rhyme, place said sentences over a beat for a few minutes, do the same thing over the course of an hour or so and wah-lah! Rappers have the recipe for a record destined to sell more in ringtones than actual album sales.
This rather disturbing trend has seemingly replaced to artistic endeavors of this musical carousel known as hip-hop, where flaccid, one-hit fixes are more in demand than the genre-altering kilos of versatile lexicons. Where its origins lie may be difficult to pinpoint, but its influence is heavily prevalent from the Left to the East.
Interestingly enough, it is the Midwestern region that has been able to strike a balance between the dance-happy styles of the South, the laid back demeanor of the West and rugged fury of the North, creating a unique mish-mash of beats, rhymes and life.
Though artists like Diverse and The Molemen have made some noise in the underground, it is the Minnesota indy powerhouse Rhymesayers Entertainment that has provided the brightest spark, with fan favorites Atmosphere, Brother Ali and their mighty spit kicker MF DOOM aligned to the label. After releasing Ali’s critically acclaimed The Undisputed Truth earlier this year, the label seeks to keep their winning streak intact with Kansas City native Mac Lethal’s 11:11.
Gee, Mac…what are we gonna do about this Kansan accent of yours? Mac is fully aware of his interesting conundrum with his vocal inflections, so much so that he spends some time focusing on his intonation. He doesn’t need to however, as his skills on the microphone are well above average and able to keep the listener’s attention, as evidenced on the album’s jumpoff Backward.
With the obvious comparisons to that other great White Midwestern hype, Mac Lethal packs the album full of witty one-liners, self-deprecating humor and – as is the norm around the Rhymesayers clique – some socio-political commentary. This is all delivered with an almost nerdy-yet-anti-hipster punch, as evidenced on the dub plate-tinged Rotten Apple Pie, where Mac points out the contradictory nature of America’s value system, slyly adding “I’d rather beat a dead horse than throw a saddle on it and ride it/man, it ain’t goin’ nowhere!”
Despite the goofy misstep of the House Of Pain-inspired Pound That Beer, the album rarely hits a tedious downward spiral. On the soul-sampled Calm Down Baby, Lethal is quite contempt with living the life of a loner, a standard of living that is exemplified on the philanderer’s anthem Make Out Bandit and the hilarious Lithium Lips, the closest thing to a pseudo-song for the ladies. But all witty cynicism aside, Mac kicks self-serving truthers in their teeth on Tell Me Goodbye, while the Abercrombie & Fitch crowd catch a bad one on Jihad.
11:11 is a welcome change of pace from the normally paranoid Rhymesayers roster. Despite its inevitable (albeit quasi-stereotypical) similarities toInterscope’s melanin-deprived cash cow, Mac Lethal adds yet another golden star to Rhymesayers’ impressive r