Mac Lethal does nothing to obscure his Midwestern twang. Or his pimply white-boy mien. In fact, he exploits both on 2007's 11:11, his debut release for indie star-maker Rhymesayers Entertainment. A case in point: the patently absurd "Make-Out Bandit," where the unlikely Lothario bests "the thugs with the tattoos" who peg him as an ineffectual nerd. Score one for the geeks and freaks.
Not that the Kansas City-based MC (who milks the connection by gnawing on sauce-slathered barbecue in publicity shots) is content to be an ironical dweeb. He's a past winner of Scribble Jam, a rhyming battle royal that sparked the career of Eminem among others. And when the mood strikes him, he can dish silver-tongued social criticism as well as anyone. On 11:11, this side of his multifaceted musical personality gets full play during the freewheeling "Jihad," an alternately goofy and withering attack on the conservative mindset. It reaches an apogee of disgust when he sneers, "So if you ever see me and I'm drivin' in a mini van, then fuckin' come and kill me."
Is Lethal the equal of celebrated Rhymesayers products like Atmosphere's Slug and Brother Ali? Not yet. Despite a thick application of geeky braggadocio, party-hardy rhymes like "Pound That Beer" remain nothing more than unimaginative plays for the lowest common denominator. The soundscapes that support his linguistic acrobatics are pretty pedestrian as well.
Even so, those shortcomings certainly won't undermine Mac Lethal's "Rotten American Pie Tour," the rhyming revel he's bringing to the High Noon. The fact is, Lethal can string together cutting cultural critiques like nobody's business, and with a little more focus, he could be leading the hip-hop geek parade straight to the bank.