Love for the fans, not so much the press
Mac Lethal is a prick. Of course, that's kind of his appeal. A curmudgeonly white rapper with a waning hairline and a sad, protruding belly, Mac Lethal riffs like an incensed insult comedian about the many things that piss him off-Christians, vegans, scenesters, Ben Harper-filling the funny, irate rapper void left when Eminem lost his sense of humor. On 11:11, his debut record for the prestigious Rhymesayers label, Mac Lethal deems himself "a rapper who doesn't like rap," and though that isn't quite true, he voices the frustrations of everyone who loves hip-hop but loathes the corporate, ring-tone rap culture that eclipses it.
Unfortunately for me, though, print journalists are also high on his long list of peeves, and he isn't shy about expressing his hatred for them. He greeted a scheduled phone call from me with the type of contempt usually reserved for solicitors and creditors. He curtly explained that all the answers to any question I could possibly ask could be found on his Web site, and after a few moments of stilted conversation and snide, self-satisfied non-answers, hung up on me.
When I called back, much to his bemusement, he sped through a list of joyless responses to questions he assumed I'd ask. "Let's see: I'm Irish, I drink beer. My girlfriend has two kids, I've only spanked one of them. What is it like being on Rhymesayers? It's cool, they give me freedom. What's it like touring with Slug? It's cool. He's famous. What's it like coming from Kansas City? It's all right. Tech N9ne runs the city, there are a lot of gangsters…" (He goes on like this until we lose our cell phone connection, or until he hangs up on me again-either occurrence is equally probable.)
To be sure, press interviews can be a joyless ritual, and rappers in particular wear their terse, evasive answers as a badge of honor, but Mac Lethal has gone a step further than his peers and undertaken a Larry David-ish crusade to skirt interviews altogether. He's started a forum thread on his message board where registered fans can ask him anything and he'll answer. Though he has no direct URL link for the thread, which is buried somewhere in hundreds of pages of posts-and, of course, the forum's search engine is inoperative-he mechanically directs interviewers there for all the answers they seek. It is the equivalent of saying, "Just copy all the information from my press release," then hiding that press release in between the pages of a book in the Smithsonian Libraries but forgetting which one. It's doubtful this will be the model that magically renders press interviews obsolete.
I'll be blunt. Mac Lethal is-and I cannot repeat this enough-a prick. If I saw someone spit in his drink, I probably wouldn't say anything. The ornery rapper shtick that's so amusing on record and onstage is infinitely less amusing after you spend the better part of an afternoon begging for a printable quote from the dude so you can plug his album. He's like an imprudent child who fears the dentist, but is too obtuse to realize that all his kicking and screaming only makes the dentist appointment that much longer and more painful.
But I'll give credit where it's due: Misguided and ill-executed as his ask-me-anything exercise is, he took the questions from fans seriously. He openly answered page after page of questions, regardless of how trivial, embarrassing or inappropriately personal they were. "Ever been in a bottle fight? What did you think of TheDark Knight? Have you ever tasted your own semen? What do you think of single parenthood?" He answered them all, and there's an integrity to that.
Mac Lethal tops a 10 p.m. bill at the Stonefly Brewery on Saturday, Dec. 6, featuring DJ SKU and Grieves, with Soulcrate Music and House of M.