ee, Mac…what are we gonna do about this Kansan accent of yours?”
“Well, self, since you’re asking in the third person, we’re gonna keep it! Because it makes us pretty…and unique…and beautiful. Like birds!”
The segue between “Calm Down Baby” and the above monologue is startling, because it forces out in the open exactly what you were thinking, that, “man, this song could be really good if the guy didn’t sound so…white.” But when in this Beasties-loving nation did we let it get to the point where our expectations flounder the moment a rapper’s “whiteness” is made apparent? The reason I ask is because Mac Lethal is no klutz on the beat, makes no pretensions towards slang he doesn’t use in real life, and given his subject matter it’s intensely believable that his songs’ “character” is no inflated version of himself. And if he addresses the temptation to apologize about his cadence, he need not for his ferocious sense of rhythm and singsong.
This Rhymesayers latecomer spits lyrics that throw in the absurd the way your friends do in buddy-talk rather than to flaunt his dictionary. Think everything you ever wanted Atmosphere to be, but far funnier (“If Yoko Ono gave you herpes would you call it strawberry fields forever?”) and culturally interesting (“I'm from a city where there's actually people / that are bothered by the thought of homosexual marriage/ The bible belt/ friendly smiles and Christian steeples/ and names like Bobby Sue Jenkins and Belinda Peeples”).
The secret of 11:11 is old-fashioned: it doesn’t tire itself out, so it doesn’t let up once, a test Aesop Rock (you can punch holes in None Shall Pass like drywall), Lifesavas (falls asleep in the middle) and Brother Ali (not once transcends “consistently pleasant”) all flunk. By track 12, Lethal’s not only still on his game, but “Tell Me Goodbye” is the diss rap of the year. Common types usually only get called on their "conscious" bullshit by us scholars, so it’s nice to see a fellow artist unwilling to empty his tear ducts for just any 9/11 song that announces itself: “I think that it’s a cunning motif/ of how you’re flooding the streets with propaganda/ all about how there’s no justice or peace/ but one thing you never mention/ is how you do it all for your own damn attention.”
Good jokes and beats are plenty, but his humanist center is what brings off his observations: “Pound That Beer” makes fun of frat-jocks without sounding like a petty asshole, and “Lithium Lips” is the best rejection Slug never had (probably because Lethal refuses to pity himself for not getting the girl at the end). Did I mention “Calm Down Baby” (“If I grew my hair out, I'd probably look like Fergie”) and “Rotten Apple Pie” (“I'd rather beat a dead horse than throw a saddle on it and ride it”) are a fucking clever-ass 1-2? So don’t clown on his accent. He’ll whip your cat’s ass.
Reviewed by: Dan Weiss
Reviewed on: 2007-10-17