In rap music, there's a sub-cagetory that could be called 'Rappers Who Wanna Be Comedians'. It's made up of all-around entertainers like Biz Markie, old school comedians like The Sugarhill Gang, punchline hitters like Big Daddy Kane, chameleon-like clowns like Busta Rhymes, political parodists like Boots, comic strip characters like Slim Shady, slept-on classics like Kwest Tha Madd Lad, longtime legends like Redman, generally amusing personalities like Ol' Dirty Bastard, and so forth. It goes without saying that well beyond this exclusive circle of funny individuals MC's often resort to humor to work a crowd, especially in battles. Humor, wit, irony, sarcasm render not only life more bearable, but rap music as well. The more subtle forms of humor are usually reserved for the more advanced, while up-and-coming rappers use a more crude (and rude) brand of humor to get the crowd to cheer in their favor.
Then, there are those who don't even try to be funny but still are, somehow. Going by the name, one would expect rapper Mac Lethal to drop unintentionally funny rhymes at best, like:
"It's Mac Lethal bitch, I ain't peaceful
a Starr like Ringo, carried out more hits than the Beatles
used to run more dope spots than the measels; weaseled
my way into the rap game and now my drug money's legal
Mac got mo' bitches on the track than a women's steeple
Bald like the eagle, while you're still pre-school
your position is fetal and I'm built like Vin Diesel"
Well, there's none of that here. After all, Mac Lethal is not on No Limit Records. But he's signed to a label whose website has a reputation for even taking wack shit serious, as long as it fits some type of avantgarde format. Apparently this does not prevent them from putting out good records, such as last year's "Fishin' In Troubled Waters" compilation. Introducing us to Mac Letahl confirms that they do possess a funny bone.
Yet it would be wrong to brand the Kansas City resident as some type of stand-up rapper telling jokes. He'll give you something to laugh about alright, from the horrorflick vibe of "My Favorite Screams" to the midwestern gangsta parody "My Mom Izza Thug". But Mac Lethal doesn't limit himself to the usual pop references/punchlines purée. Yet it's the nature of a rapper who operates with humor that not everything he says should be taken at face value. So when he says "fuck that stupid punchline frenzy" admidst the punchline frenzy of "My Favorite Screams", consider it an ironic comment on his own behavior.
Like another rapper (names need not be mentioned for now) who shares some similarities with him, Mac Lethal can get serious for more than just a minute. "My Angel Veronica" tells the story of a friend whose miserable life eventually ends with her suicide, trailing Mac's relationship with her, as he comes to appreciate her as a friend and later as a guardian angel. "Monday School" asks questions you'd better not ask in Sunday school, but the way he's going at it, he's more or less beating a dead horse. What's much more interesting, is his how he deals with the events of 9/11. "Midnight In Manhattan" is the song in question. Producer Blockhead lays down a small foundation with a simple snare and stacks layers of padded spacing material on top of it, later sending out a howling guitar into this Manhattan midnight. It eventually helps the song to evolve from the simple beats/rhymes format. But it's the words that are at the center of attention here and Mac Lethal pens the possibly best verse of the album right at the beginning of "Midnight In Manhattan", projecting some very personal and poetic rhymes against the famous skyline that bears the gaping wound where the World Trade Center once stood:
"Waiting for the snow to fall a cloudy angel wept
and while the world was frenzied, by my fate I overslept
Hold your breath, these acts are frozen and embraced
with the gut-twisting feeling of a black and white mosaic
Today Manhattan burned and summer leaves without a trace
besides a cloud of smoke and sour smell in outer space
Without a face I hate you
today I was instructed how to hate but then remembered how to pray too
I kneel enforcing nine commandments
scratch one and let it sleep on the crescent moon like a hammock
Align the sky with fireflies and crooked-eyed soldiers
The morning dew is fearsome while the Bush is iced over
The cushions lie holding souls of man-made ghosts
cascades of darkness keep the lamp shades closed
crickets even whisper for September 11th
I eavesdrop and hope to hear footsteps from heaven"
Minus the bonus cuts, "Midnight In Manhattan" shuts "Men Are From Mars, Porn Stars Are From Earth" down. But let's not close the curtains too early. We've already mentioned "My Mom Izza Thug". Adopting its title from AMG's "Mai Sista Izza Bitch" (w/ Boss) and its style from this generation's gangsta rappers, "My Mom Izza Thug" is really self-explanatory. This poor kid's momma will show her son the true meaning of 'thug luv':
"A little gunpowder in her laundry detergent
She still makes me mind my manners
Cookin' dinner listenin' to the police scanner
You know my throat gets slit
if I forget one thing off the grocery list
And she'll choke my friends if they call too late
and pistol-whip my girlfriend with a .38
Calls my cell like, "Son, I'ma hurt you
if you're home one single minute past curfew"
My thugged out mama keep the cheeba sticky
every single morning she'll crease my Dickeys
Scrambled hollow tips for my breakfast
packs my lunch and shines my necklace
pours a little liquor, then says "Goodbye"
but one bad grade, I get stabbed in the eye"
But the Scribble Jam 2001 finalist also comes up with some stuff that's so out there it's not even funny. There's a fine line between ill and weird and Mac Lethal hurls himself across it on "Mermaid Pornography". "I'm a flesh-eating, serial-killing stuffed animal." Huh? Decidedly doper is "Neptune, My Sweet Neptune" where he hooks up with a woman that turns out to be a cyborg and they end up having a very peculiar version of 'cyber sex'. All this is happening while a beat plays that - excuse the pun - would make The Neptunes proud. But like that cyborg chick in the flick "Cherry 2000" (w/ Melanie Griffith), Neptune shuts down, hoping to be resurrected in "Cyborg's Revenge", a 8-minute long epic about Mac Lethal getting censored that has little to do with the aforementioned.
So it's a little mixed plate that Mac Lethal is serving on "Men Are From Mars, Porn Stars Are From Earth". In the end, it contains what you can expect from these type of rappers: a solid but not spectacular vocal performance, original beats, rhymes and thinking and outlandish happenings. During all this, Mac Lethal earns extra points for producing the majority of the tracks himself and being able to match the diversity of his beats with that of his rhymes.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: July 5, 2002