Pulling up to the venue is his own car packed full of his own merchandise, Mac Lethal arrived at the Marquis Theater around 10 p.m. with his fresh out of prison homie Alvie. A short time later, Lethal served up a heaping helping of new and old tracks to a more than enthusiastic crowd who sang and rapped along with every verse dropped. The "nerdy white rapper" proved definitively that he's more than a 26 million view YouTube video, and that independent hip-hop is alive and well and flourishing in the underground.
The Marquis Theater is the perfect place for someone like Mac Lethal: The stage is inches above the floor and void of any barrier, giving the KC MC full access to fans. Early on, Lethal called out some angst filled kids for pushing and shoving close to the stage -- he stopped the show and asked, "Are you done? Are you done pushing?" -- and then proceeded to go right into "Calm Down Baby" from his 2007 Rhymesayers release 11:11.
Though Irish Goodbye is his latest release, it was the classics from 11:11 that really drew the crowd in. The front line swelled with energy as Mac balanced on monitors, occasionally relying on the crowd to maintain his footing at the front of the stage. On "War Drum," Lethal held the mike out to the crowd for the chorus, who enthusiastically rapped along.
One of the more personable rappers on the grind right now, Mac pens lyrics that are a direct mirror of his life: When he has female troubles, he lets you know with visceral lyrics about his emotions. When he is vulnerable, he lets you into his world of self-made fame, and voices the problems that arise from it. And he's also sure to remind you of his own faults. No matter how angry you think he may be at any given moment (that's probably the thick Irish blood flowing in his veins), he still takes time to share his life milestones. On a brief pause last night, Mac pulled his phone out to share pictures of his newborn son and recent bride. It's the personal moments like this that make him real, and he knows this.
With a few hecklers in the front row begging for "Make-out Bandit," Mac passed on the request and instead went into the newer stuff from Irish Goodbye. The last time we saw Lethal was in 2010, roughly around the time he dropped a remix of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." It's clear these days that his sights are set on lyricism rather than ragging on juggalos and spouting off about pounding beers.
Mac Lethal has not only grown into his career, but has probably fulfilled a prophecy that even he would've doubted to be true years ago. "Jake + Olive" seems more like a metaphor for his own life, or perhaps a confession of his own American dream. Cutting the beat out entirely, he went a capella on the latter part of the song with full crowd involvement on the close of the chorus: "I don't want to live one single day apart. I hope I die before you do."
Personal Bias: I covered Mac Lethal two years ago, almost to the day, and my enthusiasm for the KC rapper hasn't changed one bit.
Random Detail: Mac got a parking ticket at the venue.
By the Way: Mac and Alvie pulled up right in front of the Marquis with a car full of pillows, merchandise and clothes. Fans got pictures, and Mac got personal. That's some real fan engagement that you don't see with a lot of artists.