Mac Lethal: My Texts From Bennett blog helped me buy a house
It's been an incredible 12 months for Mac Lethal. After the dual explosion of his pancake-rap video and his popular Texts From Bennett Tumblr -- a collection of hilarious texts from his 17-year-old wanna-be gangsta cousin -- he's become one of the most creatively in-demand stars to ever emerge from the underground indie-rap scene. (Lethal will publish a book based on the Bennett Tumblr via Simon & Schuster next year.) Having over a decade of hip-hop accolades preceding this recent fame, his sudden rise has made him anything but an overnight success.
With Lethal's return to the Twin Cities this Saturday at the Fine Line Music Cafe, we spoke to him about his magical year, his history with the Twin Cities and spreading Christmas cheer with R.A. the Rugged Man
Now that we're at the one year mark since the pancake rap and launch of Texts From Bennett, what's been the biggest impact they've had on your career?
Probably the most satisfying part of all this, other than the constant knowledge of securing really strong finances, has been buying a house. Just in terms of my career and all the hard work, as a kid since I started doing this, I have always wanted to just be able to buy a house. The fact that I'm able to do that is just cloud nine. The level of work I've had to put into it, and there were sometimes were it was scary and didn't feel like it was going to go anywhere truly significant, and just the past year has been truly incredible. I'm touring, the crowds are bigger than they've ever been. I wrote a book. I just feel really, really strong about where everything is right now.
What do you think it takes for a YouTube video to connect with the audience?
At this point, it purely relies on the psychology of just absolutely stimulating the senses. It needs to [be] catchy and inoffensive with content and time-length. Nothing's worse than being sent a video that's 23 minutes long.
You often open up to social media to take requests for songs people want to hear before you head out on tour. Are there any requests you flatout won't do at this point?
Yeah, any of my stuff where I tried to foray into political "Pass the Ammo"-type stuff. I don't do pretty much anything old. And that [request] list is starting to become more and more current and I'm beginning to find the earliest that I'll go is the Rhymesayers version of 11:11.
One recent video of you that's been getting pretty popular lately is of you buying pizza for the entire audience the last time you were at the Fine Line. What inspired that?
I've always done this thing where, if the crowd is small, I would buy everybody in the crowd a beer. If there's 40 people there, I'd buy a few cases of PBR from the bar and give them out to the crowd to earn their trust, make things feel unique and not feel like there's only 40 people there. And, I was playing this show at the Fine Line with 500 people and this ridiculous turn out. It was just one of those moments where I was talking to the crowd about how I couldn't buy everybody a beer because it was an all-ages crowd, so I asked "What if I bought everybody pizza?" The crowd went nuts. So, I called up Pizza Luce and ordered 25 pizzas. I just felt like it would be a cool thing to do.
Now that you're coming back to Minneapolis, which has always been a big Mac Lethal city, do you recall your first time playing here?
Yes, I was opening up for the Oddjobs at the 7th Street Entry in 2002. We did two shows in one night, an all ages show and a 21+ show. There might have been about eight people there. I sold two CDs to two chicks who, to the best of my knowledge, never showed up to my shows again.
What is it about your music that you feel makes it resonate so much with the Twin Cities?
You know? I don't know. Maybe it's my exposure there from being on Rhymesayers? I'm from Kansas City, which is only six or seven hours south of Minneapolis. We get all the elements, especially cold winters and dark falls. I think one of the things a lot of people really like is that I come from a dark, introspective place a lot of times. I'm not going to write a song about us cruising around in a car with the windows down and feeling the California sun. I hate the Kansas City sun. It's hot and humid. We get the worst of all elements, and I think it resonates with a lot of Minneapolis music having that dark or gritty feel to it. I think, or hope, people see a little of themselves in my music.
Another video of yours that's been taking off recently is your Christmas song with R.A. the Rugged Man. How did you two originally hook-up?
R.A. and I met at Paid Dues. It was kind of a surreal experience. Ras Kass and The Alchemist walked up to us and R.A. introduces me, he goes "This dudes fucking raps for 13 years, nobody pays attention. He uploads a video of him flipping pancakes and the entire world goes nuts and watches it." Kass was like "isn't that the irony of life?" It was surreal to have all those dudes there talking about a moment in my career. R.A. I think saw that I was the real deal. He sent me this beat and asked if I wanted to be a part of his Christmas project. I was going to be out in New York City taking meetings and we shot a video for the song. I spent a day with [video director] Jed [I. Rosenberg], dressed up as Jesus and an elf. It was cool to be a part of.
Mac Lethal performs at the Fine Line Music Cafe on Saturday, December 8 with Cato, Ackronem & Andre Mariette and Botzy of Culture Cry Wolf
18+, $15, 9 p.m.