Mac Lethal “Blood in the Water” – Mixtape Review
From Kansas City, the “Meth-Lab City of Broken Dreams,” rapper Mac Lethal’s had quite the prolific career. First rising to national prominence by winning the 2002 Scribble Jam MC Battle, the past decade has seen him drop five tour-minded collections of his work (named Love Potions), a sampler for the then-largest Hip-Hop website, an official album on Rhymesayers (2007’s 11:11) and an alternate version of said album on his own Black Clover Records imprint. While such a refined regular output makes it easy to chart his progression as an artist, it’s surprising that in the past decade’s flood-the-market climate he’d only dropped one mixtape in 2008’s Crown Prime Rib. Fear not, with his next album around the corner, the time has come for him to drop his second mixtape Blood in the Water. It’s good. Scary good.
For all the boasting Mac’s been doing on messageboards and Twitter in recent months, he’s putting a lot on the line. While this release exists just to hold fans over until his next official album, at no point does Mac settle for “good enough.” He’s never been a better rapper and not only has he figured out exactly what he wants to do with his craft, he cuts out the fat and does whatever it takes to achieve his aims. Originally slated to be released last October one-song a day as he recorded it, Mac abandoned this plan halfway through completion, saving the unreleased half as incentive for this fine-tuned final project. Just as his other almost-annual releases captured him artistically at different points in his career, Blood in the Water more than anything pinpoints the Fall 2009 man behind the persona, David Maclery Sheldon, as a person. Content with entering his 30s, he vivisects the midwest nostalgia of “the good ol’ days” with an analysis of where friends, family and relationships went featuring an obsession with women adopting their significant others’ last names and watching Grind Time battles. This repetition reflects more of an honest vulnerability than gimmick and puts half the mixtape into almost concept album territory.
Production-wise Mac spends half the time following the Clipse blueprint of pick the best beats and then outshine the original artists over it. The other half is entirely self-produced, spare the hybrids such as “Exhibit: DEAD” where he remakes the Jay Electronica “Exhibit: C” beat and intercuts the original sample with clips of “Exhibit A,” Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents” and Xzibit’s “Paparazzi.” The approach works as Mac basically shows off his rapping ability to such a degree that even the most tired and over played beats on the record (yes, “Run This Town” gets it) become fresh and galvanizing again.
As a rapper and a producer, Mac is at the absolute top of his game. However, this is where the album’s flaws surface. The entire project is crafted as a vehicle to flaunt where his abilities are now, so every time a voice that isn’t his appears, the record comes to a screening halt. It’s not that Ces Cru, Prof or St. Paul Slim turn in weak performances, their presence on the mixtape just manages to get in the way of someone who is totally in the zone and shooting three-pointers at every turn. Also bothersome is the inclusion of Soulcrate Music’s “Evil In It.” While I liked the song and considered it one of the album’s highlights in my review of their latest The Heartland Panic, here it just seems like a commercial break reminding us that the label mates of the guy we’re listening to have an album out. While a Mac appearance over the beat would have been great, as it stands it’s just sort of an intermission.
Overall, if Mac isn’t on your radar yet Blood in the Water should be all the sonar you need. It concludes with an openly unfinished song, as Mac is known to do, to give the listener an inclination of what he is capable of without even trying. The replay valuable is strong, and hearing the man kicking obscenely complex rhyme patterns over the likes of the “No Diggity” and Kris Kross’ “Jump” beat make this the most accessible piece of music he’s ever released. If his previous output was a warm-up, it’s no stretch to think Blood in the Water is the windup before Mac Lethal pitches the perfect game he’s had within him all nine innings.
We give the Blood in the Water Mixtape a Four Out of Five.
So until next time…let’s agree to agree!