Staying Independent: Mac Lethal Turns Down a Record Deal
Kansas City is a hell of a drug. Or, maybe it’s just something that’s in the water. Either way, the city (I’m talking about the one in Missouri) seems to house some of the most independent-minded rap artists in the country. Although probably best known for the triumphant independent success of Tech N9ne, Kansas City plays home to other thriving independent musicians as well. Namely, Mac Lethal.
What’s best about Mac Lethal – aside from the fact that he’s been grinding it out since stomping his way through Scribble Jam circa 1998 – is that he’s independent by choice and he’s in it for the long haul. By choice meaning that major labels have come calling (and he’s a former signee of the Rhymesayers imprint), only for Mac to respond with a resounding denial. “Fuck you,” basically.
“It was a $250,000 advance. Which, that’s like insane. That’s like, ‘Hey, let us bend you over and put like 3 cocks in you at once.’ It’s outrageous.”
I talked to Mac Lethal about his interaction with major labels after reading various posts on his 30,000-some-strong Facebook fan page. Despite his reputation as being a never-sober Facebook troll that often makes wild claims just to rile up his fan base, the rapper speaks professionally about labels approaching him, having a clear understanding of the music business and what’s good for his career. He seemed genuinely disinterested with the prospect of signing to a major label, literally laughing at the terms he had been offered.
“The Sony one was five albums and then I believe two options and then one sales milestone option where if a certain amount of records were sold I had no choice but to put out a record with them,” he tells me about the deal that the behemoth multimedia company put forth. “And, it was a $250,000 advance. Which, that’s like insane. That’s like, ‘Hey, let us bend you over and put like 3 cocks in you at once.’ It’s outrageous.”
The whole thing started about three months ago, shortly after Mac Lethal responded to a video titled “Pale kids raps fast” posted to YouTube with his own interpolation (“Pale kid raps faster”) showcasing his even-faster rapping chops. It seems funny, but the video – after garnering some two million views – caught the interest of a few labels, including Sony and “WEA” — as Mac put it — the Warner/Electra/Atlantic conglomerate.
The comedic part, of course, is that Mac Lethal is an independent rap veteran by any standard measure. He’s the type of artist that should have already received all of the attention from labels he’ll ever get and has transitioned into the full-time independent route. After rapping for well over 10 years and coming up top of his class in the battle rap circuit, Mac should have gotten his “break” much earlier if it were to come in the form of a major-label contract.
“When all that YouTube stuff started popping off is when they started to hit me up,” Mac tells me, recalling how he received an e-mail from his booking agent that Sony was interested in talking with him. “Oh great, what now?,” he says, with a heavy dose of sarcasm, was his response to receiving their first message. He has trepidations — major ones — about any sort of opportunity that just seems too good to be true. A product of many disappointments in the music industry he tells me, chronicling how on multiple occasions he’s had his hopes up only to have deals fall through at the last possible minute.
LAUGHING AT LABELS
It seems he was right to remain calm about the prospects, since the deal never did go through. “It never felt like it was about the actual body of work that I already have,” he tells me, saying that was only part of the reason he eventually decided to pass on the offer. “It felt like it was about that they saw me and this gimmick of me rapping really, really fast on YouTube.”
He did, however, at least entertain the idea. Mac responded to the e-mail and started to discuss the options with the A&Rs that contacted him. It wasn’t just that he could rap fast, he found out, but it was the timing of fast-rap act that really caught their attention.
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