Staying Independent: Mac Lethal Turns Down a Record Deal
It turns out, the major label universe tends to usually focus their energy on mimicking artists they see as being successful rather than finding truly new and unique artists. And, Sony in particular had their sights set on matching one particular artist who has recently become well-known in the hip hop community. YelaWolf.
“They name-dropped YelaWolf a lot,” Mac tells me, explaining how his communications with the label went. But, they did more than just mention the Alabama rapper. Mac felt like they literally wanted him to become a re-incarnation of the southern wordsmith.
“They want to hit with like some white, speedy, Midwestern, twang rapper – southern twang rapper – before everybody else or before YelaWolf does,” Mac says. And, matching Yela’s sound isn’t the only thing the labels had in mind. They were prepared to launch a full-scale rebranding of the overweight, balding, 30-something KC native.
“I’ma never let you do me like you did Lupe, keep your blood money bitch, hooray.”
They offered to fashion him as a member of an existing crew that belonged to a subsidiary label. They were going to say he was cool with them – they were boys. He laughs as he tells me the story, mentioning how his existing fanbase might be a bit confused by the sudden new circle he would be running with.
And, Mac wasn’t done laughing. What he found most-funny about the whole scenario was the entire premise of mimicking YelaWolf. Not that Mac doesn’t think Yela is a good or talented rapper, but aside from the YouTube success of “Pop The Trunk” and some very limited re-release sales figures, the rapper has still yet to prove himself commercially. He’s only just recently inked a major deal with Interscope / Shady and has yet to put out his first big-time record. There’s no proof that he’ll even be successful – let alone that his style is worth imitating.
“I’ma never let you do me like you did Lupe, keep your blood money bitch, hooray,” Mac raps in his video for “Something I Can Heart” off of his North Korean BBQ mixtape. And, despite having made up the part of the song where he says he “smelled hors d’oeuvres” (we both chuckle when I call him out on never actually going to a record label office), he held his ground throughout the negotiations.
“They had their hands on everything,” Mac explains, outlining how one of the offers they put in front of him was essentially a “360 deal”, where the label takes a cut from tour profits, merchandise sales and other revenue streams that are generally considered outside of the scope of a traditional record contract. This is the same type of deal it was rumored Atlantic was trying to force Lupe Fiasco into agreeing too, holding the release of his third album, Lasers, hostage in the negotiation process.
Mac recalls being a spectator to Lupe’s scenario and learning from the experience. “The Lupe situation, it was interesting because he said ‘The label doesn’t want me to make the album that I want to make so I said fine, make the album you want me to make and I’ll come in and fill in my verses or whatever’,” says Mac. “Then it popped off and now he can’t fuckin’ escape, they have him trapped. Absolutely trapped.”
In the end, Mac saw the whole ordeal as just another experience in his journey. He recalls the entire story handily, although it’s clear that he didn’t take the encounter too seriously. His voice carries the tone of someone who’s explaining the plot of a movie that was entirely too predictable.
“No, I don’t think I’ll be signing to a major label,” Mac says in closing. The most-definitive answer he could offer sums up the experience as a whole. Almost before we could get off the phone it seemed, the Kansas City MC has already booked his next round of Midwest tour dates. From the road, he continues to update his fans on the tour and interact with them directly. “I’m gathering that an East coast tour is wanted?,” he posts to his Facebook page after his followers have harassed him continually to play their respective cities. His cult remains strong as “Uncle Mac” continues to gain fans through the hard work and hand-to-hand hustle that he’s come to be known for. Mac Lethal is staying independent.
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