As a blaring harmonica beat filled the small Fred Meyer Lounge on Sept. 27, students slowly began to move their heads with the rhythm of the melody being laid down by rapper Mac Lethal.
Lethal wanted his audience to sit down and listen closely. He felt he had some important things to tell them through his music.
Linfield welcomed Lethal, a Missouri native whose given name is David McCleary, for last week’s Pro Cat Cab.
Lethal made a national splash in November 2011 with his YouTube posting of “Look at Me Now,” a Chris Brown remix video about the art of cooking pancakes.
Lethal had been making videos for quite some time, but he achieved his first real breakthrough with the pancake video. When it took off, his exposure skyrocketed.
His career in music was in the making since his childhood. In middle school, he would spit verses with friends. They would constantly compete in rap battles.
“When I was little, friends would say that my verses were lethal,” he said. “Since then, I just kind of ran with it, and it became Mac Lethal.”
Growing up in Kansas City, Mo., music was an outlet from a brand of Midwest life he found too confining and restraining. The local hip-hop scene was small and isolated in a dominant culture that was socially conservative and politically right-wing.
After dropping out of high school, Lethal settled on rapping as what he wanted to do for a living. What inspired him were the conflicts he found naturally occurring all around him.
“It’s been 15 years,” he said. “There have been a couple times where it’s been really difficult, especially in the recession.”
But he said, “More than anything, my career has been exhilarating.” And “exhilarating” was the mood Lethal set out to create at his performance.
His first song of the night conveyed deep thoughts about the passing of his father. He juxtaposed that with reflections on the fatherhood looming for him in February.
Junior Andrea Snyder found Lethal’s rap set, a decided change of pace for the Cat Cab, to be mellow and inspiring.
“It was super low key,” she said. “I liked that he had people sitting. He really just wanted us to hear out what he had to say.”
Lethal said dark times just mean things can get better and that can be used to inspire people. He realizes now, as an adult, that words can be dangerous if not chosen properly.
“The plan with the new album is to focus more on things that will be therapeutic for the people listening,” he said.
Lethal pens a blog called “Texts from Bennett.” In the spring, he’s planning to release a book built around his blog postings.
Although his sensational YouTube pancake video helped bring him into the musical spotlight, he doesn’t want to see that define his career. He wants it to be viewed as just a stepping stone to something larger, he explained.
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