It was just about 10 months ago that I first met Mac L. In a number of ways the cocksure MC served as my introduction to a side of Nashville that I didn’t know much about when first moving here, and certainly a sector that isn’t entirely visible unless you’re actively looking for it: the rap and hip hop community. The night we met we talked at length about the issues facing young artists in Music City, discussing in detail the lack of cohesion between contemporaries and other factors cramping development such as scarcity of live venues in the city that are open to “urban” acts and general disinterest from the media. I was a bit taken back by the reality that Mac painted for me that night and here it is, 10 months later, and I still don’t know what to make of this city. Sure, Nashville faces issues that strike every city, regardless of location, concerning the nurturing of local artists, but Nashville also has a few of its own problems that are more specific to its community that I’m still trying to figure out.
The main purpose of this article is to document and celebrate something Mac’s accomplished in the time since I first met him. To put it bluntly, I probably wouldn’t be posting this if I hadn’t told Mac many months ago that I’d help “sponsor” his mixtape (I’ve not really been blogging about much of anything lately). As time passed I about forgot my promise, but I figured why not – Mac’s my friend. This isn’t to say that his new mixtape, Raw Material, doesn’t deserve recognition however. It’s an interesting album in that it identifies a young lyricist in transition, slowly growing into the realities of the modern political and economic landscape, slowly identifying his changing perception of the country, slowly finding his place. One of the things that Mac isn’t slow to, however, is announcing his own importance as an artist, nor is he slow to suggest that his future will be anything less than successful. As irritating as his self-assured chest beating might be at times, which he does no more or less than any other MC who’s trying to gain attention, I admire Mac’s persistence – he isn’t about to let anyone tell him that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is.
A free download of the entire album is available below, and for those interested in learning a bit more about Mac there’s also a brief Q&A with him that touches on his future in the city, whether or not he’s calling it quits after this release, and why he feels that there is “no one else who makes music like me” (there’s also this interview with him from this past January). The bottom line is that Mac might not be every bit as phenomenal as he feels he is (yet?), but I’m still comfortable standing behind Raw Material and putting my name on it because it just so happens to be that in addition to being my friend, he’s also one of the select Nashvillian MCs whose work I actually enjoy. It’s my hope, as I’m sure it is Mac’s, that you too enjoy what he’s put together here.
On one hand you speak to how proud you are of graduating college, but the flip side is your own sense of feeling disenfranchised by the system: how the degree helps your self-esteem yet burdens you because it has yet to give you an advantage in finding a job. Do you feel people can relate to you on this and how much do you struggle with this daily?
Mac L: The short answer is yes. I know people can relate to me, simply because I know people who are going through the same things I’m going through, if not worse. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt, but you gotta have faith. That’s why I try not to let this get to me daily, because with despair comes opportunity. As of late I’ve come to realize my destiny, and ultimately I need to stop letting the system stop me from my dreams. With that said, I’m no longer looking for a job, but an expansion of my career.
We briefly talked about this before — cocktails might’ve been involved on either or both ends of the conversation — but you’ve hinted that this might be your swan song. Are you going to continue pursuing rapping as a genuine outlet following this release, and if so, what still drives you to push forward?
Mac L: (Laughs) Blame the alcohol. Rap always was and always will be my outlet. I enjoy music too much to quit, as an artist and a fan. With that said, I’m already working on my next project as I wait to release this one. I have two younger siblings that look up to me. They mean everything to me. My brother plays my music all through the house and even has his basketball teams (yes, teams) playing my joints. There’s too many people who enjoy my work, who depend on me, who expect great things from me, and that’s because there’s no one else who makes music like me, who can drop knowledge and entertainment at the same time. For me to give up, at this point, would be turning my back on everyone who has ever had a kind word for me.
“…and that’s because there’s no one else who makes music like me, who can drop knowledge and entertainment at the same time.” This isn’t meant to sound confrontational or critical, but do you really feel that way? Deep down inside, that you’re in an elite tier among MCs?
Mac L: Shit, I know I’m not the only one who can do it. I just feel like I’m the only one that actually takes a stab at it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my doubts, but who doesn’t? As far as being in an elite tier, the record won’t allow me to say that I am. I will say that I’m on my way though. My plan and my ability will show and prove it for me.
How much did you invest in Raw Material when all’s said and done, and how much might that aspect of the artistic process play into whether or not you continue to release music in the future?
Mac L: I invested a lot of time, energy, and money into Raw Material. The few people that heard The Great American Paper Chase will understand that my main focus is progression. My next tape will be a further example. The only thing that would stop me from continuing to release music would be if I lost my artistic freedom.
Raw Material touches on everything from grievances with the President to celebrating nostalgia, but what was left on the cutting room floor? Do you have any half-finished ideas that you simply had to let go?
Mac L: There were TONS of songs, some finished, some unfinished. If you notice the tracklisting, there were basically no features on the mixtape. That’s not the way I originally intended. If Raw Material went the way I originally wanted it to be, there’d be a movie to go with it. I had more feelings to unload, more ideas, more stories, but it was too much. I had to understand that I’m not in a position where I can just do whatever I want and expect people to gravitate toward it. Some songs will be on future projects. Other songs may ultimately be scrapped. A lot of songs were put on The Prelude, which is up for free download now. For the record, despite my frustrations with our President, I’m standing by him.