After a long weekend of Kansas teams getting edged out of the NCAA Tournament, Mac Lethal delivered a hometown win Monday.
The Kansas City rapper walked across the stage on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” hands in the air, smile on his face, and it was hard not feel victorious.
“Look where I am right now,” said Mac (born David McCleary Sheldon) as he sat down in the guest chair, humbled at his accomplishments.
“You deserve to be wherever you want to be because that was the most impressive thing,” Ellen said of his rapping.
He replied: “This is the most impressive chair that I have ever sat in in my life.”
Mac then proceeded to chat with Ellen and her guest co-host, Jason Bateman, perform a rap he wrote just for her and gush about his baby boy.
Later, he told me: “It was a very exhilarating experience and I am happy that I got to do it. I am a fan of the show. I think it’s funny, and I don’t have to force myself to watch. She is great.”
Mac made the jump from a staple of the local hip-hop scene to viral sensation when he rhymed and flipped flapjacks in his hyper-speed version of Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now,” known as “The Pancake Rap.” Today, more than two years later, that video has more than 30 million views.
His most recent tongue-twisting rhyme, “Alphabet Insanity
,” posted a month ago, earned 2.5 million views in two weeks. It caught Ellen’s eye, and she featured the video on her show earlier this month. Soon after, her people called Mac. She wanted to meet him. He taped Monday’s show with her last Thursday.
On the show, Mac told Ellen how rapping fast helps him put his son, Rocky, to sleep. (Insert collective swoon.) And adorable pictures of the 1-year-old flashed onscreen behind them.
When she asked about his passion for rap, he said simply, “I like that I can give a voice to people that can’t defend themselves. I like that it’s edgy, it’s a little counterculture, but I can still express a good, positive message and do creative stuff with it.”
Mac already has a successful book, “Texts From Bennett,” a show based on that book in development for FX and an online series on Pharrell’s popular YouTube channel,iamOTHER
. This appearance on “Ellen” is yet another step in Mac’s growing success.
“It’s a big deal because an independent artist is getting a major look, essentially because he turned his talent for verbal acrobatics into a viral sensation,” says Meka Udoh, co-founder of 2DopeBoyz.com, one of the top hip-hop sites around. Meka says it’s up to Mac to decide what to do with that platform.
Mac’s first move was remixing the theme music to Ellen’s celebrated talk show, and he even gave a shout-out to “the city of Missouri in a state called Kansas” (that’s poetic license to rhyme with Cate Blanchett).
“I had under a week to put the song together for her show,” he told me.
He worked with his friend Seven (a Kansas City producer known for his work with Tech N9ne) on the beat. Mac put it on his phone, and while on the plane to California, he came up with the lyrics, rapping them to his son (and putting him into a deep sleep). He performed it for the first time Wednesday in the hotel lobby for Ellen’s staffers, and that next day he was on the big stage.
It sounds hard, but it’s the way Mac’s mind works. He is constantly challenging himself. Next: another development deal for TV and a second book.
“There is so much that I want to do,” he says. “I don’t have a No. 1 song on the radio; I don’t have a platinum album yet. I want to do things I haven’t done yet.”
Right now, he’s enjoying representing for Kansas City and hip-hop. Because rap is more than jewelry, cars and clothes. It’s bigger than the pop rap that Lorde sings about in her Grammy-winning “Royals.”
“In 2014, it’s narrow-minded to not acknowledge that there are other elements of every musical genre, including hip-hop, other than what you hear on the radio. Almost all of the albums in the best rap category at the Grammys were next-level, interesting records.
“Even Kanye West, his last album was a critical success and it was interesting, noisy and weird — a futuristic sounding album. There is much more to hip-hop. Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Tech N9ne — they are all doing creative stuff. That’s what this is about, representing what I am a part of. I will never forget my roots.”
Not in rap nor in Kansas City. Mac Lethal will always carry us with him.