Review Summary: Mac scraps depression in favor of fun, and no hipster or beer is safe.
For the sake of comparison, let’s examine two random Hip-Hop bars. The first: “Steady plucking bloody feathers out of angels/I’m cleaning out my shotgun with my cocaine on the coffee table/well this is me I’m here/I’m full of jokes I’m full of vodka full of bleeding tears/I wanna live in fear of failure/they’re telling me that laughter isn’t sappy/I’m clueless of my purpose but I’m happily unhappy.” The second: “Pound that beer/Pound that beer/don’t drunk dial baby pound that beer/BEER MAKES US FIRED UP/so c’mon/SLAM IT GIRL.” It may seem ridiculous that the former quip rooted in metaphorical personal devastation and the latter which pays homage to every frat party in America emerged from the same artist, but it’s a perfect microcosm of the duality inside of Mac Lethal’s mind, and beautifully illustrates the quintessential difference in albums that share a title but for all intensive purposes aren’t even in the same sub-genre. The morose self-loathing seen above is from Mac Lethal’s true opus, “The Original 11:11 Sessions,” while the quip about shot-gunning barley pop is from its follow up (and actual replacement) “11:11.” Do not get these albums confused, “Original 11:11” is a stunning personal chronicle of pure devastation, an album so gut wrenching Mac shelved it because presumably he couldn’t listen to it without resisting the urge to hurtle off a Kansas City skyscraper. “11:11” was written in its stead and released on a more prominent label (Rhymesayers), and overcompensates the original project’s downtrodden pleadings with a sometimes forced but deliciously upbeat atmosphere.
If the “Original 11:11 Sessions” is Mac drunk driving a hearse to his own funeral, “11:11” is him cruising in a pimped-out Monte Carlo, hitting on college girls and baiting hipsters on a drive toward personal happiness. Sure, his tone still has bite when he ratchets up the “f*ck corporate America and religion” tone, but aside from the ominous (and ironically album highlight) opener “Backward,” the feeling of this record is “I used to be depressed but f*ck that sh*t,” like Kool & the Gang’s “Hollywood Swingin” set to the tone of Kansas City Hip-Hop overtones. The aforementioned “Pound That Beer” is akin to Lil Jon minus the Crunk, and while it’s difficult to tell if he is ironically mocking club Hip-Hop, its handclaps, shouted chorus, and amped up flow sure as hell sounds like it was written with intentions of entrenching itself as a pub anthem. “Make Out Bandit” is in a similar, albeit slightly toned down vein, chronicling the seedy goals of those Abercrombie dudes who try to bang every chick in the bar. Coincidentally, those same Structure lovin’ bros are skewed rather mercilessly on the anti-establishment pop-culture rant “Jihad,” and snobby music hipsters are blasted on the ruthlessly fun “Calm Down Baby,” a jam that manages to name-drop Wilco, Tool, Nick Drake, Deftones, Ice-T, and Wu-Tang amid its ridiculously snarky ride. Perhaps “Know It All” is best indicative of Mac’s attitude, and the track’s criticism of douchebags who think they are the smartest guy in the room and whores who blow smoke in their baby’s faces is cutting, yet the atmosphere behind the song is still upbeat.
It’s obvious that Mac saves the downtrodden soundscapes for when he is ripping himself or his ex-girlfriend apart, and bursts with positivity when it’s another entity (hipsters, bros, religious zealots, and corporate America) on the chopping block. “The Original 11:11 Sessions” closes with arguably the most depressing song in the history of Hip-Hop, while “11:11’s” final installment “Sun Storm” comes across like a really awesome Stuart Smalley mantra, an enormously upbeat and nostalgic jam where Mac for once realizes “something beautiful is in his grasp.” Mac’s exercise in duality rarely fails him, and even if his greatest works are always going to be the self-deprecating ones, “11:11” proves he is capable of producing stellar Hip-Hop that doesn’t require a therapeutic couch as an accompaniment.