Whether you first saw Mac Lethal serving sucker MCs at Scribble Jam, fiercely and independently touring with his Black Clover Records imprint or rapping while flipping pancakes, chances are some time in the past decade he's entranced and entertained you. Now, the Kansas City-based rapper has invaded a new medium with the release of his first novel Texts From Bennett.
Based on his popular Tumblr that captured the Internet's attention, the book expands Bennett's universe and details how living with his wannabe-gangsta cousin changed his life. We spoke to Mr. Lethal about how his novel approach to hip-hop lead to a novel itself.
How did Texts From Bennett go from your cell phone to bookstore shelves? The blog had exploded, 50-60 million views in the first six or seven weeks and it was definitely getting with the right agency. We had this round table discussion with six different agents. Erin Malone, who is a Gangsta-ass literary agent, was like "what about a book?" She said to come up with a pitch and we sent it out to all the publishing houses. We had a book auction, where my agent said what we're looking for in terms of creativity and financials, and whoever bites consider your hat in the ring. Gallery Books, who is a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster made an offer and I said "fuck yeah." They won the book and then we went to work. My editor and I sat there, and I wrote out a very basic ten-page outline, and then a 50 page outline, then the first chapter and then the last chapter. I spent one year on it, turned in a draft, got a whole bunch of comments in red ink sent back, did it again with less red ink and comments, finished it again and eventually after nine or ten different drafts they were ready to go. They made artwork, scheduled a release date, and that was that. It's a crazy process, to see what went into it was insane.
How different has your book tour been from your usual tours? It's great, just having fun with a lot going on. The people putting out my book wouldn't fund a book tour for me, so I was just like "OK, what do I do in this situation? Do I sit with my ass on my hands, or do I take matters into my own hands like I always have done?" I just booked a tour, even though I had just done Warped Tour, and gone to seven of my best markets to set up book signings and Q&As, and it's really great. I just funded a tour around it because I had to supplement the income for myself to be able to move around the country because I'm flying somewhere different every day. But the tour for my show revolves around my book. I didn't bring any merch other than a bunch of books.
Did your live set for this tour reflect the book at all, or include anything from the Postcards From Kansas City EP you've sent to everyone who pre-orders the book? No, I don't know what the fate of that album is going to be. I like it and I was working on new songs for it up until two days ago. I was just like Jay-Z who has this mantra of working until the very last minute where he records right up through the day before it has to be turned in. As far as I know "I Just Want to Love You (Give It 2 Me)," he recorded a few hours before he was off to master the album and decided to change it from a Roc-a-Fella compilation to a Jay-Z album. They had a video shoot scheduled, and he changed the concept of it on Sunday, filmed it on Monday, and it became a smash hit. This a digital album; I don't have physical copies as of now. I don't have anything other than a .zip file I'm going to send out. Patric, who's on stage with me every night, hasn't even heard the album yet because I finished mastering it 24 hours ago. So maybe near the end of the tour we'll work in one or two songs.
Also notable about Postcards from Kansas City is the appearance of Chamillionaire. How did you link up with him? The Pancake Rap in early December 2011 is on fire and had been for about two weeks. My wife and I were just absorbing every second of it and how Ryan Seacrest is interviewing me and things like that were happening. We would go out to eat and for a month, three times a week my wife and I would go out to a nice restaurant and get lobster tail. We'd been very conservatively living up until that point, and were just sitting there soaking it in. Everyday someone new was calling me or tweeting me like Colin Quinn or Kevin Smith. We're at this restaurant, the Bristol, and I, rudely might I add, check my email during dinner. I get this email with the subject line "CHAMILLIONAIRE." I open it up and it just said "Hey, is this Mac?" I wrote back "Hey, is this Chamillionaire or somebody affiliated?" and he writes back "Yeah, this is me." I write back "Dude, I'm a big fan of yours and Get Ya Mind Correct." The thing I loved about that album is, even before Houston was on the radar, they were doing 200,000 records out of the trunk of their car. That was the thing I always loved about these guys. He told me to call him, I tell my wife "I'm going to go call Chamillionaire," and he tells me he likes my music. We wind up talking on the phone for like two or three hours. We've kept in touch and he's a very stoic, calculated guy. He's a sharp cat.
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