By Dylan Deprey
There’s almost a tier system for Milwaukee rappers in 2020.
Are they here for the YouTube views or are they here for the long run?
While there’s no problem dropping loosies over classic Milwaukee slappers, there’s something special when artists buckle down and put out a cohesive project.
Over the past few years, Mac Hefner has dropped some bangers alongside TeeGlazedIt and DineroGangRay visuals online. From the Chicken P collab on “Mac Chicken,” to his World Star Heatseekers track, “8 a.m.,” Mac Hefner has carved his name in Milwaukee’s underground.
His debut album, “Beauty and the Beast,” is a proper introduction as an artist. The album borrows classic “slap” tropes, while also experimenting with new sounds and concepts outside of the typical baseline-inducing melodies.
The 17-song track list is an infectious 53-minute ride that tackles hustling, fake friends and bad relationships. Mac Hefner shows both sides, “The Beauty and the Beast” of himself and the city that raised him.
Mac dives into his bag on this project. From his ability to ride the track lyrically and melodically, to his beat selection and appropriate amount of autocrooning, it gives this album consistent playability.
Songs like “Jungle” and “Send it Up,” produced by Milwaukee heavy-weights, Emazon and Devito Beats, were an homage to the Cream City’s slap roots. Whether it’s dodging the ops or the cops, Mac Hefner speaks his story over racing hi-hats and thumping basslines.
Yung City handles the production on nearly half of project. On tracks like “Counterfeit,” “Book Bag,” and “Hockey Mask,” the atmospheric synths and speeding drums blend perfectly with the struggle and hustle in Mac Hefner’s lyrics. Whether it’s his witty one-liners or introspective thoughts, they mesh perfectly with the subtle bounce and angelic vocal samples floating in the distance.
For his first full-length album, in an era of heavily bloated track lists, Mac Hefner doesn’t leave the listener waiting to press the skip button. Each song flows right into the next with just the right amount of ear-candy.
Songs like the single, “Cold Summer,” and finale track, “Owe You that” are similar in that Mac digs into his falsetto, but the vibe and concepts are very different. “Cold Summer,” produced by Emazon, is a determined Mac willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the top, while “Owe You That,” produced by Mike A. Knight, is a reflective bop reminiscing on past toxic relationships.
Both tracks are melodic, but one makes you want to get back on the grind, and the other has you in your feelings.
If local artists continue to put out quality projects that innovate Milwaukee’s sound, there is no doubt the industry will have to take notice.
The album also features Milwaukee’s trap soul duo, the MT Twins, along with production from Doc Holiday and Bizness Boi.
“Beauty and the Beast” is available on all streaming platforms.