I can’t remember the last time a stoned dude handed me a CD outside a donut shop, much less took it seriously. There was something about the guy who introduced himself as Shawty MacNaughty, though. He looked and dressed like a black Bob Dylan, and even though he was high as a weather balloon he was hustling music at an hour I wasn’t awake enough to say “kolache” on the first go. So, I thanked him for his album and his info and set it aside until the coronavirus locked me in my house looking for something to distract me.
To my surprise, MacNaughty has the tunes you might need if you plan on spending this outbreak bleak and sad. His disc, Light Weight Champion, is an eleven-track gut punch mostly about the despair of the modern world and his own plodding journey through it.
MacNaughty told me he cut the album in a four-day sprint, and it kind of shows. There is some incredible production value, and if you like your rap set to a minor key piano line then this is definitely the album for you. That said, the beats do get a little repetitive and MacNaughty has a tendency to stick to a single meter when rapping that adds to some monotony. There’s a damn fine EP buried in the album. It’s just not enough ideas for an LP.
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That said, he is a wizard with late-stage capitalism blues lyrics. From the opening, “Broke Broke,” he weaves a street tale of hustle, struggle, and loss that I immediately plugged right into. MacNaughty’s songs are the brokenhearted lament of the downtrodden wondering why the world seems to be set so hard against them. It’s melancholy, sure, but it also has so much heart that it nearly walks out of your speakers and asks you to become a fisher of men.
It’s clear there is some deep pain that is driving the man. “What Money” in particular is hard to listen to. Themes about pedophilia and abuse as well as abandonment and neglect make me wonder just how much of the shattered remains of the city on the hill MacNaughty has crawled through to get here. The fact that he is and still handing out music on a Tuesday morning with a smile on his face is a miracle.
I’m not going to call Light Weight Champion a classic or anything. MacNaughty isn’t breaking any new ground. What he does have is an incredible earnestness and a feel for just how society is failing us on an individual level. His music is the music of loss and bewilderment, not delivered with rage but with sage-like contemplation. It’s not happy music, but it is something that feels absolutely perfect for this moment in America.
I texted MacNaughty to ask him how people could pick this album up. He told me to direct people to the Smoke and Food Market at 9660 Fallbrook. If you’re out on the Northwest Side trying to find something open in this mini-apocalypse, stop in and grab an album. Even dystopias should have soundtracks.