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The Heath McNease Fanclub Meets Tonight

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Apr
The Heath McNease Fanclub Meets Tonight
Sounds like … a pop and hip-hop hybrid evocative of Ill Harmonics, Playdough, Paul Wright, KJ-52, and John ReubenAt a glance … vintage hip-hop elements, pop savvy, and half-serious playfulness make this Fanclub a wild but very strong debut effort for Heath McNease.Track Listing Where I'm Not Wanted
Follow the Leader
Down to the River
If You Can
Love Me (feat. Pigeon John)
Farewell My Dignity
Good Samaritan Get Down (feat. Playdough)
Swing Low
Call Me Mister
Second Wind
Favorite Nightmare
Interlude 2
So So (feat. Red Cloud)
Nintendo Thumb
Smile on Me

Sure, they'll go Platinum on the strength of a ringtone or a silly breakout single, but rappers who go by their legal name are rarely taken seriously: Will Smith … Paul Wall … Mike Jones … Ray Buchanan … Matisyahu (OK, maybe that one's a stretch). Which makes Heath McNease an interesting anomaly. The newcomer seems like the type that wouldn't care much whether you take him seriously or not. As a white, indie rapper who started out pursuing a career in theater, the odds seem stacked against him.

McNease is content with making the music he loves—hip-hop with dashes of whatever. I say "whatever" because his debut, The Heath McNease Club Meets Tonight is not something you can easily put in a box. A lazy comparison would be Christian-rap peers like KJ-52 or John Reuben, but collectively Fanclub is much more layered than either emcee's work.

The hip-hop component is a homegrown, chiefly underground soundtrack that recalls the work of veterans Ill Harmonics and Playdough. The similarity to those acts is no fluke—Play-doug-H himself co-wrote and produced the bulk of this disc, and McNease is all the better for it. Fanclub can be classic, offbeat, poppy, melodic, self-deprecating, funny, serious, spiritual…sometimes all of the above in the course of the same track.

There's no better proof of this all-over-the-place sound and sense of humor than "Down to the River," a half-sung, half-rapped confessional about McNease's convictions (and then some): "God and God alone is the only reason I haven't been arrested several times/My permanent record's spotless, unless you count that hostage situation in '99." The album isn't always as ridiculously brilliant, but with further tutelage, McNease could easily get there one day. His Fanclub may not ever number in the millions, but he deserves one nonetheless.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.