"I wanna make it as personal as it can be," says local MC Wizdom of his musical aesthetic. Clad in a Cleveland Indians hat, a Marilyn Monroe T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of vintage Nikes, he is seated in an upstairs booth at Nectar Lounge a couple of weeks ago, waiting to serve opening duties for a lineup of home-grown hip-hop talent with a capital "T" that includes the Physics, JFK of Grayskul, and show organizer/headliner Macklemore. On this night, Wiz debuts new tracks from his upcoming sophomore release (look for it in late spring/early summer), the content of which indicates the already introspective lyricist has decided to further open up his insides on the autopsy table. "A lot of people might be like, 'He's such a bitch. This guy's just banking on the whole honesty-is-the-best-policy,'" Wiz says. But, he continues, if you go the commercial route, "People are like, 'Fuck that. He sold out.'" So Wiz being Wiz, he wrote a song about that dilemma called "You Can't Win," which revolves around a riff on Black Sheep's "The Choice Is Yours." As in: "If I go pro—nothin'/If I stay low—nothin'/... It's like this or that." However, all of this honesty stuff seems like some left-field shit when you first meet Wiz. He cuts an imposing figure, like a shorter Fat Joe, complete with a heavy head shorn of most of its hair and shoulders that could carry a family of four. Thing is, for all his physical heft, the dude is sensitive. Not in a cries-during-Bambi way, but like a nerve ending forever flicked, aware of the bane and pain of everyday existence. Macklemore, whose studio served as ground zero for Wiz's 2007 debut, Book of Wizdom, says that Wiz knows "it's important to be personal and to also address music and a social context." But, he adds, "He doesn't take himself too seriously." Although the 27-year-old Alaska-born, Seattle-raised Wiz (aka David Mazzeo) started rapping in 1997, he didn't start, well, taking it seriously until 2003. "Up until then, I would write and record just for fun," he says. The result of his newfound focus was a solid debut that shows an artist comfortable with the often uncomfortable truth. While Dream Team's production on Book of Wizdom is solid throughout, there are times when it sounds a little too anchored to the Kanye West school of sampling. That said, when the beat and lyrics complement one another, the cuts are something to behold. And it's no surprise that such balance comes when Wiz is reveling in the raw data of his own perceived inequity. The standout in this vein is "Just a Person (Insecurities)." The bluesy beat moans with the faint breath of a winded crooner and disturbed guitar, as Wiz admits: "I stand five-eight/Well over two bills/Hairy as shit/You can blame my Italian build." With the help of D.C.-based producer Epidemmik (they met through Wiz's girl and the magic of MySpace), Wiz says his follow-up album will get even closer to the heart of the matter: "I feel like I had to just open it up." Says Epidemmik: "The reason why I wanted to work with him is because he had a hard time with people taking him seriously." So he decided to help Wiz craft a theme that centers on the current state of hip-hop and ensure that the beats were not prefab knockoffs but made-to-order gems. "I feel like I could bring him out, you know?" Later that night at Nectar, after powering through about five half-tracks (for his live sets, he often only does one verse before moving on to another song), Wiz is joined onstage by Grynch to perform one of the new Epidemmik-produced selections. Other than that they're both white, the two MCs couldn't be more different. Grynch is short and slim, with a bass drum for a voice, whereas Wiz looks like a lion but sounds like a gazelle—light, airy, and quick. In short, they're the perfect odd couple to handle Wiz's "N.A.W." (aka "Not Another White Rapper"), a quasi-tongue-in-cheek examination of the stereotypes attached to those who dare wander over to the other side of the musical lunchroom. Over a pared-down beat tickled with a little piano, Wiz asks the crowd, "Should I flow about beer pong tables?" Yeah, it's hypothetical; no answer necessary. Besides, we already know it: Beer pong is just the beginning of what he'll rap about. firstname.lastname@example.org For more on MC Wizdom, visit www.myspace.com/wizdom.