Yesterday, the Exquisite Rap Duo dropped a new album. What’s especially exquisite about the album is that it’s the work of Anthony McNamer, an IP attorney in Portland, Oregon.
McNamer is a ’95 Stanford Law grad who has worked for Bingham McCutchen and for Davis Wright Tremaine, clerked in American Samoa, and founded his own small three-person firm, McNamer and Company, five years ago. The firm does IP work and media, entertainment, and sports law.
“I’m probably the biggest music lawyer in Portland… but that’s not saying much,” McNamer told us. He is also on the short list for most extreme athletes looking for a lawyer, he said, representing them when sponsorship deals go awry or in “right of publicity” cases.
McNamer sent us an e-mail last week to let us know about his “rap group” and debut album:
You don’t hear about many big firm lawyer to rap group transitions. Word.
Apparently, McNamer is unaware of his East Coast rival, Mekka Don, who went from being a Weil first year to being a self-proclaimed savior of hip hop. Word.
We surfed over to his website and listened to some of the songs. As for our favorite, we’re torn between the one about not being able to look tough on a BMX bike and “Best Friends with a Gay Dude” about his college best friend coming out after graduation, which McNamer informed us is 100% autobiographical. The latter includes samples from Cher’s “Believe.” If you haven’t guessed yet, McNamer’s rap has a funny side. But he doesn’t consider his work to be pure novelty. “I don’t want to be Weird Al,” said McNamer.
We also watched the music video for Calculator Watch; the humorous approach reminded us strongly of Law Revue videos. We followed that hunch and discovered during our interview that McNamer was once a lead writer for Stanford’s version of Law Revue. None of the songs on Nine Mile (We Go The Extra Mile) employ legal humor, though. “I know from doing [Stanford's Law School Musical] that law stuff isn’t very funny,” said McNamer.
We spoke to McNamer yesterday about his music, founding his own law firm, and how his legal career will help boost his musical stylings. Check out his video and the beauty of having your own firm in Portland — HINT: his target for weekly billables is 15 hours — after the jump.
We interviewed Anthony McNamer last night about his music, his law firm, and clerking in Samoa.
On the Decision to Make the Album
He hated the wildly popular Handlebars by the Flobots, about being able to ride a bike with no handlebars. “It’s so stupid and not funny,” said McNamer. “Everyone likes them because they’re white and marginally witty. I thought to myself, I can do better than that.”
On How His Legal Career Bolstered His Rap Career
An album costs about $5,000 or $6,000 to make, assuming a print of 1,000 copies, McNamer estimates. But he was able to do some stuff for trade, as he does music law.
Five years ago, he started his own label, Expunged Records, which has released a handful of records and notably represents Blind Pilot, currently touring with the Decemberists. Nine Mile is also released on this label.
McNamer really likes performing and hopes to do shows every few months. “Every hip hop artist in Portland, I am their lawyer,” said McNamer, and they plan to help him out. “They love that their lawyer is a rap artist,” said McNamer. A few have already asked if he will open for them.
“My wife says I can’t tour though. She said, ‘I married a lawyer, not a rapper.’ I replied, ‘You’re lucky. You married both,’” McNamer told us.
On Clerking in Samoa
“It’s exactly how it sounds,” said McNamer. “You don’t have to work very hard. People don’t move to Samoa to work hard. You come in at 8. If you leave at 3 or 3:30, you’re the last one there.”
On Starting His Own Firm
“It was a no brainer,” said McNamer. “You can reduce your overhead — it’s $10,000-$15,000 per lawyer at a big firm. I already had clients, who came with me.” McNamer had spent over four years doing commercial litigation in Bingham’s San Francisco office and two years doing transactional IP work in Portland at Wright Davis.
“My target billable hours per week are 15 hours. That lets me live a comfortable life in Oregon. At the same time, I’m glad I was at a big firm. My time at Bingham trained me so well that I was ready to start my own practice. I am often up against big firms and I can write like them and handle them,” said McNamer.
As for when to start your own firm, McNamer says four years in Biglaw is the magic number. “At that point, the amount of experience you get levels off, so that’s a good time to leave.”
McNamer is a big advocate of going out on your own. “I’d never have been first chair on 10 trials in three years if I were still at a big firm.”
On The Rap
McNamer says he’s been into hip hop since the early 80s. He was break dancing and doing graffiti back in 1983. He’s always wanted to make an album, and thanks to his contacts from representing musical artists, it wasn’t too hard to do. The whole process took about 10 months. It probably would have taken less time, but he and his wife had a baby last summer. “So I couldn’t spend all my time spitting rhymes at the studio. My wife wouldn’t be cool with that,” said McNamer.
Writing the lyrics was the easiest part — it took about two weeks. He thinks of his songs as anti-rap, like singing about his calculator watch instead of about bling. He assures us that the album is mainly biographical. If you listen to the song about his stepmother — which he says is 80% true — that might disturb you. His “Best friends with a gay dude” song is 100% true. “He was the best man at my wedding,” said McNamer. And he really does get annoyed by 45-year-old white guys trying to look tough on little BMX bikes on Portland’s streets.
Oh yeah, he does own a calculator watch, and he actually wears it. We forgot to ask him whether he really thinks “trigonometry can suck [his] *beep*.” Check out the video for this particular rhyme:
Notice the snow and the non-snow parts. Since McNamer plays the parts of both the bearded rapper and the clean-shaven one, he had to wait six weeks to do a second take as McBeard.
“Why no legal humor?” we asked. “Nothing came to me that was legal. The rapper personas weren’t lawyers, so it didn’t make sense to write law songs,” replied McNamer. Then he added that he had been a lead writer for Stanford’s Law School Musical for two years with his roommate. “But I know from doing that stuff that law stuff isn’t very funny,” said McNamer.
“I’m a 37-year-old white lawyer from Portland. I don’t know if it will go anywhere,” said McNamer, who said he does hope to make another album, tracking the emotional saga of the two rappers deciding to break up. “The [first album] took a lot of time and effort, and it’s not cheap. If I break even, I might make another one,” said McNamer. But he added: “Making the album was the funnest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Exquisite Rap Duo
Earlier: Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Rapper?