All photos by William Coutts
Mac Miller’s back catalogue, which is made up of at least seven mixtapes and two records, is jam-packed with songs that deserve the loss of all inhibition.Tonight, those songs are getting what they deserve, with a packed crowd at The Forum hollering back every single word and making the second floor balcony bounce up and down. Mac is the antithesis to the dull DJ-and-MC format of hip-hop shows.
But frat-boy brilliance isn’t his only quality. Miller’s latest album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, built upon the creative foundations of his Macadelic, and last June, he performed the albums tracks in a showcase with a live band. He played the guitar behind his head and channeled ambience with the same excellence that he injects into his raps. It presented a new side to Mac, one that is free from definition: he’s versatile enough to able to make a jazz album with his side project Larry Lovestein, guest on a track with popstar Adriana Grande, or put out an EP with Pharrell. In 2013, Mac Miller isn’t just an up-and-coming rapper with a few mixtapes, he’s a concreted artist, as affirmed by Kendrick Lamar, when he name checked him in his “Control” verse. He’s found his foothold, and I sat down with him to ask him how it feels.
Noisey: The last time I saw you, you played with a live band, and it was one of the best shows that I’ve seen.
Mac Miller: Did you write that article for Noisey about who could perform rap shows? That was sick.
Yeah. The live band works well with Macadelic and Watching Movies With The Sound Off. Was that how you always envisaged performing the songs?
That’s like, for me. It was where I wanted to take the songs. It basically represents every human beings contradiction, right? There’s half of me that just wants to have a track and go out there and have kids go fucking crazy.
Yeah. And the other half of me loves music. I love playing the guitar and playing the piano and I want to do that. It’s difficult. It’s interesting to see how they work differently.
It’s a much more soulful vibe.
I like to sing, and it works better with the band when I do that. Because you can just have people stand there and watch, and it’s a good show. In the young internet generation, people might watch the crowd [from Plan B] and think that the crowd sucked, because they’re not hyped. But in reality, it’s like, no… that’s what they’re supposed to do. I’m trying to find a balance between the two. I’m thinking about possibly opening up for myself. Like opening with the live band, doing a Lovestein set.
Just a Mac Miller tour. You could literally do it, with the Larry Lovestein stuff, the Mac stuff and The Internet stuff.
Yeah, three sets and just pay myself over and over again.
People used to rip on you for the frat boy image, but I can’t imagine anyone else putting out a jazz influenced record, like the Lovestein one.
It’s okay. When I was younger I was bothered by it, like, “eurgh, I’m not a fucking frat boy, I never want to frat parties, I never went to college”. I’m just white. That’s it. But, hey. It’s whatever now.
Why did it take you so long to move past that image into the instrumental stage?
It’s difficult, as weird as it sounds, to completely be yourself. For a while I was scared to play the guitar for people, because it’s like, nah, I’m an MC. And the minute I pick up a guitar, I thought people were going to be like, you’re not hip hop. But I got to this level where I was like, I don’t give a fuck. I’m going to do whatever I want to do. I think it’s when you stop worrying about how your business goes, and you start doing what you want to do.
And when you did that, you went from being just a rapper, to a proper artist. Do you feel like you’re now free from the constraints of rap?
I was talking to Zane Lowe today, and we had this talk about what am I going to do next. I was like, I think I’m in a better position than anyone else, because I could literally do anything.
You could do a guitar based record.
Or I could do a gangster rap album, it doesn’t matter. I’ve had records in every type of format. There has been your “Knock Knocks” and your “Louds” and “Lucky Ass Bitch” that go hard in the club. And then there’s “Objects In The Mirror”. The thing that I realised, and I loved, is that no one questioned the authenticity of the records. Which is what I was always scared of.
So you feel much more comfortable now?
It doesn’t really matter as much to me. Even Watching Movies. I was almost scared to make a hit record. I feel comfortable to make a record that would be bigger than “Donald Trump” and I’m not worried about anyone questioning what I’m capable of. There was a time when I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was nineteen years old. I was like, everyone should take me seriously. But no, I was nineteen years old, and who the fuck takes someone that age seriously, I’m not Nas, you know what I’m saying? You just grow to be comfortable, hearing everything. And I’ve heard people call me everything from the greatest rapper alive, to the thing that ruined music.
To the Adam Sandler of hip hop?
Haha, I’ll be whatever you want me to be.
Two years ago you were here, doing your first London show. It’s pretty much been non-stop since then. Don’t you want to break?
When I made Blue Slide Park, I was on the road so much. I had three months to make an album. That’s crazy! You know, I was nineteen, I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of an artistic vision that I had to see through. I was like, “wooooo!”. I’d never spent that much money in my whole life. I was thinking, this is crazy! I’m successful! I’m on tour! I’m travelling the world! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! Gimme gimme gimme! But making Watching Movies, I took nine months to sit in my house.
Right, and that shows in the level of advancement.
I grew more in those nine months than I have ever grown in my life. And I think that’s kind of what I’m about to do again. For the first time in two years, I feel at the top of my game again.
Do you feel much more accepted by the rap community now? You’re not on the come-up anymore, you were mentioned in the “Control” verse, you’re up there with everyone.
I think I finally accepted my own talent and didn’t try to run from it. I believe in myself now, that I know what to do. Before I seeked so much guidance, like, what do I do? What song is the right song? Someone help me! But now… I’m comfortable. If JAY Z came into the building and was like, I think this is the song, you should go with this song. I’m comfortable to be like, cool. No. Which is crazy. Obviously, I still fan out, and freak out. But it takes a little bit to get used to the fact that I am who I used to look up to.
Who’d you fan out over?
I’d never come at someone and be like, Yo man. I fucking, like, I’ve read all your shit. You’re fucking sick. That one article you did was fucking awesome. But there’s definitely people in the game I’ve sat down with and been like, shit. Like, I sat with Kanye. If I was working with Kanye I’d be like….
The first time I worked with Pharrell, you can hear me stumble in my verse, because I’m nervous. It’s Pharrell, I have to be good, he sits in here with JAY Z, I can’t stink it up. I’ve still got things to work on, and that’s one of them. It’s hard to be that cocky. I’ve got to get to the confident place where I can sit there with Kanye and he can be like Yo I’mma… and I be like, nah, I’m about to spit motherfucker! Let me get into my shit. I need to get there.
If we go back to the beginning, you had no tattoos. Now you’ve covered. What’s the story behind some of them?
I don’t see Most Dope floating around as much.
This is what happened. At first, we were like, Most Dope, we can profit off it. But I didn’t want to, because it represents the people who are close to me. I didn’t want to exploit it into making money off it. To my fans, it’s Mac Miller, but to me, it’s more than that. It’s not something to make. But I am, actually, about to make some money off it. Just a little bit. On the side. To pay off some debts.
Is that $6.5 million networth not working out for you? What about this little figure?
The Beatles are something… I’ve listened to them my whole life. And I identify with them, because they came in the game with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You”, and then started doing artistic stuff.
It’s like a similar vibe to yourself.
It shows like, fuck yeah, they had “She Loves You”, but they also had Sgt Peppers. Because they were growing in music. I Love Lennon and I love that since I’ve got this tatt, I’ve had people be like, is that John Lennon or Jesus? It’s crazy that, if say, Kanye said I was bigger than Jesus, people would be like, okay. But at that time, when Lennon said it, they burned albums. But he wasn’t lying, he was correct. This is my quote that I made up. The difference between the artists that these kids look up to, these new age prophets, is that, if this was the 1700s, Kanye is Jesus. We are the prophets. The difference is that Jesus doesn’t perform on Sundays, live.
And you’re doing that thing 24/7. What’s this one?
This is when I stopped caring about the meaning of a tattoo. I want to get the Yellow Submarine on my right leg, because it saved me from a bad acid trip. It had been a huge build up, like – I’m taking acid. I was with The Internet, talking to Matt and Syd.
So you did it with them?
Nah, I got it from them! Syd was like, c’mon dude. You of all people have to take acid. I was like, if you want me to take acid, I’ll fucking take acid. I drove home from tour by myself and took the acid. I text her, like – I’m on acid. I took two tabs and I was freaking out. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought the world was going to stop and God was going to come down and be like, here are the answers to life. I was waiting for it, like, where are the fucking answers? Where are the answers? I put on "Yellow Submarine" and started laughing uncontrollably. That song is the truest description, to me, of what the world is. It’s the realest thing that anyone has said about the world.
And that’s a nice conclusion to this interview. Thanks Mac.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanBassil
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