If you take a look at the iTunes listing for Mac Miller’s newest album, Live From Space, you’ll note that the first two entries under “Contemporaries” are Sam Adams and Asher Roth, former frat rappers in arms who first got big off of realizing that drunken college kids wanted to listen to music about being drunken college kids. In that sense, Mac still has a ways to go before he completely sheds the grinning, grating persona that earned a brutal Pitchfork takedown and the enmity of every rap writer over the age of 30.
But pop culture is nothing if not forgiving, and Mac hung around long enough, and did enough drugs, to make his way down the lonely path of self-analysis toward something resembling enlightened. He hoovered up left-field sonic influences and refined his technique, which earned him enthusiastic co-signs from artists like Earl Sweatshirt and Flying Lotus, culminating in a 2013 album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, that earned legitimate acclaim and helped wipe away some of the disdain for his earlier output.
Today, Live From Space, the 14-song mix of live recordings from The Space Migration Tour and unreleased songs that didn't make Watching Movies with the Sound Off, is out. On the project, Mac's backed by his house band Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians from The Internet. We've got the exclusive premiere of the song, "Black Bush" below:
I hopped on the phone with Mac to discuss the record and a few other things. He was as amiable as possible, though the fact that he was walking his dog meant a few of his answers were distracted, to say the least.
Noisey: There’s this stereotype that most rappers are better on record than they are in concert, so why do a live album?
Mac Miller: Because I wanted to show that stereotype was one hundred percent true and have both albums, so people would be like, “Okay, word.” [Pauses] That was a joke. But uh, no man, because I love performing and we have a show that’s different and it is good live and there’s maybe a couple songs where you can’t understand what I’m saying, like watching Lil B, because there’s too much screaming, but other than that, it breathes new life into the record.
You’ve talked about reading your own criticism as a way to get better. How do you feel about playing your old songs in concert?
Everything’s trying to be new versions of the song, and we don’t play the exact track. So it gives us room to move however we want to as far as tempo. But yeah, I don’t know, I don’t really worry what critics think anymore. I think I had an eye-opening experience because it’s real and that, you know, now I’m just moving forward to what I want to do in a new direction. But I’m not afraid to play a song off of Blue Slide Park just because it didn’t get good reviews.
What’s the most important thing you learned in 2013?
Let’s see. To completely trust and believe in what you’re doing 100 percent. That’s the most important thing. I think when you pass off anything or just try to put out a song but not really put it out, it’s like if you’re going to do it. [Laughs] No! Sorry, my dog just went under the fucking fence. Yeah, I mean if you’re going to do something just to do it then believe in your own ideas.
What’s the best thing you watched on World Star this year?
The best thing on World Star? Uh… that’s a good question. Man… well, I just saw this awesome guy of fuckin’, this 61-year old dude beating the fuck out of some young 22-year old who wouldn’t get off the bus. That was pretty awesome, like he really beat this dude’s ass. I love seeing old people beat up young people. And, and, all twerk videos. They’re just really talented, and people focus too much on the ass and they need to focus on the raw talent that comes out in these twerk videos.
You rapped about watching Dawson’s Creek until you fall asleep. Did you ever decide whether you’re a Dawson or a Pacey?
If I was what?
If you’re a Dawson or a Pacey.
Okay, I want to… come clean about something. I’ve actually never seen an episode of Dawson’s Creek.
Oh my God.
I know! I’m a liar! I’m a big fraud! But no, the night before I made that song I had the TV on before I went to sleep and Dawson’s Creek, it was on, it popped on, and I started watching it but yeah I’ve actually never seen Dawson’s Creek in my life. Am I missing out, for real? Is it good?
Well… I assume you’ve learned a lot about life since you were a teen. It’s pretty entry level growing up stuff.
Okay, yeah, I could still use some entry level growing up.
What’s the status of your record with Pharrell?
Uh, it’s in the same place where it’s been for a long time. We have to talk about when we’re going to get in the studio. We just recently talked about kicking it back up. I think the whole idea of the record was this anarchy, riot music. Just the breakdown of society and stuff of that nature. It just sounds really wild and shit like that.
I don’t know how many other rappers have devoted entire side projects to their alter egos that are just them rapping in a different voice. Do you not like your regular voice?
I think I just wanted to, it all started when I was working on Watching Movies and we did “The Star Room” and “Gees”… uh… [Dog barks] It’s about to go down! And I think it was just a continuation of that. I just kind of liked having the Delusional Thomas verses be… [Dog starts barking, drowns out his entire answer]
Jeremy Gordon doesn't have a dog to walk. He's on Twitter, though - @jeremypgordon