Mac Miller might seem like just another Internet rapper, until you find out just how popular he actually is. After dropping his mixtape K.I.D.S. last summer, the 19-year-old Pittsburgh native’s career has been on the upswing. He’s quietly amassed over 550,000 followers on Twitter. A number of his videos on YouTube have over 10 million views, including “Nikes On My Feet,” “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza,” and “Donald Trump,” and his recent EP, On and On and Beyond, has sold over 40,000 copies, independently through Rostrum Records.
To top it all off, he just announced the title of his upcoming album Blue Slide Park, due sometime in the fall. And although the Most Dope General seems to be on the bubble (just like his smoking buddy and labelmate Wiz Khalifa was last year), Mac isn’t ready to hop onto a major label just yet. We got on the horn with the artist formerly known as Easy Mac to talk about his new album, his relationship with producers E. Dan and Big Jerm, and rumors of secretly signing to a major label.
Interview by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
You just announced the title for your upcoming album, Blue Slide Park. Where does that title come from?
Blue Slide Park is a playground/park that’s around the city of Pittsburgh. It’s a spot that we hung out at as little kids. But then we came back when we got older and drank and smoked there. It was the hangout spot. So it’s just a spot for a lot of people’s first memories.
I used to play Little League around there. I remember parties there, running from the cops, just a lot of stuff that I’ve done. Everything from when I was like 6 years old to memories of last night. Actually, last night we released the title so we went down there to go chill and kick it. But right when we rolled in, ten minutes later, cops pulled up. [Laughs.]
[It doesn’t have a date but] it will be out soon. I don’t have a required thing that I have to have a date and meet it. It’s coming out through Rostrum in the fall, and I want to do it when it feels right to me.
What is the goal for this record?
I don’t know, man. It’s just a crazy thing just to have an album. I had an album when I was 15, but it was all old DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Alchemist instrumentals that I burned onto a CD, put a little cover on, and sold.
It’s just kind of crazy to get from there to a real album. Obviously I want to see it do as well as possible. But to go to a CD store and see my album, to hold it in my hand as an album, it just means a lot more than the stuff I’ve done in the past.
How have you been working on the album?
I’m doing the majority of it in Pittsburgh at ID labs with E. Dan and Big Jerm. I got a key to the lab now so I can just stay in there as long as I want. I’ll wake up at 3:30, shower, and then head right to the studio. I’ll be in there until seven or eight a.m., then drive back, and do the same thing.
I have a lot of songs done because I record at a rapid pace. If I wanted to I could be like, ‘Okay, I’m done,’ and then take the songs that I have. But it’s kind of hard for me to put a halt on things when I want to continue to push myself to make better music.
Earlier this year, you put out The Best Day Ever and it’s done pretty well hasn’t it?
Yeah. The reaction has definitely been way crazier than I expected. My shows have been crazy and I just see my fans and momentum spreading and it’s getting bigger. I’m getting recognized more when I go out.
You mention your shows, and it seems like you’ve made the jump from playing small venues to larger venues.
Yeah, I’ve been able to rock a couple of big venues. The thing is I’m not 100% sure how big I could go just by myself headlining with no other acts. I did a show in Milwaukee where I was the main act, [and there were] like 4,000 people. I don’t think I could do that everytime, but I would hope.
But when I did the Wiz Khalifa tour, there were like 8500 people in the crowd. What shocks me is that I can really rock that many people, get them to put their hands in the air, get them to move, and be all into what’s going on.
It seems like you’re really influencing these kids with how they dress. Do you see that at your shows?
[Laughs.] I feel like it means everything to see there are kids that have the same clothes that I rock because they’ve seen it in videos I’ve done. I see people rocking an ONLY hat and I know for a fact that they’re rocking it because they saw you rocking it in my video.
I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing to be influencing kids like that, but I think it’s a good thing. I didn’t think it would really get to that point, but at my shows you see a bunch of kids that look just like me. But then you see a lot of [fans at the show] because they want to see what the show is like.
I hear you’re selling a lot of merchandise on your tour. What kind of stuff are people buying?
[Laughs.] Yeah. It’s simple stuff. We have t-shirts, sweatshirts, bracelets, and we’re about to get hats. We don’t really charge too much. I remember when I used to go to shows and the t-shirts were like $60. We sell them for like $20. We just sell stuff that’s regular as hell. Merch is definitely a very important thing.
How did you build such a loyal fanbase?
I think the reason that my fans are super loyal is because when I was putting out mixtapes that weren’t really getting that much attention, kids would find them somehow. Kids would tweet their friends or however people got them back in the day. Kids would just hit me up on Facebook and I would talk to them and stuff like that.
I think it just started this thing where kids would go around and tell their friends about me. Word of mouth is what was really building things up for me. They would tell their friends and support me super heavy because they talked to me on Facebook Chat or Ustream or stuff like that. I used to have under 100 people in my Ustream so I used to have kids type words for me to freestyle to. I would do it and they kind of started repping me because no one else knew who I was.
I feel like you’re at the point right now where you just need one song to make you big and you seem very aware of it.
Yeah. I’ve been thinking about what song I want to [drop] because that song is always a very important thing. The single is your song that basically says this song represents me to the entire world. It’s three minutes and this song will let anybody who doesn’t know who I am, know who I am.
But these tracks don’t even represent me to the fullest. There’s more and more that you want to let people know. It’s been a wild process for me because I’ve definitely been trying to figure out what that one song to push to represent me would be. But whenever I think about it, I think that it’s just a weird thing that one song represents who you are.
That was the thing about K.I.D.S. and songs off Best Day Ever, it’s not like people only know one song off those projects. People know songs so it gives you a bunch of different parts of who I am. I’m really looking for one song that can put that all together.
Speaking of big songs, your song “Donald Trump” has about 15 million page views on YouTube.
Yeah, that song is doing crazy right now. You just see that at shows. “Donald Trump” is the song that makes everybody go extra hard. I didn’t expect that at all. We picked the sample and then went ahead and did the song and it came out as a banger. It was real easy.
I want to shoutout Sufjan Stevens, who is sampled on that song and he’s just a cool ass dude. He knows about the song and he’s cool as hell so shoutout to him. “Donald Trump” is not number one on the Billboard charts, but it is what it is.
Have you been approached by any major labels?
Not in a business sense. I’ve met some people that have been interested [in me]. But I didn’t [have a meeting] with anyone. I just a remember a few people coming to my show in New York. I don’t remember exactly who, but just people from major labels.
There’s no major label within 100,000,000 miles of what we’re working on. We’re not working on anything with a major label now. I just love that we’re building this from the ground up and I’m just excited to see how far we can take it.
People think that there’s a secret major label and we’re not telling anyone. Then we’ll be like, ‘Oh we’ve been signed and they’ve been doing stuff.’ But that’s bullshit because what we’ve done is such a huge accomplishment and it’s something that I’m very passionate about, the fact that I’m still with my homeys that have been there since day one. Every singe one of them that were at my first show, I’m going to see at my next show.
Secret signings have become a trend though...
I know and I don’t blame people. Like when that whole Atlantic bullshit came out, I didn’t blame people that thought that was true because I’m not gonna lie, a lot of people were like, ‘How the hell is he at this level? I don’t get what they’re doing differently than other people.’ A lot of people are wondering what’s going on.
So when they hear a rumor about us and a major label it’s easy to be like, “Oh this is why this is happening!” If I was signed to a [major] label I would come out and say I was signed to one. That’s part of what I do and who I am to my fans and the people around me. I’m not trying to hide anything.
So what was the situation when the label people came to your show?
[Laughs.] They came backstage to say, “What up” and it was shocking to me that people from majors were interested enough to do that. Just because I want to stay independent doesn’t mean that if someone from a label comes and they’re like, “Oh hey man I like what you’re doing,” that I’m gonna be like, “Fuck you! You major label scumbag!” I’m gonna be like, “Oh what’s up man, thanks. Work together? No, I’m gravy, but we can still be friends.”
If someone gave you a major label deal with creative control would you sign? Or are determined to stay 100% independent?
I’m not gonna lie and say that there’s never ever a time when a major label is necessary because everything you can do, you can do on your own. Which is true because you can build up pretty fucking big. And I want to test out the limits on where that line is because we’re building so rapidly that I don’t wanna fix something that’s not broken.
But I want to fulfill my aspirations with music which is to build something up to take it into where I want to take it. I want my music to be everywhere and to have huge albums. If you need a major to do that, maybe if they come then I’ll think [about it]. But as for right now and the future, I’m on Rostrum and this is what we do. I just don’t know what else I need at this point. As for right now, we’re good.
Well, if you want to be as big as possible, most of the time you end up at a major label.
[Laughs.] I completely feel you on that. That’s why they’re called a major label. If you want to be major that’s where you go. But at the same time we’re doing pretty great things as an independent team.
We showed up on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Donald Trump” with no radio and radio stations are just starting to play it a little bit. That’s crazy to me. And, we’ve done these things that I’ve always dreamed about with the team and I want to see where we can take it. Who knows?
I love that I have my Rostrum family. I’m lucky to have that because you don’t even find that at every independent label. I’m lucky enough to have my “record label” be my family and I don’t think that’s something a lot of people have. I don’t ever want to take that for granted.
I just want to take that as big as it could go, to the point where we can’t get any bigger. I can’t imagine [Benjy Grinberg and Arther Pitt] being like, “Nah, we couldn’t do this independently.” Whenever that day comes then maybe it’s time to listen to what majors have to say. But for right now, I don’t think so.
On “Cut Up” you rap about how people call you goofy, do you get that a lot?
Yeah man, I mean, I am kinda goofy in that sense. Sometimes I want to make some music from my heart and make some real shit that I’m thinking about. I think when I make that transition it’s going to be funny because people might always think I’m just a goofy kid with nothing to say. But I know for a fact that that isn’t 100% the case. Yeah, I’m goofy and I make light-hearted music. But when it comes to being a serious motherfucker, I can have that face too.
Do you think it handicaps your ability to be serious?
I think that it depends on what everyone else feels like. For me, why not? I have friends that are goofy as hell, but if they come to me about real shit, I’m not gonna discredit it because they’re goofy as hell. I’m just being me. When I have something serious to say and people don’t want to take it seriously, then that’s on them. It’s still me putting it out in the first place, that’s all that matters to me.
Speaking of something huge you mentioned in an interview that you were going to do something historic in the summer. What thing were you talking about?
Nah, me and Jazzy Jeff are working on something that is going to be super crazy when it’s done. It’s something that would basically be a dream come and we’ve been working on it so I just don’t want to rush it. I don’t know what I’m gonna put out exactly, but I definitely want to make sure it’s everything that I want it to be.
It’s gonna be a whole project when it happens. It’s like this other element and other things to it that I want to keep as a surprise until we have a plan on how we’re gonna let everyone know. It’s gotta be a surprise, but it’s gonna be something dope. With me and Jeff, it’s two different worlds colliding.
Do you have any big collaborations coming up?
I did some cool tracks with people. Me and Bun B did a jam. Me and Premier worked on something. Big K.R.I.T and me are going to have something crazy coming soon. There’s a bunch of people I’ve done stuff with, but for right now I’m just worried about my album and working with people that are close to me.
What was it like working with DJ Premier?
Premier is the man. He’s a legend of hip-hop. I’m learning in his presence, but at the same time he’s a regular ass dude. I remember 15-year-old me rapping over all Premier beats and him being my favorite producer of all-time. When you go and just talk to dudes on making music and having a real conversation, you realize that these dudes are all real ass regular dudes. It’s no different than working with my hometown producers. It’s just a different place.
You’re really popular on Twitter. You’ve got a little over 500,000 people following you right now.
We hit the 500K mark and then in less than a week it just shot up again and we’re at 550K now. [Laughs.] It’s wild.
You’ve been dropping a song every 100,000 followers. So, you’re gonna keep dropping songs every 100,000 followers until you hit a million?
Yeah. If it’s all the way up to a million and I’m gonna do something crazy on a million. I’m kinda worried because I gotta think of something crazy. I have a lot of songs that I have in my archive. Since this summer I’ve probably recorded like 20-30 songs already. I have songs that I want people to hear.
Initially [releasing songs for every 100,000 followers] was a cool way to give back to my fans for helping me build. Especially because without a strong a radio presence it’s just a crazy way for people to find out about things. I just wanted a way for people to hear songs that didn’t really fit on a project.
You also have a close relationship with E. Dan and Big Jerm. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Jerm and E are my favorite producers in the world to work with. When I was younger we used to go there and record and E—who is the head of the studio—didn’t really listen to anything. They didn’t know anything about me really.
And then Jerm came in the picture. When I did The High Life Jerm had a majority of the beats on there. Jerm would stay up with me and put the mixtapes together and make it sound as good as possible. So me and him started making stuff together. It was like, “Yo, we should start making beats together.”
Jerm is the soulfulest dude I know. This dude will make some hip-hop shit easy as hell and sample some soul-ass shit and I was telling him, “I’m not the greatest musician ever, but I can play guitar and piano. Let me make the whole beat from scratch and make the whole song from scratch.” He was like, “Alright fine.” And we made it and it was like, “This is fucking crazy.”
Then Jerm told E, “Yo you gotta look at this shit that we did.” E was like, “Wow this shit is tight.” And then ever since then we’ve been kinda like working together on all of our songs from scratch.
I’m not classically trained or anything, but I can play a few instruments. That’s what I’ve been doing on the albums. Some songs I’ll play the whole instrument. On other songs it’s just being part of the process while the guitar part is being written or being involved with the chord progressions.
I’ve been working on the production part of this whole album. I’m not doing everything to the point where I’d be able to do it on my own. E and Jerm have been the people that have executed everything incredibly, but I definitely have been helping with process of playing a little and putting it all together.
I wanted to ask you about your relationship with Wiz. Do you still get a chance to kick it with him? Will you be touring with him again?
It’s crazy, we both have these schedules to deal with business stuff. But a lot of times when we’re on the same bill to a show we’ll be able to kick it. Or when he’s back in town and stuff like that. It’s the same stuff that it’s always been with us. We both have big days ahead of us. The last time I saw Wiz was at the Roots Picnic.
You had a role on the TV show Single Ladies. How did that come about?
[Laughs.] They just hit us up and asked if we were interested in being in it. At first I kind of laughed. But then I thought, “Hey, it’s VH1. It’ll be fun as hell.” We just did it and had fun with it and it was fun as hell just being in that scenario watching myself on VH1. I thought that I was going to look like an idiot on national television and maybe I did. [Laughs.] But when I watched it I was like, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought.”
Is acting something you’re interested in or is it something that you just did because the opportunity presented itself?
I want to voice my own cartoon because I could do that from the road. You can just have a cartoon show and I could just come in there and do the voices. I would use my own voice. My accents and imitations are not up to par. I think they’re the best ever, but no one else does.
A video popped up of you last year where a few dudes had approached you outside of SOBs for not giving them credit for producing “La La La La.” What happened there?
I’m cool with Darrell Revis [of the New York Jets]—he grew up right outside Pittsburgh. A while ago before anything popped off for me, he was getting beats from people, messing around rapping, and making music. I went to him and was like, “Do you have any beats that I could rap over?” And he just kind of gave me that one and I was like, “Oh, this shit is tight.”
I rocked over it and it wasn’t a crazy song, but I was like, “Let me put a video out for it.” Because it shows me spitting lyrically. We put the video out there and the shit ends up getting big. Then some fucking kid came up and were like, “Who did the beat?” and then he was like, “We did.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.”’ I wasn’t being a dickhead, I was like, “You did the beat? My fault.”
But they wanted their little 15 minutes to act tough and shit and we just don’t have time for that bullshit. That’s why you never saw me super comment on it to prove that I was in the right and they were in the wrong. I don’t give a fuck about some little ass shit and some little ass track that some dudes wanted to be weird about. I’m still doing gravy and I hope they’re doing gravy too.
At the end of the video they said they had corresponded with you before confronting you. Was that true?
I had like a bunch of emails when I was trying to do everything on my own. I made all these different Mac Miller Gmail addresses that I had my friends looking over. I guess they hit one of those emails. I don’t know man. Who knows? Whatever the case was, one of us read their email and forgot about it. Then motherfuckers were acting like it’s the end of the world. Like we were saying that we made the beat.
That type of shit happens all the time. People will have songs out and you’ll never know who made the beat. But you can ask any producer I’ve ever worked with, when I say that I make sure everyone knows who makes my beats. But some fucking shit happened and it was just dumb.
And did you add the credit at the end just to get that out of the way?
Yeah we did add the credit at the end, but they put out that video so then we took it off. These motherfuckers told me to, “Never come back to New York.” I was like, “Really? Come on dude.” And then the next day I got messages from all my peoples in New York like, “Where these dudes at?” I was like, “Nah, it’s not even like that.” But they’re just some kids trying to make a name. They even came to another show and looked at me and didn’t even try anything.