Mac Miller is no longer “Easy Mac with the cheesy raps.” He's still stacking that cheddar. (He made Forbes list of Cash Kings 2013: The World's 20 Highest-Paid Hip-Hop Artists again this year, raking in a cool $6 million.) But his second album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, earned him some critical acclaim to go with his commercial accumen. The album’s positive reception is in part due to Mac stepping his game up lyrically and taking a hand in producing as well (under the moniker Larry Fisherman). Earning a reputation as a studio rat, he's befriended some of the best rappers out today, like ScHoolboy Q, Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler, The Creator, and even rap recluse Jay Electronica.
Taking the time to talk to us backstage on the Birmingham, England leg of his Space Migration European tour, Mac sat down with one of our UK writers to discuss the difference between his first and second album, how tattoos hurt even more once you come off of drugs, and how B.o.B knows what’s up when it comes to who’s the best hip-hop guitarist...
Interview by Will “ill Will” Lavin (@333illwill333)
In comparison to Blue Slide Park, Watching Movies With the Sound Off appeared to be a lot more focused and lyrical. Was that done on purpose to silence the naysayers who claimed you were soft?
I think that I just kinda like stopped trying to make it. This new album is more like But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy. The new album is more like everything I had done leading up to K.I.D.S. This is more like The Jukebox, The High Life, and How High. It’s more along that type of [line and has that] element to it.
When I put out K.I.D.S.I remember being fucking scared because I was like the anti-mainstream kid. I fucked with underground hip-hop only, most little Jewish kids started off that way. So I got worried about it and then it began popping and I was like, “I fuck with this. I’m trying to tour the world.” So then you go with that.
When I put out K.I.D.S. I remember being scared because I was like the anti-mainstream kid. I liked underground hip-hop only, most little Jewish kids started off that way. So I got worried about it and then it began popping and I was like, “I f**k with this. I’m trying to tour the world.” So then you go with that.
Blue Slide Park was a concept. It was an album about a playground. It was supposed to be playful and I think the concept... people kinda looked at me like I wasn’t capable of having a concept with something that was lighthearted. People were like, “Oh he’s just trying to milk the white game and make money,” when I just wanted to make an album about a playground because I didn’t think anyone in rap did that. I was capable because I didn’t have to be hard. I can sing. I can do whatever the fuck I wanna do because I’m in the best place ever. You know? I haven’t gotta pull up in a nice whip. It doesn’t matter.
With this one I think I was in a different place mentally, a little more secluded and a little more slowed down—which was nice because I needed the space and time. I went through a period of not performing anything off of Blue Slide Park, like “Knock Knock” or none of that shit. Now I’m back in this comfortable place where I see the value in Blue Slide Parkand I see the value in all of these songs.
Plus, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been to rap concerts where you don’t know the songs. They suck! I don’t give a fuck who it is. I don’t care if it’s Jay, Lil Wayne, anyone. If you go to a rap show and you don’t know the songs that they’re playing it’s just not fun because it’s just like someone standing up there rapping. You gotta do the ones they know.
It’s noticeable, especially on the new album, you’re getting a hell of a lot of co-signs at the moment. Kendrick and TDE, Jay Electronica, Joey Bada$$, the list goes on. Is it a case of real recognize real?
I mean, yeah. It’s funny that I’ve always gotten respect from people like that. Me and Kendrick have been cool since we did the [XXL] cover together. It’s funny because I was with him when we were finishing ScHoolboy Q’s album, when Kendrick was laying his verse for “Collard Greens.” After that, I was in the studio three nights straight with them. I played Kendrick [my new] album and he couldn’t stop talking about how tight it was, which is dope you know?
Before you blew up, you made it clear that you were a die hard hip-hop fan. Since blowing up, would you say you’re still a die hard fan or are you less concerned with it?
Oh hell yeah. I’m always a fan. I think you get a different perception on maybe some people you were a fan of, and being a fan starts to mean something a little different. For instance, now with current people, meeting them as a person affects how I listen to their music.
It’s not like back in the day when all I knew was being a fan. You listened to what they said and believed it. Now sometimes you meet people and you listen to their music and you’re like uhhhhhh. You know? Then sometimes it makes it better. But I’m still a fan at the end of the day. Even if I still don’t like someone I can still respect good music.
It’s not like back in the day when all I knew was being a fan. You listened to what they said and believed it. Now sometimes you meet people and you listen to their music and you’re like uhhhhhh.
It appeared that once you hit the scene listeners, as well as industry insiders, began to care less about skin complexion in hip-hop. Now you’ve got the likes of Yelawolf, Jared Evan, and Macklemore all making moves. Besides Eminem, would you agree that you were responsible for the acceptance of the white rapper in today’s culture?
I mean, I’m humble. But at the same time, yeah I’m a pioneer of this shit. I think you can never remove the issue of race though. Hip-hop has evolved. Hip-hop is a fairly new genre of music. It started in the late ‘70s if you want to try and [pinpoint it]. It’s just evolving now into mainstream America. You go to the VMAs and there is no rock, it’s all rap. The radio is all rap. There’s nothing but rap right now. So it spreads.
I think after Em and Asher Roth, it was me. I think I birthed a lot of—I’m not talking about any of the people you named—little white kids. I have a bunch of little sons that I don’t like but that’s OK. If you’re nice, you’re nice. When I was 15 rhyming at little clubs late at night on school nights, I’d walk up and they’d be like, “Who the fuck is this little white kid?” Then I’d spit. You can’t tell someone they can’t spit when they can spit.
You’re a big fan of Big L. With everything he did on his own, his Children of the Corn material, and his ongoing friendly back and forth with Jay Z, some people feel Jay wouldn’t be as big as he is. Do you think Jay would be as big?
I think Jay Z was gonna be Jay Z regardless. There was [going to be] no stopping that. I think L would have been there with him. L was supposed to sign to Rocafella right before he got killed. People always say that about Jay. “If Biggie was here Jay wouldn’t be Jay. If L was here Jay wouldn’t be Jay.” I honestly think Jay was going to be Jay regardless but it would have been different. As much as a fan I am of L, and I saw his music evolving with the last record he did, you never know. There’s a sad truth that maybe these greats would have fallen off after three years. I just wish we could have found out.