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.
I heard that you were really against your first project, But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, ever seeing the light of day. Is that true?
The But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy that’s on the Internet isn’t the real one. I love [the original one] now. It’s actually crazy ill. I’ve played it for people that have been at my house and a couple writers. I was just on some real gutter gangsta shit. I wanted to be Big L so I was talking about murdering people and being at crack spots. It was just fictional stuff. I’ve never murdered anyone... I’ve been around some crack spots though. I was 15-years-old, I was tight for a 15-year-old.
One artist in your camp that I wanted to talk about, and I’m hoping it’s not one of the sons you say you don’t like, is Beedie. What’s going on with him? I haven’t heard anything from him for a while.
We were a duo back in the day but we were always our own solo acts. We just used to rap together because it’s [unnerving] to be one white guy on stage. I’ve given him verses and we worked together last time I was in Pittsburgh.
What I want for him, as a friend and as someone knows how good he is, is for him to be able to get his shine on as a separate thing. I have my whole thing here and I built it. I don’t want him to be in my shadow. I want him to build his own career and have his own fan base. I want his fans to hate me. I don’t want him to have fans who are like, “Yo! You used to work with Mac Miller so I like you.” Fuck that! He should have fans that ride for him.
Speaking of newcomers, do you have a relationship with Logic? He shouted you out on “All I Do” and it wasn’t very clear as to why.
Yeah, you haven’t heard it?
No. He’s cool. He can rap. He can really rap. I fuck with Logic. He’s really cool. Like I said, you can’t argue with someone who can rap and he can definitely do that. He’s killing it right now. But that’s what I’m saying, it’s dope to be in that position. When I made a joke about a bunch of sons I don’t like I wasn’t talking about him. I was talking about... other people. It’s dope that I’m at a stage in my life where I could’ve influenced somebody.
Something I always wanted to ask you, did you ever manage to put an idea together for that space porno you and Snoop Dogg were talking about on his GGN show?
Not even on no weird shit, I really wanna get in to the porn business. I do.
There’s a lot of money in it...
Not even for the money, for the artistic integrity. I wanna make awesome porn. I wanna make great pornos. I have this one idea for a bank robbery porno because with bank robbery movies you can always put twists in. You can put some good acting in it. Just think of all the possible sex scenes you could have in a bank robbery movie. You got two hostages. A gunman and two hostages. There’s the fucking police and the interrogator who comes in like, “I’m coming in unarmed.” He takes his pants off and then they fuck.
With that said, you have your own show on MTV, Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family, and you were in the latest Scary Movie. Is acting the direction you’re thinking about taking?
I don’t know. I would but I kinda suck at it. I was really bad in Scary Movie 5. So I went to see Scary Movie 5in Trenton, New Jersey. Trenton is fucking hood as fuck. On the door of the movie theatre it has a sign that says no guns in the theatre.
So I went there to see the movie. I’m sat there in the back with my hood up watching the movie and my part comes on. I wanted to see what [the audience] thought and they were laughing so I was like, “Yes!I did it. They’re laughing at me.” And the same thing for the show. I thought the show was gonna suck, and all the homies came over to watch it and everyone was cracking up. So maybe. I wanna do...
I don’t wanna do porn, I wanna direct porn. I wanna make movies. I love movies, obviously, but I wanna make movies and I’ll do it. I just want it to be right. I wanna do a really serious role. I got offered this really serious role that I’m thinking about right now, but I can’t talk about it because I don’t even know if they’ve announced the movie, but it’s like a cult classic.
Can I see you in a serious role, that’s the thing...
That’s what I’m saying! I could do it. I am goofy but I do have emotions and feelings as well. I could do it, it’s just if I want to.
At the album launch in Brixton, London, you shredded the hell out of a guitar, and backwards nonetheless. Where did that come from? Were you taught as a kid?
I’ve been playing a guitar since I was 10-years-old.
You were playing it behind your head...
Yeah, well. I gotta show off. I’ve been playing instruments longer than I’ve been rapping. When I was first rapping I didn’t wanna put that in to it. I wanted this image like I was a rapper, a true MC. Then once you get comfortable with who you are as a person then it’s like, OK I’m just gonna show everything I can do and incorporate it. So now I’m incorporating that aspect into the show, which is dope because I’ll go on record to say that there’s no one that raps that can play the guitar better than me. B.o.B knows what’s good.
What about Andre 3000?
I’ve never seen him play, but I think I can play better than everybody.
Do you incorporate it into the production you create under the moniker Larry Fisherman?
Yeah, I play guitar on a lot of shit. “Cruise Control” was the first track me and Wiz Khalifa ever did, I made the beat on that and I played guitar on it. And on the album, “REMember.”
I’ll go on record to say that there’s no one that raps that can play the guitar better than me. B.o.B knows what’s good.
You were recently named on Forbes List of hip-hop’s 20 Top Earners...
Yeah I know. I couldn’t believe I made it on this year. The one year I didn’t care about money and I’m on there.
During the intro skit on K.I.D.S. you edited a movie sound byte and mentioned that music was everything to you. Is it still as important or has getting all this money taken precedent?
That’s not even a question to me. I’d give you all of my money in exchange for music if I had to. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. It’s literally all I do. Every single person in my life and every relationship I have is distant because all I do is music. It’s like I’m a drug addict but with music. I feel like they can’t put me in rehab. People just have to deal with it. It’s all I do. But you can’t really knock it because it’s not like I’m out there injecting myself...not yet.
Talk to me about the tattoos. Every video sees you add yet more and more tatts. What’s the deal?
It’s funny because in real life I’ve just been getting tattoos, but life through music videos it’s like, “Whoa! In this video and this video all of a sudden he’s covered.” I like tattoos. I’m gonna be covered. I’m not going to touch my face or under the chin on the neck, it’s my least favorite place.
The pain there must be unbearable...
I’ve got this cream because after I stopped sipping lean, tattoos started hurting a bit more because the opioids start fucking up your shit. So when you do painkillers and go back to having tattoos done, they hurt way more. So sometimes I get this German illegal cream that numbs the shit out of it.
For how long because we have one in the UK that only lasts for 30 minutes?
This is the real shit. I did my whole leg and fell asleep. But my fingers, and my most recent tatts, I didn’t use it for them. But if I do a big piece, I use the cream.
I’ve got this cream because after I stopped sipping lean, tattoos started hurting a bit more because the opioids start f**king up your s**t. So when you do painkillers and go back to having tattoos done, they hurt way more.
I know most people ask you about the Lord Finesse lawsuit. I don’t want to know about the settlement or the specifics. I’d like to know how it felt for you, as a hip-hop fan, to have one of the original artists from rap’s golden era come at you when all you were doing was paying homage?
You know what I was saying about the fan and meeting people thing? Yeah. You know what? It’s not even that serious. It was a little bit like, well it hurt a little because I was like, “I’ve spent years trying to educate the youth about what you’ve contributed to hip-hop. You especially. You brought in the person that made me start rapping.” I even wore a Big L R.I.P. t-shirt in the video. I’ve done nothing but...I don’t know.
I think legally I’m not allowed to say anything bad about him but I don’t even have anything bad to say about him. We’re cool. We shook hands after. I don’t fuck with his lawyer. His lawyer is a piece of shit. You know how it is. Honestly, I might do the same thing if in 30 years some fucking white kid comes and more views on my shit than I do. It’s cool. I’ve since talked to him and we both feel the same way and we’re glad that we’ve moved on. I’m still OK. I’m not broke, he’s not broke, and I’m surviving.
You had a mixtape called Best Day Ever. Since blowing up, having two albums, and a TV series, has your own personal best day ever changed?
I think those days [mentioned on the record] still are the best days ever. I don’t think it’s gotten much better than that. It’s different. At that point it was like anything was incredible, which was why the music was what the music was, because I was like, “Oh shit!” It’s like losing your virginity. The whole time you’re like, “This is fucking crazy.” Then after having sex a lot more you’re kinda just in there. It’s just different.
The best day ever will always be that moment where you go on UStream and 15,000 kids come for the first time and you’re like, “Holy shit I’m somebody to someone.” Now it’s more about me pushing myself to make good music. It’s not like a big check, let’s celebrate. It’s like, “I have to put this away for taxes, save this for my house, give that to my mom.”