My Son Is A Rapper: Meet Mac Miller's Mom, Karen Meyers

What's it like to have a son whose a superstar rapper?

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Complex Original

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Today, Mac Miller dropped his latest mixtape, Faces. But today is also a very special day—it's Mother's Day! We've always wondered, what's it like to be the mother of a rapper? To find out, we got on the phone with Mac Miller's mom, Karen Meyers. A professional photographer, Mac's mom watched him go from a kid who despised school to one of the most successful young rappers of the moment. We talked to her about how she first reacted when she found out her son wanted to be a rapper, how she would ground Mac as a child, and what Mac's artistic inclinations were as a kid.

Interview by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)

So, what’s it like to have a son who’s a rapper?
I don’t know. I have a son who’s a rapper, so I have nothing to compare it to. I have a son who’s a designer and a son who’s a rapper. He does his thing, you know, he loves it, and we support him. And it’s fun. We enjoy [Laughs.]

What was your first reaction to him being very into rap music? Because not every parent approves of that music.
I wasn’t really listening hard to the lyrics. Lots of the messages that he says are great. Some of it, I’m not so much of a fan of. But it’s all his music, it’s all what he has to say, so I’m respectful of that. He’s always been a poet and a writer. Growing up, he loved performing and singing and playing instruments and generally being the center of the universe. He’s got a lot of magnetism, always has, ever since he was a baby. I’m very supportive of him.

At what point did he come up to you and say, “Hey mom, I’m going to be a rapper”?
I don’t think he ever said it, he just did it. It was just something that evolved. It was in high school, he was performing and getting a lot of positive feedback. He had always thought he would go to college. He thought he could do both, which was not going to happen. He was passionate and he had a great support team. It just happened and we supported it.

I would turn the [burglar] alarm on and not give him a code, so he could not get out of the house at night. [Laughs.] He couldn’t get out of the window even.

He never said, “Mom, I’m going to be a rapper.” He made the decision and we supported him. We were always supportive of our kids, unless we think it’s something that’s harmful or dangerous. This was creative, and we are creative people ourselves. I’m a photographer and my husband’s an architect, so there’s a lot of genetic disposition towards creativity. We support the arts and both of [our sons] are artists.

A lot of people wanna be rappers, but it usually doesn't work out. It obviously worked out for Mac, but were you concerned that it might not work out?
I knew that he had some really good people around him. Professional people that had his back and were keeping an eye on him. I made sure immediately he was surrounded by some good people and some good adult supervision.

When he was starting out, when he was known as EZ Mac—
[Laughs.] That was hard. Because I was focused on school. Not so much grades, as much as going to school and graduating. That was a hard time for me.

Yeah, he wasn’t very into school...
No. He was super smart. If he wanted to, he could get straight A’s. But if the class wasn’t good and if it was at the right time of day, he didn’t want in on it. [Laughs.] That was the “EZ Mac” time period. He was smoking cigarettes and I’m a very healthy person, so that was hard for me.

Did you ground him?
I tried. I remember I would turn the [burglar] alarm on and not give him a code, so he could not get out of the house at night. [Laughs.] He couldn’t get out of the window even. Those were the days that you don’t really want to remember.

So instead of keeping the burglars out, you had to keep him in.
Yes! High school was a battle, graduation was a dream. That’s one of my favorite days, his high school graduation. I couldn’t stop crying, I still have that green hanky.

What do you remember from that day?
How proud I was of him for accomplishing that. He also played sports in high school, up until probably 11th grade. He was really good at lacrosse, baseball, and basketball.

It seems like the challenge for you was trying to find that balance for him between school and his career.
It didn’t take off really until he graduated high school. When he graduated, that’s when everything went crazy. He had a good team in high school, too, but they were [mostly] kids. It was really just impressive.

Well, you have to be impressed with your son...
Oh, I am! Oh my god! Are you kidding? I’m incredibly proud and impressed. I’ve gone all over the place. My mother and I went to the south of France and we’ve seen him in Paris, and… wow! We’re super proud of him.

What are some of your fondest memories of him growing up?
He was not a good sleeper, so we would have a fun time watching Jay Leno together. We always read books together. His favorite book was called Owl Babies. We tried to read The Hobbit but both of the boys couldn’t stop laughing. They would crack up when I said “Bilbo Baggins.” We had a lot of laughs.

You’re a professional photographer. Do you have a favorite photo of him out of all the pictures you’ve taken over the years?
Lots of photos of him and his brother. On my website, I have a ton of him as a little kid that I love. He was very photogenic. When he was three or four he was on a huge outdoor board that I shot for a healthcare company. He had a thermometer in his mouth. All his friends that were in preschool would see it, 'cause it was on the highway coming back from the airport. They’d say, “Is Malcolm sick?” [Laughs.]

One of the things you mentioned is that he used to write a lot, he used to keep a journal.
Yes, I have all the journals.

How young was he when he first started keeping a journal?
He would have to do it in school. Like, five? He had all these drawings. When he was three, he was in a creative playschool. He would draw and the teacher would write what he said about his drawing. He must have been three or four when he made a drawing of a boy and he said, “This is a guy who is a teenager. He has a sword. His name is Flowerman. His last name is Johnny. Flowerman Johnny.”

We always read books together. His favorite book was called Owl Babies.

That’s awesome. One of the reasons we’re talking is because Mother’s Day is coming on Sunday. What is the best Mother’s Day present you’ve ever gotten?
When he was younger, my favorite was always handmade cards and poems. Not too long ago, I think it was last year, he bought me an awesome bike. He’s a good son, he’s very generous with his mom.

Do you enjoy going to his shows?
I have so much fun. I love going.

Do you hang out backstage? Do you actually go in the crowd, or the side of the stage?
All of the above.

So you’re in the crowd?
It depends. I’ll go where the front of house is, where they’re doing the sound and stuff, and I’ll stay with the lighting person and with the soundboards. I won’t be in the crowd, I’ll go back, so I can see. Last summer there were a couple of shows that I photographed, so I was in the photo pit, and that was really fun. He’d wave to me [from stage]. I don’t do that too often, but I did it at two shows.

Do you have a favorite song of his?
Well, I could say the song that he wrote for me. [Laughs.]“I’ll Be There” from from Best Day Ever. I love that song. I love “Youforia.” I love Watching Movies With The Sound Off; I actually shot the cover. I love “Objects In The Mirror” and “Claymation.” 

So you really listen to Mac’s music?
Of course I do! But some of it… well, I don’t really listen to it. I hear it. But if I thought about it, some of the things he’s saying, I would just be… that would be hard. It’s more of the whole experience and his performance. So much of his music, I love. I’m his biggest fan. His first and biggest.

You can check out Karen Meyer's photography website, which includes many pictures of a young Mac, right here

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