By Anupa Mistry
Mac Miller speaks in narrative, swerving from his response to a question to related story to theatrical quip, then right back to the original thought. It’s more opinion (and words) than many artists part with during a standard pre-show interview, but Mac ― an 18-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh, PA ― is just off a long bus ride across the border and in a good mood. Part of his high can probably be attributed to a healthy weed habit, but Mac’s also poised to blow the hell up. Later this month he’ll be on the cover of XXL, alongside older, more established rappers like Yelawolf and Big K.R.I.T, as part of the magazine’s annual Freshman 10 list. Later tonight, he headlines his first sold out show in Toronto (where he’ll trot out a Canadian pot leaf flag). Kids ― guys and girls ― love Mac Miller and despite recently signing to Rostrum/Atlantic, the relative, early spoils of success haven’t gotten to him. That’s a good thing see, because his team had a border hold-up and the resulting delay of this interview means I could use a good laugh.
So congratulations on being part of XXL’s Freshman 10. Tell me how you found out about it.
I did know about it in advance. That was a pretty crazy day getting that phone call. My engineer had just gotten his crib ― Big Jerm, Wiz made him famous for saying “Jerm on the boards” in a song. So I was at Jerm’s crib and I got a phone call from Artie (at Rostrum). I was watching Inception and figured Artie could wait ‘til after the movie, so I put the phone aside and then Artie texted me like “Call me.” Before this I was under the impression that I wasn’t gonna get it, because it was a really huge goal of mine. It was a quiet goal, I didn’t want everyone to know, but I really wanted it. And so January came around, and I was like “I don’t think they’re gonna put me on!” ― because I’m too good-looking, you know? ― and so Artie was like “Yeah, you’re on the cover,” and I was really psyched and I screamed.
Was it hard keeping it secret?
I didn’t tell anyone that would tell others, but I told people close to me. It was actually fun to keep it a secret. After I knew, I’d go to interviews and they’d be like “So, what do you think about the Freshman cover? Who do you think is gonna be on it?” And I’d be like, “I wouldn’t pick me because I’m definitely not gonna be on it.” [Laughs] But, I mean, I think the cover is something really sweet. You can take it and feel like it’s this thing where you’re on the cover and you made it, which is the wrong way. Or you can just take it as an honour but continue doing what you were doing. You can’t slow down or change something because of that. That’s where people go wrong.
Do you feel more pressure to deliver?
No. I feel great. I think I just want as many people to see my face and hear my name as possible so it’s just another step towards that.
So you’re signed to Rostrum/Atlantic; is this new thing, Best Day Ever, a mixtape or an album?
I’m not even clear to be honest with you. It’s “free” if that makes it a mixtape, but all the beats are original, there’s a concept, and it’s not 30 tracks long ― it’s one project. It’s a “fralbum” ― free album. I’m creating that term, “FRALBUM.”
Why’d you choose that name? I mean, your best day ever is probably yet to come!
Where I’m at right now, every day is like the best day ever. That’s kind of like my mentality, you know? And what I want people, my fans, to know is it doesn’t matter what’s going on, it’s just always a good day. Do what you can to make it a good day. So there’s some songs on there talking about how it’s not a great day in reality, but in your mind it’s got to be the best day ever.
You’re still pretty green. Do you like getting feedback from people who listen to your music, from fans to your peers?
It depends who it is. To a certain degree it’s important to get a feel for what other people are getting from your music. But at the end of the day you’ve just got to know ― that’s why you’re an artist, that’s why you become successful, because you know and no one can tell you shit. But sometimes I’m like “Yo, everyone come in the room! I’m about to play this record and it’s the ONE, get ready!”…. and they’re all like [makes a face] “This is butt.” At the same time, there’s no reason not to do something if you want to do it.
Is there anything you think you need to work on?
If you’re tyring to find out if I’m a cocky asshole, no I’m not! Yeah, yeah, of course there are things I need to work on. There’s no reason to not work on something. I’m not gonna sit here and be like “I’m the greatest rapper ever so there’s nothing to fix.” I would like to get better. I would like to get better at making beats. I would like to get better at dancing. [Laughs]
You’ve got a musical background, who do you remember being your earliest influences?
Here’s the thing, my musical experience is all over the board from an early age. When I was eight or nine, I wasn’t like a music collector but I listened to OutKast, Beastie Boys, and at the same time I listened to stuff like the Beatles, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan. It’s funny though, when I was younger my brother was a big Ja Rule fan. I remember that. My brother is three years older than me and Ja Rule was real cool at that time. [Sings “Put It On Me” in a Ja Rule voice.] I like Ja Rule, he’s cool.
I think you first really grabbed my attention because I heard that My Morning Jacket sample at the beginning of the “Nikes On My Feet” video…
Oh you like My Morning Jacket? Yeah, we used to get really high and listen to that song, it was so trippy.
Have you seen the episode of American Dad that was all My Morning Jacket songs?
No, but you just cleared something up for me! You know how sometimes people don’t understand that artists sample? I was on Twitter and someone was like, “They’re playing Mac Miller on American Dad right now!” And I was like, why am I not getting a check for this? But I guess they were playing My Morning Jacket. That’s so random for them to do.
Okay, so what do you think you and your peers ― your generation ― is bringing to rap?
I think it’s all about open-mindedness you know? That’s what I’m about. Just fucking be you. I want my music to mean something to everybody. Whether you’re white, black, Asian…old, young, smart, dumb. I don’t really care. I want music that speaks for everyone and that everyone can love and can find something to connect with. I think that’s what this generation is about: really connecting everyone. I think the way to do that is through music, you know? The thing about kids in the suburbs… and not everyone, but there’s just certain people who don’t know what others are like. Music is able to bring them together because they go to shows and it’s just good music that represents everyone. I want the 64-year-old retired banker to sit down and talk about how much they love this music with the 13-year-old kid from Compton. I want them to hang out.
Who would be on your Freshman list?
…The same list that I’m on? [Laughs]
That’s the “PC” answer!
Here’s the thing about people being mad they made it and some mad they didn’t. It’s not even like that to the people who are on the cover. Everyone’s on there for a reason and the people who were at the shoot were cool as hell. Everyone was dedicated, everyone had that thing in them that was like, “I want to do this for real.” And there are other people that didn’t make it that have it too. It’s just, unfortunately, not the Freshman 15. And the thing is, those that didn’t get on the cover that people were thinking probably should, like Tyler the Creator, or Chip Tha Ripper ― they’re fine regardless.
Yeah, Tyler doesn’t give a fuck…
I mean, neither does Chip. They’re good, their careers are good. That’s why people are questioning why they weren’t on the cover in the first place, because their careers are good. Know what I’m saying? Chip is still a beast. Tyler is still a beast. There’s no denying that just because they weren’t on the cover, you know?