(image by the homie Yannick Anton)
By Anupa Mistry
“I can legally drink here,” shouts 19-year-old rapper Mac Miller to a sold-out crowd of other barely-legals at The Opera House. “You don’t know how good it feels to say that on stage.” The other Pittsburgh young gun that’s getting shine, Mac is different from fellow Pennsylvanian Wiz Khalifa in a lot of ways: he’s adorably pint-sized, isn’t signed to a major, has no charted hits and, uh, is white. But the two are a couple of weed-smoking friends who’ve managed to land on XXL magazine’s annually anticipated Freshman 10 list (and cover); Khalifa last year, Mac this.
Showing obvious appreciation for his Canadian of-age status is just part of what makes Mac one of the most relatable, college-focussed hip-hop acts to come out since (to make the obvious comparison) Asher Roth. But unlike Roth, who seemed desperate for wider legitimacy, Mac’s content to be a kid rapper caught in the midst of something crazy. He grins wildly at the swarm of screaming girls reaching toward the stage, and gets bros hooting appreciatively at his weed-smoking references. After playing the Justin Timberlake “Summer Love”-sampling (!!) “Snap Backs,” Mac brings out a Canadian flag with marijuana foliage replacing the maple leaf—the kind of thing you threw out after undergrad, right?—and sets the (completely hot-boxed) place off.
Rowdy, uncomplicated and not really controversial in any way—even to the “straight-edge” rap kids I met on the streetcar home—Mac’s insanely marketable hip-hop is for guys and girls sharing the generational experience of being young and bored. And, though Mac might lack appeal to anyone over 24, it’s still crazy to hear an entire venue sing along to songs sampling rap heroes like Lord Finesse (“Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza,” from the K.I.D.S. mixtape) and Nas (“Nikes On My Feet”).
Even watching Mac spend an hour-plus jumping around stage with his hype-man/manager was tiring. So when the DJ threw on DMX’s “Party Up” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around” (yup) while Mac danced maniacally before his encore, I was impressed by his commitment. You’ve got to respect his hustle, it seems: even with no album out, there’s no slowing Mac Miller down.