Talking to Mac Miller with the sound on [Interview]
Calgary, AB – On Nov. 14, our friends over at True Rhythm and The Union brought Mac Miller to Calgary to perform at MacEwan Hall. The young Pittsburgher had just finished his first Canadian tour show in Vancouver, and was slated to arrive in Toronto the following day for yet another show. But he was surprisingly relaxed. He was in his easy Mac –or rather, his EZ Mac– zone.
HipHopCanada’s Calgary team (Sarah Sussman and Sarosh Rizvi) caught up with Mac in his dressing room just before he hit the stage. We chatted about his first hip-hop beef (which was with a Calgary rapper), his Thomas Delusional alias (who raps about angry things in a high-pitched voice), and the importance of establishing an artistic identity beyond the lurks of the Internet. See how it all went down after the jump.
It was shortly after 8:30 p.m. and Mac was in the MacEwan Hall basement dressing room with his MacBook (yes, there was a serious abundance of Macs in all forms). Miller scrolled through his Twitter feed, and choked down several American Spirit cigarettes. Despite a few side remarks about his recent lack of showering, the general consensus concluded that Mac’s outfit had serious steez-factor: beige trousers, a pressed blue button-down shirt, and a dope football print snapback. The whole ensemble was very grown up— the MC equivalent of a two-piece suit. It was very fitting.
Mac Miller came to fame in his teens after his debut Blue Slide Park established him as a happy-go-lucky frat-rapper. But Miller’s sophomore album, Watching Movies With the Sound Off, introduced listeners to a more mature Mac. In all honesty, though, Mac is still a total kid. He delights in bodily functions (mostly burping), and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. But his approach to music is definitely arriving at puberty. Watching Movies With the Sound Off runs deep.
Mac Miller: Q&A
Sarosh Rizvi: We’re sitting with Mac Miller. Welcome to Calgary. How do you like it so far?
Mac Miller: It’s good. I had my first rap beef ever in Calgary.
Sarosh Rizvi: Oh really?
Sarah Sussman: Your first beef? What happened?
Mac Miller: When I was 15, I went by the name EZ Mac. And there was this Eazy Mac out here [who was] part of the Loose Cannon Playaz.
Sarosh Rizvi: I haven’t heard that name in a while.
Mac Miller: You know about them? We had beef. It was really intense. We’ve since squashed the beef.
Sarosh Rizvi: I’m not sure if Loose Cannon Playaz are still kickin’ around, these days.
Mac Miller: I don’t know. They had that one dude that was the pro-snowboarder: Mc-something. They were giving me death threats, and stuff. I was a little 15-year-old kid. I was like, “You want this?”
Sarosh Rizvi: And you came back?
Mac Miller: Yeah. I wasn’t afraid to come. (laughs) I came anyways.
Sarah Sussman: So you just dropped a new mixtape, two weeks ago. Delusional Thomas.
Mac Miller: Well I didn’t drop a new mixtape…
Sarah Sussman: Right. Delusional Thomas did. So if Mac Miller was critiquing Delusional Thomas, and Delusional Thomas was critiquing Mac Miller, what would they say about each other?
Mac Miller: If I had to critique Delusional Thomas, I would probably say that every song sounds the same—that he should switch up his subject matter. And that the high-pitched voice is annoying and makes the replay value extremely low. But his lyrics are good. If he had to critique me, he would probably say that nobody wants to hear raps about random philosophical ideology and [I] should just rap about nasty things. ‘Cause no one wants to hear about anything intelligent.
Sarosh Rizvi: I actually had a question about that, as far as content goes. Your last album—people say it’s your most personal album. Is that a conscious thing? Is that a direction you’re going in? Or is that just what you were feeling at that moment?
Mac Miller: That was that project, you know? I was just in this room a lot. And it was a very internal journey. So it got reflected in the music. It was a lot more personal before, and then I kind of lightened it up a little bit. I didn’t want to be too melancholy the whole time… (burps into microphone) …because I take myself very seriously.
Sarah Sussman: Obviously.
Mac Miller: That was a stinky burp too. But, no, I’ve always made that music. I’ve always made very personal music. The concepts of the projects [has] never reflected it. So it never got pushed to the forefront. And Watching Movies– it was the abstract stuff, and the cerebral music got pushed to the forefront more.
Sarah Sussman: So you just got off tour with Chance the Rapper. And he’s almost essentially where you were when you blew up. What’s the most important thing you learned from him, and what do you think you taught him?
Mac Miller: He’s very confident. I’m not the most confident person. I am, but I’m not, at the same time. When I get to doing what I do, then deep down I am [confident]. And I tried to learn some of his dance moves and steal them.
Sarah Sussman: What’d he teach you?
Mac Miller: He didn’t teach me. I just watched and learned the dance moves. I have my own dance moves, but I just like to do them by myself when I listen to his music.
Sarah Sussman: What song?
Mac Miller: I do a really nice slow dance to “Acid Rain.” It’s really beautiful.
Sarosh Rizvi: You came up in the Internet era. You came up through the Internet, in some ways. What would be your advice to up-and-coming artists – or an up-and-coming scene like the scene in Calgary – as far as how to use that or what to focus on?
Mac Miller: Use the Internet [as] a tool to release content. And don’t be too dependent on it as your ticket. Because you want the Internet to be a place where people can find content, but you don’t want to exist solely on the Internet. Be mindful of what you release, ‘cause everything is very disposable and there’s a certain way to make it not disposable. Everything is there forever, so be mindful of what you put up. Have a plan and then use it as a means to get content and then try and have everything all go back to the same place. People like to do clicking. They click around. So it’s good to have your stuff all lead back to where you want people to go. I hate that side of music, though. I hate the fucking calculated strategic this-is-how-we-get-people-to-listen, this is how we…
Sarosh Rizvi: Get clicks?
Mac Miller: Right. That shit sucks. I remember doing the stupid – when I was first coming up – things just to get out there. Do a cover of this song. Or do this and you’ll get clicks. Or do this and you’ll get attention. I’m so happy I’m not in a place where I have to worry about that shit anymore.
Sarah Sussman: But at the same time, you just dropped a freestyle over a Biggie song.
Mac Miller: That’s not for any attention. That’s just because when I was doing the interview, they were like, “You’re going to rap. What beat do you want?” And I just picked that beat. I just love that beat. If I wanted to do something for attention, I would have picked the more recent…
Sarah Sussman: Kendrick Lamar “Control” verse?
Mac Miller: [If I wanted attention] I would have done a “Control” verse. All the “Control” verses are stupid. I’m not hating on anyone who did one of them. I just would never do that. I don’t even think that was Kendrick’s best verse.
Sarosh Rizvi: Not in my mind. You kind of went the other way with it. And it seems in your interviews, that you’re open about everything. Whether it’s about living with your parents. Whether it’s about when you lost your virginity—just stuff that most people will really hide. Is that a conscious thing? You just put everything out there so that kind of makes you…
Mac Miller: So many people have so much to hide. And that’s what hurts them. If you worked at the post office and you didn’t sell drugs, you come out and you say, “I worked at the post office,” no one’s going to hate on you. But if you [sold drugs and you] come out and say, “I sold drugs,” people say, “Wait. Dude used to deliver my mail.That’s a problem.” We are in a day-and-age where – with the social media – all these artists have everything so mapped out and strategic for their brand. It’s like, this is what you should talk about today.This is what you should wear. If they ask you this question, they have a publicist that tells them how to answer it. And they can’t have an opinion that’s too far left, or right. Everything is just so branded for the sole goal of gaining the most fans and being the most safe, and having the most success. Which is nothing to hate on, but I can’t do that. I can’t be that guy who is that calculated. I’d rather just be myself. It’s a pro and con. It’s easier but I could be further if I was more susceptible to planning and strategy. Fuck it, I’m cool.
Sarah Sussman: Any last words you want to share with the HipHopCanada community?
Mac Miller: Thank you, guys. Get the album. I hear that’s hard to find around here. One of my fans couldn’t find it. I don’t even think they’re selling it at my show. But it’s okay.
Sarosh Rizvi: iTunes?
Mac Miller: Yeah, iTunes.
Sarah Sussman: What about the [Delusional Thomas] mixtape. Should people get the mixtape, too?
Mac Miller: It’s not for the squeamish. Or for people who are easily uncomfortable. I didn’t care if anyone listened to it. I’m actually surprised it’s getting this much attention. I did it. And then I was like, “Well I might as well put it out.It’s just a whole mixtape sitting here. Might as well just put it out.” And then I put it out. It gets attention. I’m like, “Oh cool.” Get it if you want to hear some good raps on there [and] some cool beats. But there’s a lot more coming. A lot of awesome stuff.