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Mac Miller Opens Up

Interviews

By Drew Millard

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Art by Meaghan Garvey

Everyone is capable of change, even Mac Miller. Some months ago, Miller—known primarily as a purveyor of vapid party-rap for teenagers—turned a corner as a rapper, largely abandoning his well-established brand and started anew, taking his work in a more personal, left-field direction. His most recent single is the beyond stellar, almost post-Based “S.D.S.,” which was produced by none other than Flying Lotus. What’s more, he recently popped up onstage with Earl Sweatshirt—whose album he is slated to appear on—and found himself holding his own against the formidable West Coast abstractionist Ab-Soul on their “The End Is Near,” which Miller also produced under his Larry Fisherman alias. Now sporting a near-psychedelic, free-associative rhyme style that suggests not only an expanded musical palate but a completely newfound perspective on life, Miller came to the VICE office last week for a comprehensive interview in which the 21 year-old rapper and I stood on the sidewalk of North Williamsburg and discussed growing up in public while trying to gain a sense of perspective, the nature of celebrity, engaging his critics while not taking criticism personally, drug use and abuse, and his new musical direction. As we spoke, Miller chain-smoked American Spirit Menthols and was constantly badgered by passerby who offered props, asked for photos, or merely seemed content to momentarily bask in the aura of a bona fide rap star. Miller took all of this in stride, graciously honoring everyone’s request. You could sense an air of exasperation to Miller as his fans left, however—having strangers coming up to you wanting something is stressful business, something that seems like it would get real old, real fast.

There’s still very much an element of slyness and immaturity to Miller’s character, however. As I walk him out of the office, we pass the VICE bathrooms, and he makes me turn my recorder on again so he can tell me the following story: “One time I was next door shooting a video and I had to take a shit and I didn’t know where the bathroom was. So I came into the VICE offices, used the shitter, and left. No one knows that.”

Mac Miller, human after all.

Noisey: On your song “Loud” you say, “Fuck your magazine,” and you say it twice. What did we do to you?
Mac Miller:
[Laughs] I wasn’t talking about y’all.

Which magazine were you talking about?
At that point I was just like… I think certain magazines didn’t fuck with what I was doing. And that’s straight with me. But I think certain magazines went out of their way to say some unnecessary bullshit. So I mean, I was young, and I think you just kinda take that shit too personally. I’m over it now. I’ve since moved on.

What’s the best way to pull a girl?
I’m so out of the game, bruh. I don’t remember how to just pull a girl without it having to do with me being famous.

That’s kinda sad.
When you’re on tour, it makes it weird. It makes girls interesting—you see a lot more of how girls really are, or who this type of girl really is. Like who’s really chill and cool, and who just throws themselves and wants to fuck.

To me, it seems like you made music that catered to a very specific audience. But now that’s changed.
I think I was like an 18 year-old wide eyed kid excited to be successful, and now I’m just kinda making music more for myself. I’ve been having a lot of fun with music. I went through some bullshit, personally, and then locked myself away and started making music that was free thought and meant for the purpose of expression and shit, and it made me feel better. I’ve enjoyed everything recently. It’s been fun.

Do you feel like this is your truer self that you’re representing right now?
Yeah. I think that now I’m much more of a perfectionist. Before, I would take a song and write a verse and just throw it out there and move on. Now I take my time, and I think the music tends to come from deeper inside. I want everything that I say to have a purpose. Everything that I do, I want it to have a purpose. Every little thing, every pause, every time I don’t say something, it’s for a reason.

Why is your beard a different color from your hair?
Dude, I know, right? Dude, it didn’t used to be like that, it just happened. When I first started growing facial hair it was not like this. Then it got super red, and at first I was like, “Oh no, it’s horrible, I hate it.” And I tried to hide it or keep it low, to where it looked more brown. But now I’ve just accepted it. Acceptance

How does it feel to be the only person who can troll Andrew Nosnitsky on Twitter?
Noz is a fantastic writer, and I really respect his opinion. So, becoming cool with him kinda opened my mind to people who didn’t like what I was doing, and how that works. For instance, when I first came out and was on the XXL Freshman list, broke down the list and he said these horrible things about me.

What did he say?
Like he’s funny. “White friend of Wiz Khalifa.” Annoying shit.

Sorry.
No, it’s funny. But at one point, I would be like, “Aw man, fuck it, I gotta see the humor in it.” So I realized that writers aren’t really that serious. He’s a cool dude. I definitely respect his opinion. It’s funny because he’ll be going on a rant or something, and I’ll just butt in real quick. The best thing he’s ever done though, he was going on a rant about how he didn’t like me, and my DJ hit him with the, “Dude you can’t talk shit.” And my DJ is a vegetarian and his Twitter bio was “Official Vegetarian DJ for Mac Miller.” So Noz changed his Twitter bio to “Official Vegetarian DJ for Mac Miller.”

I remember you once asked him, “What type of white rapper am I?”
Yeah, he said I was in between the cargo shorts and the—but the thing about Noz is I’ve sent him a lot of music just from this whole time period, so I think he knows. He won’t write about me because we’re cool, but I think he knows a little more about what’s going on than other people.

Are there any writers you actively dislike?
I don’t hate. Before, people would write something negative and I’d be like, “Fuck them.” I remember I put out “Frick Park Market,” my first single from Blue Slide Park, and this writer from Rolling Stone was like, “Oh, it’s Vanilla Ice.” And I hit him with, “Suck a dick.” And it was this whole thing, and Rolling Stone didn’t wanna write about me anymore. But nah, dude. It’s not that I hate. It’s all just fun and games. Who cares? People are just sensitive, man. Like, look at Kanye. People are sensitive about their art, just as I am. And I think even though my shit was less personal, I just felt that everyone was attacking me as a person, and I was like, “You have no idea who I am.” I’ve changed, just growing up a little bit. I’m more mature.

How was growing up while spending your late adolescence in the public eye?
It was interesting. When you grow up, it’s such a “Holy shit!” For a regular person, the person you were at 18 and when you’re 21 is usually different. That’s normal. But when you make music, it’s like “Whoa, why are you different?” Because I got older, what are you talking about? So it’s interesting, whether it be the press or just kids or dumbass Twitter people or people that support me, commenting on every single aspect of your life. That’s why I feel people like Jay Electronica. If at some point I drop the right project, the one where people are like “…fuck!” and they get it, I’m gone. For not that long—not as long as he went, but I’ll definitely go on my little spiritual journey. You gotta get out. You gotta live life and get the fuck off Twitter. It’s hard man, because everyone reads everything. It’s your shit, you wanna see how people take it. But at the same time, you gotta stop.

How do you feel about people who say, “Mac Miller is suddenly interesting?”
It was actually very entertaining for me, to watch all these people who either didn’t cover me before or talked shit, these people who shoved me out pay attention when all of a sudden I released something with Flying Lotus. It was entertaining to see people make that shift. The first post with the Flying Lotus shit got this begrudging, “Fuck, it’s Mac Miller. It’s good. Fuck. I’m pissed I’m saying Mac Miller’s shit is good.” Then the Ab-Soul shit came out, people were like, “Fuck, this is good too.” Then the video comes out and it’s like, “Fuck.” You know what I’m saying? You see people shift from being uncomfortable saying Mac Miller’s cool to it becoming like, “Oh, okay, that’s just what he does now.”

So when you drop the album, how are you gonna do it?
I don’t know. I’ve become used to catching shit for music I make, so I’m preparing people not to like it. I hope they’re pleasantly surprised. I’m excited. If you like the shit I’ve been doing recently, then you’re gonna like it. But I think as far as the buildup to it, and the singles, I think it’s a really different approach. It’s more like I wanna give people the heart of the album. There are songs on there that could be big, I think, but that’s not the focus of the singles. I wanna give people the ideas, the heart, the feeling of what they should hear first. Then if the album comes out and everyone loves a specific song, then that’s the single. I wanna let the people decide. That’s why I don’t wanna say why it’s called Watching Movies With The Sound Off or what the album means, or what’s the concept, because the only person that that matters to is me. Each person should have their own experience with it.

It’s like Spider-Man. With great power comes great responsibility.
I think that’s what you realize. Like, you rap all the time and you’re talking shit or whatever, and you realize, “Hold up, I wanna say something.” That’s when you get older. Same shit for a lot of different artists, just in different ways. This is me wanting to say something different.

That’s really cool. Okay, now back to dumb questions. If the album title is Making Movies with the Sound Off, do you watch porn with the sound off?
No. Actually, you need sound in porn. Unless it’s like when you’re watching porn and there’s too much dude vocalage, then you gotta go to another one. But, the whole Watching Movies with the Sound Off thing is from when I’m making music, I like to have something playing on the TV. When I’m making music, I like to put different visuals on. Movies are great with sound off, like Beetlejuice is great to make music to. The first song—it’s actually the last bonus song on the album—but the first song that ever got made for this project, which was over a year ago, was to Beetlejuice. Porn with the sound off while you’re making music is tight. There’s this one shit I put on called Strippers Vs. Zombies, and I would never watch the movie, but when you’re sitting there making music and it’s a bunch of naked girls running around killing zombies, it’s perfect. And, on a different note, there’s this documentary called Birds of the Gods. Making music to the visuals of birds flying and the migration of birds is actually the awesomest thing. The one thing that I will say about the album is that if you listen to this album to visuals of birds flying, it makes sense.

And you’re producing more now.
I love it. It’s awesome. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the world. I’ve always loved to make all different kinds of music, and it makes it complicated as an artist, because it’s hard to put it all into one project. So with producing, I get to do that. When I do shit with Vince or Dash, it could be very grimy hip-hop shit, and with Ab-Soul, I’ve got this one song on his album that sounds like acid. I just love being able to speak without words. I used to get upset and write. But now if something bothers me I sit down and play the piano.

I heard that you were addicted to lean and then stopped because of your TV show.
Definitely. I was just getting super fat, and I didn’t wanna be on national TV and fat, so I stopped sippin’ lean. It ended up being better for me than just that. But that was actually the reason. “Fuck, I’m gonna be on national TV, I’m a mess, I better put this cup away.” And everyone was like, “There’s no way he’s gonna be able to do it.” And I fuckin’ stopped.

Isn’t there withdrawal from it?
You go through some fucked up shit. A lotta people can tell you, you go through some fucked up shit. But it’s about being a strong enough person to get through it. I was definitely sippin hella lean. I love it, I wouldn’t say I didn’t. But I feel better not doing it every single day.

It literally kills people.
Yeah dude, I had a homie that had strokes and shit, and we didn’t know if it was because of lean. I wouldn’t be surprised. Drugs are dangerous, dude. But they’re awesome. Just dangerous. Drugs are not like a new thing. Especially with me, I’ve been doing drugs since I was fifteen.

Why did you start yelling “Woop” in your songs?
I have no idea.

Just excitement?
Yeah.  Dude, actually it’s funny, cause I think I stopped with the “Woop!” and moved on to something else. That always happens with ad-libs, you’ll be on an ad-lib super heavy for a while, like, “That’s my shit, I’ma do that all the time, I fuckin’ love that.” Then you get sick of it and move on to something else. Currently, I’m on “Ugh.”

[A passerby approaches Miller asking for a picture]

How often does that happen?
A lot. I don’t know, I got booed yesterday. I’m always very nice to people and shit, but yesterday I got booed because I went out to say hi to fans and I shook everyone’s hand, because no one was saying hi to fans, and Snoop came through and started taking pictures with fans and one-upped me. And then when I pulled away everyone booed me because I wouldn’t take pictures. The whole fan-to-artist relationship is very interesting. I try to do as much as possible, but sometimes you’re having a bad day. Sometimes you don’t feel like being famous.

Is it harder to become unfamous in the age of Twitter?
It’s funny. Like, why do you follow someone on Twitter? Twitter’s interesting. Why do people follow people on Twitter? It’s a crazy. Like if you look at the word, I’m “following” this person. It goes back to my theory on the new age celebrity culture and music is the new form of religion, and these celebrities and musicians are worshipped. Remember when Kanye tweeted that rant about what he didn’t like, style-wise? I guarantee after that so many people stopped wearing that. Why would you stopp wearing something? It’s just one person’s opinion. That’s a whole different conversation.

Are you comfortable with celebrity?
It depends on the day. Some days you catch me and everything’s fine and it’s a good day, like, “Hell yeah, this is sick.” I get to inspire people. If people are going through something, they listen to my music, and this person’s a fan of me, and I get to move people, that’s the cool part. But yeah, now I can’t walk through Times Square. I remember when I first got popular I went to Times Square, and I remember running. I had a crowd of people behind me, and I was running from them. It depends on how it happens. Sometimes it’s cool and sometimes it sucks. It all depends on the day. You have good days and bad days. Sometimes you don’t think that you’re moving people and inspiring people, you think, “Fuck, I wanna get a fucking coffee and just sit here and have a conversation.” Like you’re talking to somebody, and there’s always somebody else sitting there, listening.

You didn’t see this, but when we were talking, somebody had their phone to their mouth, very surreptitiously taking a picture of you.
Yeah, it happens all the time. People don’t know how to act. It’s stupid as fuck for me to stand outside, fuck that.

Would you describe yourself as #based?
Fuck yeah, dude!

 

Drew Millard would also describe himself as #based. He’s on Twitter - @drewmillard

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