The Voices in Mac Miller's Head
We spoke to Mac Miller about his new 'Delusional Thomas' mixtape and why everyone should adopt the philosophies of Lil B the Based God.
A couple weeks ago, Mac Miller quietly dropped the best project of his career. A mixtape credited to his alter ego Delusional Thomas, the free mixtape found him delivering tightly-wound bars about murder, carnage, and general mayhem in a pitched-up voice over meandering beats that inspire an active sense of unease. To say it’s a far cry from the Mac Miller who affably philosophized on his recent Watching Movies with the Sound Off is an understatement. It’s Mac Miller stepping outside of himself, chasing his artistic muse, consequences and public reception be damned. Nobody can tell the story of Delusional Thomas better than his creator, however, so yesterday I called up Mac while he was on his way to Pismo Beach in California to talk about the tape, his rapidly widening artistic vision, and why more people should be following the teachings of Lil B.
Noisey: To me, Delusional Thomas seems like your version of one of Madlib’s Quasimoto records.
Mac Miller: I loved Quasimoto, and it’s like the high pitched voice does that. But to me it was a character and I wanted to give his whole own complete, like, everything. There was part of me that wanted to do my own voice, but I just wanted it to be its own complete character. And I feel like that evil voice inside your head is always kind of in that pitch.
So when you were conceptualizing it, did you kind of give Delusional Thomas a backstory, or was it kind of like you started rapping in this voice and you were like oh, this these are the biological facts about him?
I mean, I think he has his whole own backstory. I didn’t sit there and plot it out and write down his childhood piece by piece, but I think I have the idea of basically tracing everything back to as far as you want to take them. It definitely involves a whole thought process. I just feel like everyone has that shit in them. It’s actually been therapeutic. It felt so good to go in and just fuckin’ talk about the sadistic urges that everybody else has but doesn’t want to say.
It felt like a really interesting way to step outside of the public’s perception of you. You’re really in a weird place right now where you’re both underground, but super mainstream.
Which is awesome. I love all forms of music and I think I’m just kind of growing into just being a producer. And when I say “producer,” I’m not necessarily confining that to just making beats and shit. I don’t want to limit myself to not doing anything, whether it’s the grittiest of the gritty or the cleanest of pop. I want to try and be able to be great at all of those.
Your raps on this are very intricate.
It’s funny because back in the day when I was 15, most of my rhyme patterns were like, “It’s mythological, abominable, come through Geronimo.” You know what I’m saying? Just shit like that when I was younger. I think sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But yeah, I just like creating characters. We’re all complex and we’re all made up of more than one dimension. And the thing about this place that art lives in is that people get these labels. You brand yourself and have to stick to one brand, which I fucking hate. Like, human beings are more complex than just one simple brand.
So with this project, it seems like you just put it out with no expectations whatsoever.
Yeah. To be real, I didn’t think anyone would listen or really care. I didn’t know if it had any legs, if it even mattered that it had legs, yadda, yadda, yadda. But it’s just this thing that I just did. For a couple weeks after I finished the album, I just got real into this fuckin’ character and everything I recorded for a while was with that.
What is the reception been like?
I think that it’s polarizing, which is dope. A lot of the love or hate response really comes from the high-pitched voice. Which is cool because it’s an uncomfortable voice. I love that it’s just a concise thought. It’s just one straight to the point. One complete sentence.
Do you want to do more stuff like that in the future?
Yeah. I’m just always kind of just going and creating and seeing what happens. One next step for me is to try and make things concise. W you make music you kind of start to think that you have to relate to everyone. So have a record for the club, have a record for the girls, have a record for this and that. I think I’m kind of starting to trust in my own longevity. If my next album doesn’t have the club record, then fuck it. You don’t have to try and hit every bird with one stone.
I think as you go forward, I think your first record is going to be looked at as this weird footnote in a larger career, like Alex Chilton and the Box Tops.
Exactly. And, you know, it’s great. The mental place I’m in now is awesome. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m with everything. But I like that, man. I like that growth.
One last question—the “Thank you Based God” moment. What was up with that?
Oh, on fucking Good Morning America?
Oh my God. I had to. Everyone needs to experience the Based God. People need to stop thinking that Lil B doesn’t make good music. I’ve gotten into arguments where people are like, “Yeah, man, I love Lil B. You know, like, he’s so funny.” And it’s like yeah, he’s everything. But yeah, I had to do it, dude. I had to say "Thank you BasedGod," on Good Morning America because no one else has the courage to. He’s actually a genius.
It’s so genuine. I talk to him often. I’ve known him since we did the XXL cover together. People who just don’t really know are like, “Man, he has such good marketing.” I’m like, “No. That’s what you hear. It’s not marketing. It’s just him.” It’s not like he’s trying to brand it. It’s just who he is.
I think people just need to take a lesson from that and just stop being afraid of being themselves.
We’ve really got to stop being afraid to make mistakes or put out something that people don’t like. When you’re actually creating, you don’t think about if people are going to love the shit. You just do it. There’s two types of people that make music. There’s people that have good songs and there’s people that can make good albums. And I think the people that make good albums don’t worry about if people are going to like it. They just make it.
Drew Millard is the Features Editor of Noisey. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard