Mac Miller: Macadelia

Mac Miller
Arts Editor and Senior Writer (many years until 2012)

Mac Miller is an honest dude, but he's rarely this honest. Not many people are.

A 21-year-old Billboard chart topper with over 400 million YouTube views (and countless sold out shows) to his name, Mac's both a bona fide pop star and an independent hip hop artist, both a "frat rapper" and an MC who has the respect of his peers.

In the country for his first Australian tour, Miller opens up about bad reviews, his drug use, and why he doesn't regret sipping an industrial amount of promethazine.

You're in Australia at the moment, how's that been so far?
Yeah, I love it, man. This place is incredible. The thing about travelling is that a lot of people never leave their hometown, and they don't realise there are places to go. They don't know you can travel 15 hours to this incredible place in the world.

Is this the sort of thing — touring and selling out shows overseas — you thought you'd be doing when you got into hip hop?
That was my dream, dude. My dream was always to travel far and have people know the lyrics to my music, and so far Australia has been A+, man. Same with New Zealand. The Auckland show was incredible, the Sydney show was incredible. We're two for two, and I'm hearing great things about tonight. I'm excited.

You figured out hip hop was your job when you were 15. How did you come to that realisation?
You just have to work. You can either look at it as a hobby or it can really be your life. All I do all day is make music. If I'm not rapping I'm making beats. If I'm not making beats or rapping I'm thinking about music, you know? It consumes everything. So when I was 15, I thought, 'alright, if this is what I'm going to do, I'm going to start now and I'm going to work my ass off'. Otherwise there's no point. You're not going to get anywhere without working hard.

Do you think figuring that out at such an early age gave you a leg-up on other guys?

Yeah, fuck yeah, dude! I mean, think about it, I'm 21 now and I've been considering myself a professional rapper slash musician for six years already. To be 21 and to have been putting together mix tapes for six years already is... you know, that's probably why I'm where I'm at.

On the flip side of that, do you think your age has stopped people from taking you seriously?
Yeah, for sure. And that's cool. You've gotta look at it as it would be in regular social life. If there's a bar and a random 16-year-old walks in, everyone's gonna be like, 'what's this little 16-year-old kid doing here?' It's the same thing. It's never 100 percent unanimous in any direction. There are always going to be people who love me because I'm young, or hate me because I'm young, and when I get older there'll be people who hate me because I'm old. It's always the same.

You've grown up in public. Because of that, your fans feel like they know the 'real' Mac Miller. On the other hand, you didn't get to come out of nowhere and build up a fake mythology around yourself. You don't have a rags-to-riches story people can latch on to.

Do you think that's hurt you, in a sense?
Hurt me? I can't say, because I've been blessed with a lot of success. I mean, I'm in Australia. But it made people have a lot of misconceptions about me. Their perception of who Mac Miller is is always off, because we never got the chance to build that brand or that story. It wasn't like, 'here's this mythological creature, Mac Miller'. It was just like, 'here's this dude', and then people just think what they want to think.

One thing about your story that people have latched onto is that you're not on a major label. You've done all this yourself. How important is that to you?
Very important. It's been great to do that, because people can't knock the hustle, in the words of some very famous rappers. What are you going to say to a 21-year-old kid who's been independent, who's been offered millions of dollars by majors in the States and hasn't taken a meeting? You can't really say anything. That shows you right there that it's more about the music than it is about the business.

You topped the Billboard chart with your first album [Blue Slide Park], but it didn't get fantastic reviews. Obviously there was the Pitchfork review, for instance. Were you bothered by that?
The Pitchfork review was fuckin' awesome, dude. That review was so tight. I mean, when I read it, it hurt my feelings. I was 19 years old, I put an album out, and I was like, 'damn, this dude hates me'. But I was talking to Earl [Sweatshirt] about it, and I was like, 'yo, did you ever see this review of Blue Slide Park by Pitchfork?' He asked what they gave it. I told him it was a 1 [out of 10]. He was like, 'that's so fuckin' tight'.

It's good, man. It really is. I think I'm at a stage now where it just doesn't bother me. Everything's always going to irk you a little bit. I mean, if you're out at a party and someone comes up to you and they're like, 'hey, you're ugly and stupid', there'd be a part of you that wished they didn't say that, but you wouldn't really care. Whatever.

When you say getting a 1 was good, are you talking about the notoriety that comes with that? Or because it gives you something to push back against? In what way was it good?
Because it's just like... for whatever I did, or whatever I do, to make somebody so repulsed that they wrote that horrible review about me, I'm bringing emotion out in people, whether it be positive or negative. Yeah, Pitchfork Dude gave me a 1, but a kid at my show says they listened to my music when their parents got divorced, and it helped them through that.

Like I said, it's always the same shit. There are people that love it and people that hate it. The good thing is we're talking about extremes. It's not something where people are like, 'eh, he's alright'. You either love it or you despise everything about it.

So in a very real sense, you'd rather get a 1 than a 6.
Exactly! Exactly! I would rather you tell me you love it or hate it. The whole 'OK' thing makes me feel like I'm average. Telling me you hate it doesn't make me feel like I suck, it just makes me feel like I'm doing something that's not your cup of tea.

With your second album [the upcoming Watching Movies With The Sound Off], do you feel like you have anything to prove to people who didn't like your first album?
I don't think I have anything to prove. I think this album's very different. That's something that's important to me, to continue to reinvent myself. You look at an artist like Missy Elliott, who could continuously reinvent herself. Even Drake! Drake can continuously reinvent himself and come out with something new or something different. So you know, that's what I enjoy doing.

Listening to Blue Slide Park and listening to [2012 mixtape] Macadelic... those are two completely different projects, but they're from the same person. Nothing is fake. Everything is real emotion, everything I'm saying is true. It's different sides of the same story.

When you listen to Blue Slide Park now, assuming you do listen to your own stuff, what do you think of it? How do you rate it?
It's funny, I actually haven't listened to it in a long time. I've been in album mode so much that I haven't been able to listen to any past projects. But I do remember this one drive I took, like a four hour drive back from Philly, driving the car around a little bit after all the reviews came out. They weren't good, you know? So I was telling myself, 'man, I made a shitty album, my album sucks'. And then I listened to that shit, and I was like, no, the fucking album does not suck, dude! The album's actually tight.

It's like... if you look at the Pitchfork review, the dude just didn't like me. Which is OK. He didn't like the idea of Mac Miller. It's that whole thing: 'Mac Miller is frat rap for white people! He makes music for white college kids, and he only got poppin' because he's motherfuckin' white. College kids love him and that's why he's where he is.' Which is, you know... whatever. I don't know if that's true or if it's not true. But at the end of the day, dude, I'm just a person. I didn't control how it happened. Whatever happened just happened.

It's strange when people say a rapper is successful because he's white, though, because if that were true, wouldn't there be more white rappers? Wouldn't they be the rule, rather than the exception?
Right! I guess so. I don't know. Everyone always looks at me like I had this plan, this business plan, and that shit just irks me. Because it's so far from the truth. I didn't make music because I thought it fit this demographic. When I made Blue Slide Park, I was making music that I wanted to make at the time, and I stand by it 100 percent. I'm never going to say that album sucks or that I shouldn't have made that album. That album did so much for me.

Not that this is a motivation, but I'm just saying, that album made me a lot of money. I've been able to do whatever I want and experiment with music how I please because of the success of that album. There's no stress about, 'oh shit, how am I going to do this?' I've proved that I am successful, so now I can do whatever the fuck I want.

You were on top of the world, in a lot of ways, after Blue Slide Park, and you still are. But at the same time as you've had all this success, you started using promethazine ['lean'] quite heavily. How did that habit develop?
I don't know, man. I mean... I've grown up around drugs. They've always been around. That drug was presented to me, and I was like, 'this is tight', so I did it a lot. No regrets. It was tight. But there was a point in time where I was like, 'hey man, I should move on to something new'. So now I'm smoking PCP. [Laughs] Nah, I'm just sayin', it is what it is.

This story came out in Complex that made it sound like, you know, 'Mac Miller had bad reviews and he turned to drugs because he couldn't handle it! He just couldn't handle the Pitchfork review, so he started using promethazine!' And that's just ridiculous. I think I was in a place, at a time in my life, where I just felt like shutting everybody out. I just enclosed myself into this world that involved a lot of fucking lean. That was part of the world. It was very purple.

Was it difficult to get off it?
No! That's the other thing! Everyone in my life was freaking out! They were like, 'you're so addicted, man! You fucking wake up to a cup and drink all day, you sip so much lean!' It was at the point where I'd be sippin' and even Juicy J would be like, 'damn, Mac, that shit is fuckin' strong! You've gotta be careful!' Everyone was like, 'you're not gonna be able to stop, you're addicted, you're ruining your life! You're going to go through withdrawals and be sick, you're gonna ruin everything, it's all gonna go away!'

Then it was literally like... I was shooting this MTV show, and this is really why I stopped. I was like, 'damn, this lean made me fat as hell!' This is the truth. This is why I stopped sippin' lean. I was like, 'this lean is makin' me fat as hell, I'm about to be on national TV, I should stop sippin'. And then, the next day, I didn't sip. That was it. I wasn't having cold shakes, I wasn't fucked up. I mean, my stomach had to readjust. I had weird diarrhoea for a couple of weeks. [Laughs] That's actually what happened!

You know, I love Complex, they're homies, but... the drug thing isn't this heroic story. It's not like, you know, 'Mac Miller was down bad after reading this Pitchfork review and then he turned to drugs and then he tackled his addiction!' It was pretty simple. It was like, hey, I feel like doing drugs, so I was doing drugs all the time. And then I was like, hey, I don't want to do drugs anymore, so I stopped doing drugs. It was pretty simple.

I guess that's what we were talking about before, about the mythology and the stories that spring up around rappers. People like to have a narrative. 'Mac Miller got depressed and got addicted to drugs and then heroically beat his addiction' is an easier story to sell than 'he liked doing drugs and then he didn't'.
Right. Exactly! I'll tell you, man, bath salts are where it's at now anyway. No, I'm just joking. Everyone in the room is looking at me funny. No, but it's... I'm 21, dude. My life is a little abnormal, I would say. I'm a believer in... I wouldn't suggest kids do drugs, but there are a lot of theories about psychedelics. That if it weren't for psychedelics, people wouldn't even be able to communicate. Stuff like that. So I'm going to live life and see what happens.

As a guy who's sold a shitload of records, probably a lot of those to kids, do you feel like a role model?
I think I'm a role model to kids, but... for instance, when I was sippin' lean and it was out there, my younger fans weren't like, 'hey, now I wanna sip lean!' They were like, 'stop sippin' lean, Mac, that's bad for you!' The example that I set is in... it's my outlook on life that people can look up to. That's where I'm a role model. I'm very open-minded, I'm down for whatever, and I promote positivity to the fullest.

Sure. But you trust your fans to figure shit out for themselves, rather than preaching at them.
Look, dude. At the end of the day, I can't avoid the fact that me sipping lean was a bad example for kids. That's the truth. So maybe it would have been good to not do that, because I don't want to fuck up a bunch of kids' lives. It would be fun, but I don't want to do that.

But you've gotta look at it like... this is the other thing, man. They're kids! People are like, 'there are young 8-year-olds listening to your music!' But do they really digest the whole project down? Does an 8-year-old listen to the whole album front to back? No. They're fucking watching music videos and watching Knock Knock. That's what kids are doing. They're not listening to every song.

Look at old Em shit. Look at The Marshall Mathers LP. He had 4-year-old fans, little girls, and what's the first song on that shit? It's him raping his mom. It's just expression, man. You're just expressing emotion, man. It shouldn't be taken too literally. There's some shit on the next album that if you take literally, you're going to... I'll tell you, there's some shit on the next album that made my dad call me to ask if everything's okay upstairs. But it's just expression. You're just capturing emotion.

If an 8-year-old is sipping lean, they probably have bigger problems than listening to your music anyway.
Exactly! If you're eight and you can get that stuff... it was hard enough for me to get lean, so if an 8-year-old is getting lean, how does that happen, man? That's crazy. It's the parents! It's the parents, man! It's not rock'n'roll, it's the parents! [Laughs]

You've said Watching Movies With The Sound Off is going to be a more personal record than Blue Slide Park. In what way is it more personal?
It's just... I'm no longer... it's very honest. It's very, very honest. But it's also very cerebral. I got a cool comment from somebody when they listened to the album, they said, 'I don't know what it is, but when I listen to the album, I just start thinking about my own life'. I don't know if it's what I'm saying or how I'm saying it or how the music sounds, but that is what I want to happen. I want people to listen to this album and think about their own lives. Just do a little thinking about what's going on in your life.

I'm trying to challenge you kids to be insurgent. It's not all about going out and drinking and having sex. It's also about questioning the government and wondering what happens after you die, and why this religion is right and that religion is wrong. Very intelligent topics that make me sound very profound.

On that deeply profound note, I think our time's up. But thanks for taking the time, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Australia.
Thank you, man. Thank you.

Mac Miller plays the following shows in Australia:

Thu Feb 21 — The Palace (Melbourne)
Fri Feb 22 — The Arena (Brisbane)
Sat Feb 23 — Metropolis Fremantle (Perth)

Let's Socialise

Facebook pink circle    Instagram pink circle    YouTube pink circle    YouTube pink circle

 OG    NAT

Twitter pink circle    Twitter pink circle