Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller (Malcolm McCormick) tells Rip Nicholson he likens his new album to building a new planet for everyone to go and make an experience of their own.
MAC MILLER interviewed @ 10:15 AEST Tuesday, October 12, 2015
For Street Press Australia [READ HERE]
“It’s really just like trying to create a planet for people to live on and inviting all your friends to come and have their own experience too, so I make the planet accessible and people come through and we have a good time,” quips McCormick about GO:OD AM, his third album, but a first on a major label; one that he insists, despite going from independent label Rostrum (home to Wiz Khalifa) to Warner Bros Records, wouldn’t be a point of difference for the LP.
“No, as far as creation goes, I didn’t use Warner like that, I didn’t use a bunch of money on stuff. I didn’t want it to feel like,‘Oh he’s gone to a major label so he can do this style’ or whatever. I wanted to continue doing what I do. Down the road I may utilise those tools more but for me it was definitely a forum just to continue doing the same thing we always do.”
Much like the last two albums, GO:OD AM saw a return of the usual suspects lined-up on the boards, some of whom he had shared with Khalifa — Benjy Grinberg, ID Labs. So, when asked how he went about building the album, and what limits, if any, he had to work around being with a major, McCormick made a meal of it.
“I think it’s another cup of soup, you know? Another way of doing things. I sometimes think that limits can create some of the best environments for creativity. You know, when you give somebody a blank piece of paper it’s not always going to come out better,” expresses McCormick. “But, where a bunch of producers can each have free reign, they can you can get so much more interesting shit. So when you set yourself up in that way to attack your project it just becomes a different way of doing things.”
“I sometimes think that limits can create some of the best environments for creativity.”
The collaborations through the album made a point of difference from his catalogue, ranging from Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano to Miguel, even to the jazzy hook of Ascension featuring sampled vocals taken from soul legend Curtis Mayfield. Still, it made for a nice fit to the Mac Miller style curated over ten-plus mixtapes and two albums. But the cinematic centrepiece to the project was his first single 100 Grandkids, something even McCormick couldn’t have believed would strike the bullseye.
“I didn’t, you know? When I finished recording I knew I had something special — I just don’t think it was until I put the second part on that I realised that I had something different and new. You know, it’s funny because it’s hard to read what resonates with people so I’m still learning on that aspect. It’s like throwing darts on a dartboard waiting to see what happens. So yeah, I’m glad people can relate.”
He’s returning to Australia early January, a first since Big Day Out ’14. Why now, you may ask?
“Because I fuckin’ love Australia! One of my favourite places in the world. And honestly, the time I spent there was the best time of my life so I’m looking to come down and get that again.”
Images by Andrew Link
Conversation with Mac Miller
Mac, what’s good, man?
Chillin’ hangin’ out in the hotel in Memphis city right now. Binge-watching TV shows. I’ve got a day-off today.
GO:OOD AM fresh out last month – hit 4th on the Billboard 200! Congrats bro!
Does something like that define whether you have a good album, or do you look for other indicators?
Nah, I think probably some of the best shit that gets created (the mainstream) probably never gets a chance to hear so I don’t think it’s a relevant indicator. I think the indicator that I have is just the response from the crowds at the shows and it’s been great, you know? The shows have been sold out and everyone knows the words to my songs. That is the mark of success.
That’s always gotta be the go-to, right? When the fans are mouthing the words to your shit.
Your first album not from Rostrum Records (major label – Warner), but does it feel like a first in any way?
Yeah, man you know it’s funny because I feel like every single album I’ve ever put out, every mixtape, like it’s still my first project. But this one a little bit more just because I dunno it seems like a new phase of life and a new project should go with it.
Who the fuck promotes an album with a cereal and a bowl? What’s the thought process behind this abstract strategy? – Did that shit work?
(Laughs) people seemed to like the cereal, a lot of people got the cereal boxes. I found it hard to find the mixture that works. But when you start dealing with food there are all these other regulations. I wanted to put powdered milk in it as well, but we couldn’t get the powdered milk.
The FDA will try to shut you down, man!
(Laughs) kinda, yep, yep.
Much like the last two, on this album you’ve got a gang of producers on board. Some of whom you have shared with Wiz; Benjy, Big Jerm, I.D. Labs. How do you go into building an album, do you chase beats to fit your raps or just work alongside different producers until they come up with a suitable beat?
You know, I just kinda ride the wave man. It’s really just like trying to create a planet for people to live on and inviting all your friends to come on the planet and letting them have their own experience too. I definitely welcome other people’s creative input and we just see what happens.
So you’re making the new Mars.
Right, yeah. So I make the planet accessible and people come through and we have a good time.
It must be such a different plan of attack than a rapper who will work with one or two beatmakers for an entire album. Would having only one producer limit your creativity?
No I don’t, I just think it’s another cup of soup, you know? Another way of doing things. I sometimes think that limits can create, like some of the best environments for creativity. You know, when you give somebody a piece of paper and like, a bunch of producers can each make as much shit as they can you can get so much more interesting shit. So when you set yourself up in that way to attack your project it just becomes a different way of doing things.
When I read your collabs from Little Dragon to Miguel, even the jazz hooks with Curtis Mayfield on ‘Ascension’ – which, daaamn! Had to light an L to that, fits nicely to the Mac Miller style you’ve built up over 10-plus mixtapes and 2 albums. Did you get into this trying to stretch the musicality of your work?
No I didn’t, as far as creation goes, I didn’t use Warner like that, I didn’t use a bunch of money on stuff. I didn’t want it to feel like, oh he’s gone to a major label so he can do this style or whatever. I wanted to continue doing what I do. Down the road I may utilise those tools more but for me it was definitely a forum just to like continue doing the same thing we always do.
Speaking of cinematic – ‘100 Grandkids’ is an epic single. When you were writing that did you know that that was gonna be the shit?
I didn’t you know, I did it in two parts separately. When I finished recording I knew I had something special I just don’t think it was until I put the second part on that I realised that I had something different and new. You know, it’s funny because it’s hard to read what resonates with people so I’m still learning on that aspect. It’s like throwing darts on a dartboard waiting to see what happens. So yeah, I’m glad people can relate.
You grabbed 50’s guy Sha Money on this?
Yeah, dude he’s a great guy, man.
Is your Mum really at you to meet a nice girl and have kids?
Hell no! (Laughs) She doesn’t want me to be in a rush, and I’m not in a rush to settle down. I wouldn’t want to put a girl through my world and get into a relationship that I couldn’t invest my time into.
What was the concept behind “Perfect Circle / God Speed” two differing tracks from Frank Dukes?
Well musically they felt like the darkest and brightest moments so I wanted to bring that clash together, And it’s the feeling of when you hit a so-called rock bottom and the rock bottom ends up being a trampoline. That’s how I wanted it to feel.
That track ending had me thinking… talking about trying to get up for work. That was a conversation (snippet) between you and your brother?
No, my brother left the voicemail in the beginning. The end of the track was my friend Vinnie, Vinnie Radio. We were in the studio and he fell asleep so I recorded it with my iPhone, me trying to wake him up and I played a nice lullaby and put a piano behind it.
I gotta ask, man. What are some of the 9-5 jobs you’ve held down?
I was a cashier for one day. And I quit because I went to go get a job and they said you have to start thinking on what’s more important; being a cashier or your music career. And, I was like OK this was a pretty easy one.
“Take over the world when I’m on my Donald Trump shit” off the Best Day Ever – very apropos given Trump’s run for President.
I’m like, afraid… I didn’t mean to predict that.
How would you feel if he used your music like he’s doing with Aerosmith at the moment?
I don’t know, man. I don’t think Imma vote for him, but he wants to use my song that’s OK. I don’t know if he’s a bad guy or anything.
Just pay that royalty, right?
Just pay the royalty.
Touring Australia in January. First time since Big Day Out. You made such an impression. Bout time you brought your ass back down, son!
Because I fuckin’ love Australia! One of my favourite places in the world And honesty the time i spent there was the best time of my life so i’m looking to come down and get that again.
Did you have much time to relax as play tourist?
We had a lot of time off, literally anything you could think of, we did.
You’re a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, right?
What do you think of the third-string QB running the show while both Vick and Big Ben are injured?
You know, I love Michael Vick because when he came in he gave a stellar performance. I’m just looking for the Ws man. I’m looking for wins and I think whoever Mike Tomlin puts in there to give us the W is the right man for the job.
As long as you got Antonio Brown in the end zone to catch the ball you guys will be right, man.
Yeah, for sure.