MAC MILLER: Reflection Eternal
Pittsburgh native Mac Miller aims to bridge the gap, while giving heads a little something to nod to.
Words: Jason Weintraub
Images: Laura Petrilla
In a generation where everyone has the resources to showcase their skills in attempt to live out their dreams, many messages are lost in a cluster of hopes and are often never heard. While some dedicate their entire lives trying to find the right decibel to properly convey their message, fewer are natural born leaders that have an unexplainable and enticing way with their peers. Although Mac Miller is just a 19-year-old kid from Steel City (better known as Pittsburgh), he’s been acknowledged by top media outlets, has acquired millions of views and followers on his social networking pages, not to mention that he’s been co-signed by some of hip-hop’s most respected figures ever. Some even think that he may be a part of the gel that will bring together the voices of an era dominated by individualism.
In an industry that is obsessed with categorizing young artists, Mac is motivated to stay away from all that. Instead he chooses to encourage his peers to always keep an open mind and to appreciate others’ music and cultures. While that might seem idyllic to some, the universal theme Miller delivers seems to be working.
Recently, on his way to the stage to rock a sold-out show alongside label-mate Wiz Khalifa in their home state of Pennsylvania, Mac, who was coughing up his lungs and obviously struggling health-wise from all the non-stop action, talked about his real goal. “I’m just trying to tell my own story and deliver a message of positivity.” The message, he says, is “Everyone being able to come together for a bigger cause, and having all different types of people being able to enjoy the same thing.”
Miller’s music can be summed up by the name of his most popular mixtape, K.I.D.S. (Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit), which reflects a laid back but youthful approach to partying and dreaming big. Labeling his projects and style “most dope,” as a representation of what he wants to be, Mac said, “I’m just taking my time, I’m 19 years old so all I really need to do right now is have fun and make music that makes me and others happy.” And while he may rap about some of the same topics as his peers, his versatile presentation of instrumentals is an obvious standout. Mac’s mixtape starts out with an old school hip-hop drum and snare beat that sounds straight off an MPC, and ends up with a tweaked Empire of the Sun sample that will leave many looking up the band’s YouTube videos.
Like Wiz, Mac is a shining example of what the emerging city is all about. Known for its hardcore, blue-collar work ethics, the pair has put out more than seven projects apiece within the past five years. But don’t expect either of the Pittsburgh natives to go completely mainstream and slowly drift away from their roots. Mac makes it very clear. “We’re independent. There’s no machine making this happen for me right now. Everything I’m doing is Rostrum, and so I have all the creative control in my music. I don’t plan on changing that and I’m not going to a major label anytime soon. I don’t even think about it, because I feel the more I think about it, the more it’s going to affect my music.”
While Mac is all about diversity and blending many genres, he is also seriously devoted to paying respect to early legends, who made it possible for him to exist. “For me, it’s super important to pay homage. That’s what I came up on growing up, so it was important for me to have and pay respect for a generation that got everything started.” But words are not enough to Mac, who has worked hard to show that he’s also willing to take action. Currently working on an EP with DJ Jazzy Jeff, he hopes to bridge the gap between his generation and the era before him. “People think that there is a big separation of old school hip-hop and what’s going on right now, and really there isn’t. I’m trying to show that everyone is just making music and can work together.”
Speaking on the collaborative efforts between new and old school, Mac continues, bringing up the work of his XXL Freshman classmate Lil B with veteran producer 9th Wonder for the track “Based for Your Face.” “That’s why I was super happy to see that Lil B and 9th Wonder track go down, ‘cause I think that’s a crazy way to show that everyone can coexist.”
The transition from “Easy Mac” to Mac Miller has been a long one, and Mac knows that patience and hard work is key for not just himself, but for anyone. His message is just starting to reach the people, and he believes that he knows the way forward.
“I think right now people are on a path to something great, there a lot of people opening their minds for different music, and that’s what I really want. I hear fans saying, ‘Hey, I’m listening to Waka, Biggie and Dave Matthews band,’ and I love that! As long as we keep doing that and not being scared, I feel people are at a really great place for music right now.”
And while his voice may have been raspy due to being under the weather, his certainty and desire certainly overshadowed any illness. “I’m just trying to open up minds,” he said. “Because by now, if you’re my age and have any type of a closed mind, you’re an idiot.”
All Images by Laura Petrilla.