Mac Miller Tells Us Why He Loves Jay Electronica, Why He Hates Schoolboy Q and How He Almost Died.
Give Mac Miller a little credit.
He may have been the third wheel on the big June 18 showdown between Kanye West and J. Cole, but he was the first of the three to choose that release date for his latest project.
Those other Johnny Come Latelies are the ones who screwed things up.
Nonetheless, Miller’s sophomore album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off — the follow-up to his No. 1-charting 2011 debut, Blue Slide Park — is still projected to sell in the ballpark of 100,000 copies once the figures are all in. Considering the competition faced in stores both physical and online this week, that’s no small feat.
At the moment, though, Miller’s mind is less on sales and more on redemption. Outside of his loyal fanbase, Blue Slide Park met with a rash of negative criticism, and Watching Movies With The Sound Off is Miller’s attempt to correct that. This time through, his focus was on developing himself as an artist. Already, those efforts appear to have paid off: The 21-year-old’s new album has been receiving overall positive reviews — even from critics who panned his debut.
To be fair, with production assistance from Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus, Clams Casino and Pharrell, plus features from Sweatshirt, Ab-Soul, Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q and the elusive Jay Electronica, it’s hard to imagine that an album budding with this much talent could really disappoint at all. But the album, which Miller professes is best enjoyed while watching it in tandem with the documentary Turtle: The Incredible Journey starting at the 00:01:11 mark, also finds Miller moving away from the party anthems and bangers that so defined him in the past. Here, he opts more for an introspective journey. And it pays dividends.
In advance of Miller kicking off his Space Migration Tour, which begins this week with a string of stops in Texas, including a stop at the Palladium Ballroom tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 26), we caught up with the Pittsburgh native to discuss the reception to his latest album, along with his calculated plans for the next two years, his development as an artist and his Vine battles with Schoolboy Q.
So, just a couple days ago, you tweeted about a near-death experience you had. What happened?
Oh, I almost got into a car crash! That would’ve been crazy. I was frustrated while driving because I made a bunch of wrong turns and just pulled out, and a bunch of cars were flying by and just barely missed me.
That would’ve put a bit of damper on the tour, huh?
Yeah, dude. That would’ve been crazy.
Are you checking out all the reviews of the new album or are you just ignoring all this stuff this time around?
I read a few here and there. They’ve been positive, which is cool. It’s dope to see Pitchfork give a really positive review [7.0] after the last one.
They gave you a 1.0 last time around, right?
Yeah, which is still tight, though. The 1.0 is like, “Yo, I got a 1.0! No one gets a 1.0!”
You made a good comeback, though. Have you checked out the numbers yet on the new album?
No, I don’t think they actually came in yet. Unless you guys have heard anything?
No, nothing formal yet, sorry. On Twitter, you’ve been subtly mentioning your plans for the next two years. I mean, you just released Watching Movies With The Sound Off, and you produced Vince Staples’ Stolen Youth, which released this week. But do you have any details to share on the next two years?
I waited two years in between Blue Slide Park and this last album, so I’m probably gonna do the same thing and just release a bunch of different kinds of music and work on production and stuff like that. Y’know what I’m saying? I’m very excited that I have an album that can last for a couple years and I can put out music that’s just for fun.
Tell me about Larry Fisherman.
I just enjoy producing for people — a lot! It’s dope.
Why go by Larry Fisherman when producing, though?
It’s like on some Walt Disney shit. Just kinda creating characters and living vicariously through them and all the characters that I create represent different parts of me, y’know what I’m saying? But they’re just parts emphasized.
You mentioned putting out music for fun. Does that mean more from your Pink Slime project with Pharrell?
Yeah, Pink Slime is still coming out. We have a couple records that will still be on there that we did before, but I’m trying to sit down and do a whole bunch of new records.
How is it working with Pharrell and the other artists that you’re working with these days, like Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus, Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson and Jay Electronica?
It’s dope, man. These are people that are trying to push music forward, and that’s always something dope to be a part of. Pharrell’s a visionary, and he’s been an awesome person to work with. The song we did on my album, “Objects in the Mirror,” is one of my favorites — y’know, because you can do whatever you want with Pharrell. If he trusts your talent and your capabilities, then you can do whatever you want, which is tight.
On that “Objects In The Mirror” track, you sing. Like, no rapping at all. Any more tracks like that in the future?
Hell yeah! That’s what I’m saying! In the next two years, there’s gonna be a lot of interesting stuff that comes out.
Have you come up with a nickname for your singing persona yet?
Um, I did this jazz album that came out under Larry Lovestein & The Velvet Revival, which is like a little EP. That was tight. It was just fun to do that. What I’m saying is, when you take out the Mac Miller, because with Mac Miller everyone expects something, and you just have different characters, you can make whatever kind of music you want. And it’s fun because I enjoy making all types of music. But each persona has to have their own style.
As your music evolves and you continue to mature as an artist, is it gonna be hard to keep songs from your earlier days, like “Senior Skip Day” on set lists?
Oh, yeah. That song’s not on the set list anymore. I mean, I just don’t feel like that song is a representation of who [I am]. Like, if I performed that song, I would just be performing it for the fact that people want to hear it because it’s a big song. Y’know what I’m saying? Which is cool because I always say like, The Beatles still came out and performed “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” even though they were definitely onto a new phase. But I just like to have the show be more genuine and more about what I feel right now.
Speaking of shows and tours: Did you put together the bill for your Space Migration Tour with Chance The Rapper, The Internet and Vince Staples?
Yeah, this is 100 percent me. Vince, we just did a new project together, The Internet, they’re my friends. It’s all homies and people that I’m fans of and people that I’m a fan of their music and want to watch perform, so that’s tight.
You worked with a ton of people on your album. It’s full of some pretty hefty guest verses. Who do you think had the best one on the album?
Jay Electronica. Hands down.
How did that collaboration come about? I mean, people have been waiting for him to release music for a while now.
I don’t know, man. I just hit ’em up, y’know? I wish I knew how it came about. I just went up and talked to him. It was actually pretty simple.
So he was immediately receptive to it?
We had just been talking a lot and I asked him to do a record and he said, “Yeah.” And he told me I was the only person he was doing a verse for. Which is crazy and that’s like an honor because he’s one of the best rappers alive and so for him to pick my record to give me his verse of the year — that shit is awesome.
On the album, you poke fun at yourself a bit. You had battle rapper Loaded Lux come in toward the end of “Red Dot Music” with Action Bronson and kinda take shots at your old Easy Mac days.
That’s tight because it’s not that serious and you gotta be able to laugh at yourself. You can’t take yourself too seriously. A lot of people look at my old stuff as, like, cheesy or whatever. So it’s just like saying, “That’s fine if you feel that way.” People can say whatever they want about music I used to make or anything, but I obviously welcome it by having someone who can trash talk better than anyone else and do it on my own album.
More on talking trash: Tell me about these Vine battles you and Schoolboy Q have?
Vine battles are tight! Q is just really ugly, and he’s a nasty human being, so I just need to show the world what Schoolboy Q is. Nah, he’s just my homie!
Before we wrap this up, is there anything you want to add or tell the people of Dallas before your show?
People of Dallas: Come through! Come see the show! If they’ve seen the show before, this one is a whole different thing. It’s the next step. It’s a completely different show than my others have been. It’s more of an experience.
Mac Miller performs Wednesday, June 26, at The Palladium Ballroom.