Meet the New Mac Miller: Brilliant Singer & Unlikely Feminist
Cross-legged on a couch and smiling more than an Olympic gold medal winner isn’t exactly the first image that came to mind when I was preparing to talk to Mac Miller. Then again, the 24-year-old rapper doesn’t exactly fit the typical rapper mold. He’s straight outta Pittsburgh and just as ready to throw down some of the fiercest rhymes as he is to recall in full detail his favorite acid trip or his love for singing. He’s even keen to sit and chat about the complexities of the feminine energy, which just so happens to be the theme of his forthcoming album, The Divine Feminine, which will be released in September. It’s the fourth studio album from the artist who’s moved away from frat boy-tinted early hits like “On and On” and “Up All Night,” and closer to a more nuanced, emotional sound. His newest, “Dang!,” is a soft-spoken tale of heartache featuring Anderson .Paak and set in what looks like a scene out of Pushing Daisies.
It’s just the latest transformation for a musician who’s spent literally half his life making music. As mature as his sound may be, Miller was as hyped up as a little kid on too many Fun Dips as we made our way up to the Milk Studios roof on one of the more bearable NYC summer days. He threw on a Polo Ralph Lauren sweater (the one with the teddy bear on the front) and immediately made himself at home, treating the space like his own personal playground—though who’s to say it isn’t? Anyone would do well to take a page from Miller’s book; no matter how close he may come to his arch-rival Donald Trump, he refuses to take life too seriously. (Some context: In 2011, Miller released a track, “Donald Trump,” that launched a five-year feud and culminated in a scorching appearance on The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore in which Miller proclaimed, “I fucking hate you Donald Trump.”)
After the shoot, we took coverage in Milk’s amply air-conditioned quarters to chat misogyny in hip-hop; bowling on acid; and the next great superstar, Jesus Action Figure.
Why did you decide to title your latest album The Divine Feminine?
[It came from] the idea of the feminine energy that rules planet Earth—the nurturing energy. There was a time where that was sacred and was treated as such.
Women, to me, are just way iller. I really want girls to understand how much of their soul is amazing, you know what I mean?
That’s great. Because rap and hip-hop can obviously be very misogynistic and sexist.
Don’t get me wrong; “Slob on my Knob” is my fucking jam. [Laughs]
So you just released a song with Anderson .Paak, you’ve got a song with Kendrick Lamar, and you’ve collaborated with a ton of other artists. Who was your favorite person to collaborate with on The Divine Feminine?
There’s a song on there with Ariana [Grande] that’s really, really tight. I’m singing the whole time and the difference in both of us from when we were younger [in 2013] to now? We’ve both grown so much. [The song is] very vulnerable for me too because it’s me just singing, straight-up.
Was it intimidating to sing with her?
No, our voices sound really good [together]! She’s an incredible singer [because] her voice can do anything. My voice? I emote very well and it’s very raw and real. It’s like, “Oh shit you can sing.” I’m self-conscious about it but it’s my favorite thing to do.
You like singing better than rapping?
Yeah!… When I hit an awesome melody or hit a note or bring an emotion out of myself—it’s something I’ve been doing for a long time but [have kept] hidden.
When I was researching for this interview, I noticed your birthday is a few days after mine in January. What’s your wildest birthday memory?
It was my… 23rd?… in Australia. In Sydney? No, it wasn’t Sydney. I don’t know, bro. I was that gone. [Laughs] Acid and two fifths of Jameson. The way the tour was set up [at that time] was a show a week, so it was about experiencing the place you’re at and performing the biggest shows ever. We did acid cosmic bowling and fucking karaoke. Oh my god, I was in heaven. My homie who did acid with me, he bowled seven strikes in a row and then gave up the ball because it was too much pressure. [Laughs]
“There’s a YouTube video floating around (with like 600 views) [of] me pitched down that nobody knows about.”
You’ve made music under a lot of alter egos. Did you ever have any alter egos that just didn’t last?
Dude, I’ve been low-key starting a band with myself for years. Jesus Action Figure was a name back in the day when I was a kid.
There you go! You should just release music as Jesus Action Figure!
That’s what I want to do! I want people not to know [it’s me], but then my excited ass always wants to tweet it. Like, “Oh you guys should check out this mother fucker.” And people are like, “Dude, that’s you.”
[I’ve had] one successful run at that. There’s a YouTube video floating around (with like 600 views) [of] me pitched down that nobody knows about.
The video for “Dang!” has gotten a lot of attention recently for the awesome visuals. Were you involved in the art direction at all?
Well, I wanted it to be super colorful and wanted it to be its own world. Rex Arrow [who directed it] and I have done 32 videos together.
How did you two meet?
He was doing a film in Pittsburgh and we’re both from there. They needed someone to play a 15-year-old drug dealer and so I came through and had a big ass hoodie on that [had] “Money, Hoes, and Respect” [written on the front]. Teenage years, man.
Now, the moment everyone’s been waiting for: Donald Trump.
Bring it on.
Do you think he could actually be president?
You know what? For the longest time my answer was no. But yes, he could, and so motherfuckers need to do something. Pretending that it’s not going to happen is why he made it so far. Think simply.
When the leaders from every country are sitting [around a table] and it’s time for the United States’ leader to talk on our behalf, do you want this motherfucker to speak for you? Do you want people to look at Donald Trump and say, “That’s America?” The answer is full-heartedly, 100 percent no.
At this point, it’s Hillary. [She’s] better than Trump. It’s awesome to have a woman president. Keep progressing. Don’t step back into building a wall.
My friend described it in the best way possible. This is what our country is doing right now. It’s like when you go to take a picture and the selfie camera is accidentally up and you’re like, “Oh shit we look nasty.” But we could still be tight. That’s my campaign slogan: America. We Could Still Be Tight. [Laughs]
Images taken exclusively for Milk by Mitchell McLennan.
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