by Steven J. Horowitz // Photography by Josh DeHonney
Mac Miller may only be a few years deep in the game, but he’s got enough stripes to cover both sleeves. Since his breakout mixtape, K.I.D.S., impacted last year, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native has climbed to the top of the new jack pyramid, relentlessly touring the world without showing any sign of wear.
But for his debut, Blue Slide Park, the 19-year-old rapper (née Malcolm McCormick) wasn’t interested in coasting. Despite several mixtape releases of album-quality material, Mac decided to treat the LP as if nothing had preceded it, architecting the album in his native ‘Burgh and working with producers who have been down since day one.
“I think [recording in Pittsburgh] kind of influenced the whole concept of the album,” says Mac, who named the record after a childhood hangout. “I think it’s just a little bit more of a product of my creation. It’s something that’s more completely me. It’s a step more into music that really embodies me and is something original.”
His reliance on hometown producers such as I.D. Labs, Clams Casino and Ritz Reynolds helps, but it’s the deficit of guest stars that narrows the focus. Instead of enlisting veteran and marquee artists who have given him a co-sign (De La Soul, DJ Jazzy Jeff), the laidback rapper opted out of packing his album with features, instead relaying the message to famous friends that he’ll get them on the next one.
“I just wanted to put that type of message out on my first album. I spoke with all my homies, like Just Blaze and everyone, and I told them that the next album, we would go in,” he explains. “But for this one, I think we had to keep it all in-house and put money in people’s pockets – not just my own. I wanted to make sure that the people who put in hours when I wasn’t making any money got to be a part of the project.”
For Mac, his integrity hasn’t waivered – a trait that’s helped grow his fan base. Mac, who’s been slinging rhymes since single digits, became the second independent artist to debut atop the Billboard 200, selling almost 150,00 copies of Blue Slide Park in its first week. The milestone is a welcome triumph for the rapper formerly known as “Easy Mac,” but he’s more concerned with whether his fans can rock to it.
“I wanted people to come get my album because it’s my album,” he says, “and to just kind of find my fan base and make sure that everyone coming to the album was coming for the right reasons.”
Recently rewarding listeners with the giveaway, I Love Life, Thank You, Mac next plans on delivering his old school-inspired, almost entirely original mixtape, 92 Til Infinity, mixed by Jazzy Jeff. He’s got his sophomore album on the mind, but with the success of Blue Slide Park, he’d prefer to live in the moment.
“I’m thinking about [a sophomore album], but not too heavily. I kind of want to do this and put this out and get through the next phase in my life. And when that happens, then I’ll think about that,” he says, reflecting on his achievements. “It definitely feels like this is what I’ve worked up to for my whole life.”