Where you been, Mac Miller?
Wandering around the SoHo district in New York City, his new home base, Mac Miller is out on a hunt for new jeans before he spends the rest of 2015 secluded from the rest of the world on a bus. He’s spent the better part of the past few months hitting press circuits, filming videos and releasing new music — a grand gesture fans of the one-time independent rapper have been patiently waiting on since the release of his last studio album Watching Movies With The Sound Off in 2013.
His new album, GO:OD AM, is Miller’s first drop on Warner Bros. Records since signing to the major for a reported $10 million. The move sparked ire from diehards, claiming he was selling out against his independent roots that made him who he was to begin with. But in the face of business, Mac has said there was no other way to produce the type of brand he wanted without the financial help. If he’s this good without it, he once told an interviewer, what would he do now that he has the stability and leverage a label provides?
“Some might call this game time,“ Mac says of the recent promotional run for GO:OD AM. It’s been all radio interviews and nighttime appearances, Twitter blasting and shameless self-championing in the face of the recently dropped collection of work and its corresponding tour. It’s a new game for him, on levels he’s yet to see with past releases.
But against the initial direction of the album as just another album, media has thrown it into a framework of being a type of comeback LP for Miller. He’s admitted through the album’s press run that he was fucked up on drugs in the past, and needed time to find himself outside of that chemically driven chaos. To do so, he phoned Def Jam founder Rick Rubin for help and stayed with the hip-hop pioneering icon for a few weeks clearing the mental fog.
So it is a comeback of sorts, but to Miller, “it’s just my next album.” It’s what he’s been doing since the age of fourteen. Ignoring all other school activities in his earlier years to focus on the music he loves, he would eventually dropped joints with friends in Rostrum Records — a label that brought the industry spotlight his good friend Wiz Khalifa, among others.
Aside from the mental break, the album took as much time as it did because Miller says he wanted it to be a good release. Period. He’s an artist, first and foremost, and wants to avoid being a single-pusher with no other substance than a few banger club tracks. Mac has even tweeted that he went through nine other albums worth of work before finally coming to the final 17 tracks.
“That’s just the type of artist I want to be,” Mac says. “I want to drop projects. It’s hard to tell a full story with one song. I’m more interested in putting out a complete thought. If singles happen organically, then they do. In this day and age the word ‘single’ is … it’s hard to put your finger on what it means anyways.”
Miller adds by saying it isn’t fun to just go after radio singles all the time. He doesn’t want to be known for just one or two songs, either, because his shows will suffer in energy while everyone waits for that one song they love to bump through the overheads.
“I know that all the artists I like drop full projects and albums, and that’s their focus,” he says. “It just makes the process more fun. When you’re touring, if you have fans waiting on one song to drop the whole time, that’s not as fun as people waiting to hear multiple songs off an album.”
And they probably wouldn’t even show up until the last ten minutes of a set anyways.
“And who wants that?” asks Miller. “Who wants people waiting around until you drop that one song? And then on top of that, people are usually sick of hearing it after hearing it on the radio all the time. If I get a radio smash, then hell yeah, but it has to happen organically.”
The campaign around GO:OD AM went outside of normal promotional tools most often used by others in the game. Along with the standard sales packages, Mac and his team offered up fans an alarm clock app and the ability to buy a physical copy of the release with a special edition cereal — complete with Mac’s yawning face on the box.
Has a cleaned up act and more responsibility to label execs made Mac Miller a morning person?
“[laughs] I used to pretty much be nocturnal,” he admits. “So part of life for me now is waking up in the morning. As crazy as this sounds, if you knew me growing up or know me at all, I was definitely never a morning person.”
There are things to do, life to be lived.
“It feels good to get up,” he says, “you gotta accomplish something.”
The newfound attitude of maturity is far from just an AM routine in Mac’s professional lifestyle. It’s an overarching goal in his music, too. The proficient emcee has grown from a high-energy party mentality with tracks easily lost in generational gaps along the way, to more of an introspective observer — focusing on heavier material some eventually face in this thing called life.
It still has references to how filthy rich he is (“You gon’ need at least five hands to hold my finance”) on “Break The Law,” or what cars he should drive (“Too many whips, gotta get a new garage made”) on “Perfect Circle / God Speed” — yet in contrast he battles internal demons in “Weekend feat. Miguel” and opens up about a promise he made to his mother on “100 Grandkids” (a promise he says he’s too busy to come through with, for now).
His mother still waits because of Mac’s stacked schedule, one that’s completely locked down for the rest of 2015 on the road supporting the new album. He hasn’t taken a tour of this caliber since 2013’s “The Space Migration Tour,” so the feelings about taking off again, he explains, are all about excitement.
“You get as much living in as possible,” before leaving for tour, “then you just get excited,” Mac says. “I’m excited to get back on the road. We’ll see how I’m feeling three months in, though, but so far it’s all excitement.”
This is a consume-and-toss world, however, and after the initial run of touring is over, fans will likely be looking toward the next move from the once-underground emcee. As a producer and writer, new stuff is always at the forefront of his mind, but he says he hasn’t even begun thinking about a new album yet — not while this one is so fresh on the release anyways.
“I haven’t started writing,” he says. “I want to take my time and wait to see when I start. My plans are just to see how I feel in New York and let that inspire my next record. I’m excited to get there, I’ve done my last two albums in LA, so I’m excited for a new place.”
There’s plenty of time to get things done on the bus, but Mac says that isn’t exactly the best place to find inspiration, since the seclusion of touring works against him.
“It’s hard to write on the road,” he admits. “I like doing more producing on the road. Just because it’s a productive way to kill time and also just keep mastering your craft. Writing gets difficult sometimes because you’re living in this bubble.”
He and his team come to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre on October 31 — a special Halloween edition of his “GO:OD AM Tour” with co-headliner Action Bronson and supporting acts Flatbush Zombies, Tory Lanez, GoldLink and Domo. He readily admits it’s his favorite venue, and being able to sell it out would be a dream come true — as it usually is for performers.
It’s hard to imagine an artist only 23 years of age having to face the realities of coming back into a career briefly left behind for the opportunity to get high, then again, few 23-year-olds grapple with a huge contract, millions of albums sold, countless fans demanding more and a schedule so tight there’s barely enough room to breathe. It’s no wonder he felt he needed to escape for a while.
At least he still has time to buy his own jeans. Taking that from a man would be a tragedy.