The hottest rapper on the block talks about collaborating with his heroes on rhymes and with legendary tattoo artists on designs.
Not many artists can say they’ve had a number one album, let alone a number one debut album, without the support of a major label. But Mac Miller can. Last year, Miller, who looks more like the pot smoker next door than a chart-topping MC, destroyed all the competition with Blue Side Park. While the world awaits a follow-up—due in the first quarter of 2013—Miller is also working on Pink Slime, a collaborative EP with the Neptunes super-producer Pharrell Williams, and planning to get more tattoos on his compact frame. Since his first big splash, with mix tape K.I.D.S., the Steel City boy has been promoting what has now become known as the “Most Dope” movement—everybody living their lives to the fullest—and recently had artist Norman “Norm” Stien permanently stamp “Most Dope” across his knuckles.
INKED: Did you expect your career to take off as fast as it has?
MAC MILLER: Yes and no. I mean, this is what I planned for; this is what I worked for. It’s not incredibly surprising—but at the same time, when you step back and look at it, it’s still a blessing and it’s still incredible. But, you know, this is what I worked for, so you have to realize that this is where I wanted to be.
What do your parents have to say about your career?
They love it. My dad watches MTV Jams all day. I’ll come back home and [he’ll say], “Malcolm, did you watch the new Jeezy video?
What do you think of that?”
I’ll be like, “I don’t know, Dad, Jeezy’s hard.” He’ll say, “I know I like Jeezy.” My dad is the biggest Kendrick Lamar fan. My dad also tells me that I’m not as good as anybody else. I love A Tribe Called Quest and my dad was like, “I finally listened to A Tribe Called Quest—hopefully one day you’ll be almost as good as them.” My mom is a mom—she’ll say, “Lil Wayne is great, but you’re better.”
Who influences you?
Murphy Lee, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, A Tribe Called Quest, Outkast, Big L, Nas, Biggie, Pac, Mobb Deep, The Infamous ... I can go on. People always dig into the past for their influences, but I’m influenced by shit that goes on right now too. I listen to music that comes out now that’s dope and I want to do exactly what they’re doing. That’s really how you elevate yourself, not just conforming but working off of whatever other people are doing.
What’s the music scene like in Pittsburgh?
It’s everything, man. What people don’t know about the Pittsburgh music scene is Pittsburgh was actually one of the biggest hubs of jazz music; every legendary jazz musician has played clubs in Pittsburgh. The scene’s cool, it’s very easy to get into, it’s nothing too serious. But now with the success of some people recently it’s motivating people to get on their grind.
Was it hard to get yourself out there?
Once I did that porno, once my sex tape came out, it was a lot easier. [Laughs.] People were more willing to let go after they saw my penis.