Editor’s Note: The following interview was published on June 17, 2013, just 24 hours before the release of Miller’s stellar sophomore album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off. The rapper-songwriter was on top of the world with hit singles like “Donald Trump” and “S.D.E.” In between the success of his debut album Blue Slide Park, the rapper’s battle with depression and substance abuse became public. Centered and refocused, the then 21-year-old spoke with VIBE’s former Senior Music Editor Mikey Fresh about his path.
Mac Miller is 21-years-old, rich and currently calls the Hollywood Hills home. His debut album Blue Slide Park, which was released in 2011, became the first independent album to debut at the top of the Billboard charts since Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. On top of that, his first reality show, Mac Miller and The Most Dope Family, became the highest rated original debut series on MTV2 and is coming back for a second season.
“I want to take it to the next level,” Mac tells VIBE about reality TV. “I want to get it weirder, and now that we had the number one show, I think we have some pull. I think MTV trusts me now. I actually first told them I wanted to do a countdown show that plays music videos. Imagine what I would have played.”
In reality, though, it’s just about the music for the PA native. On the last Friday afternoon, before his album officially hits iTunes and retailers, Mac is holed up in a suite at the Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan. He’s finishing up a long week of press before the release, and asks if we can conduct the interview while he gets a fresh cut to save time.
This project is Mac’s most experimental yet. He shied away from the radio-friendly tracks and party jams that littered his debut. Even the title, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, initially left fans scratching their heads. Did Mac lose his mind? Is he on drugs? Maybe. But his goal is to expand his musical palette with this project. The formula for another trip to number one was right there in front of him, but the kid wasn’t trying to hear that either. Forget everything you thought you knew about Mac Miller.
When you played the album at your New York listening session, you had the “Turtle” movie playing along with it (Watch it here). We honestly didn’t know what to think at first. How the hell did you find that movie?
The turtle taught me so much [Laughs]. Well, Clockwork (Mac’s DJ) did shrooms… and told me about this movie. At first, I just kind of brushed it off. At the time I was searching for the perfect movie to play with the sound off with the album. The day before the listening session in New York I was still looking for the perfect one. Originally, I was just going to chop up a bunch of different movie parts. But me and my boy Jimmy finally decided to watch it and it just synced up perfectly.
Weren’t the scenes cut or edited?
Nope, it was scary how perfect it synced up. How crazy is it that the scenes from the movie switch when the songs switch? When Loaded Lux was dissing me, the waves were crashing. And then I started rapping after that the sunlight was coming up. When Jay Electronica was rapping there was chaos everywhere. It was crazy as hell. The movie is called Turtle: The Incredible Journey. I just clicked on a random part and started watching it, and it worked perfectly. It was kind of creepy. Jimmy almost cried like four times.
During the listening, you also said that Tyler, the Creator told you that the album was too dark. Sonically, it’s pretty much a complete 360 from Blue Slide Park.
It’s just that the whole album was made in this closed off environment with the doors shut. No natural light. All the lights in the studio were red. It looked like an opium den. I had a certain way of life during the beginning, but at a certain point I finally opened the door and let natural light in, and I started working in the day. And the album needed those speckles of light. The album process was grueling but I wanted it to be like that. I wanted to go insane over it.
I remember hearing you say that you barely left your new house in L.A. during the recording process. Did you purposely lock yourself away from everyone for this album?
Pretty much. I just hung out with whoever would come through to the studio. That’s all I did. If you wanted to see me in the last 9 months, you came to the studio and I was probably a little zombified. You probably wouldn’t get a lot of eye contact, and you would be like ‘what the fuck is going on?’ But I had it together [Laughs].
You threw people a curveball when you dropped those jazzy Larry Lovestein records and random instrumentals. I think you had certain fans thinking ‘Is he depressed, heartbroken? What’s going on?’
I think I just stopped caring about how things were perceived. I just did what I wanted and didn’t care if people didn’t understand. This is what I want to make right now.
Was there anything going on in your life? J. Cole was just saying how he was depressed at certain points during the last year and wrote himself out of it with his Born Sinner album.
I definitely had my bad days, but everyone goes through depressed days. It’s common. My thing is to not run from it. When you feel sad it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Everyone has those days when you doubt yourself, and when you feel like everything you do sucks, but then there are those days when you feel like Superman. It’s just the balance of the world. I just write to feel better.
I wanted to ask you about your battle with Promethazine (lean). I think a lot of your younger fans probably don’t understand how powerful opiate addiction is.
It’s rough. I went through depression and all that, but I was straight. I mean you can ask the people on my team, and they’ll tell you it was serious… but you’re talking to the person that was doing the drugs, so of course, I’ll be like ‘it wasn’t that serious.’ I know that I have an addictive personality, and it’s not always a substance. I’m addicted to something at all times. Like it’s always music but maybe sometimes it’s a pair of pants or something else. That’s just how my personality works.
When I kicked Lean, I was always thirsty. Not like for pussy, but I just wanted something to drink all the times that would make me feel good. So for a while, I just started drinking heavy liquor but I wasn’t going to become an alcoholic. It was just for the transition. It’s different for everyone, but I didn’t have this fuckin’ crazy battle to get off it. I just didn’t feel like sippin’ anymore.
How do you think it affected your music?
My music was getting to the point where you couldn’t even understand what I was saying on records anymore. I was just like mumbling. I loved it but then I was like ‘Oh, having energy is cool.’ I remember my homies would come up to me after I got off and they’d be like ‘I know you don’t want to hear this, but you can perform again.’ So it affects you… but I don’t really know how serious it was. The people around me probably do.