A regular kid swimming in the sea of hip hop, Pittsburgh’s MAC MILLER has found something he cares about. The playground rhymes aren’t revolutionary, but they’re original. The indie path isn’t unique, but it’s helping him grow. A day after his first gig north of the border, the recent high school graduate discussed his various influences and why his youth overshadows your typical stereotypes.
Can rapping be considered a hobby?
Yeah. Rapping was a hobby to me in the beginning and it’s a great hobby for a lot of people to have, as it deals with music. But when you take it from hobby to profession you’re taking it to a whole different level as it changes your day-to-day schedule. There are a lot of rappers who just do it for fun and that’s great to see.
When did it become a profession for you?
It gradually grew more and more time consuming but I was 15 when I decided I wanted to make it a profession. As the years went by, I became more dedicated. Like now, I do a lot more work than I did when I was just starting out.
You’re 18 and you performed a set here in Toronto last night. Did you ever think you would be living this type of life?
I always dreamed about it and always believed that I could do it. When I was 15, I had no doubt I would do it and the fact that I believed in myself helped. But it’s crazy man. It’s still crazy to come over to another country and see that I have a huge group of supporting fans. Just seeing that kind of response is a dream come true in itself.
As an individual, has your personality changed since you first started out?
Nah. I work a lot more. Some people may think my personality has changed but it hasn’t. The people that I keep around me are the people that have always been around me and they’re like family. So they all know I’m the same dude but just really dedicated.
What does your family think about the hip hop career?
They’re supportive, 100 per cent. They enjoy the music I make and that’s great because they’re not just saying that to be supportive. They genuinely like the music. It’s really important to have family support because they’ll always be there when you need them.
Looking at your music, your flow resembles the work of artists from the 90s’ rather than today. Which musicians influence you the most?
Big L for sure. I’m a huge Big L fan. Also a huge A Tribe Called Quest fan. I actually have the words “Beats, Rhymes And Life” tattooed on me as it’s probably my favourite album of theirs. Big Lauryn Hill fan and Outkast too. I love Outkast man. I love everything they’ve produced as it’s just amazing.
Sampling Nas is a bold move.
Oh yeah (laughs). Like Nas, there are people you like that you never talk about. Like Illmatic? The first time I heard Illmatic it changed my life and it probably did that to everyone else in the world.
Did freestyling just come natural to you or did you spend a lot of time on it?
I’ve been a musician for a while now so I’ve always been able to come up with something creative on the spot. Like when I was younger, I use to freestyle a lot and I guess it came naturally. It has to come naturally as there’s no “freestyle class” where you can study it.
You’ve dropped a few mixtapes and now you’re doing a bit of touring. Is catching the attention of a major label a priority right now?
It’s not a priority. I’m not turning my head to it or shutting it down, but it’s not a priority right now as I’m focusing on my growth as an artist and building my career from the grass roots. It may change later, but that’s what I’m focused on right now.
Do you think it will be difficult to pursue considering others will say you’re “just another white rapper”?
I don’t really think people will label me like that. Maybe at first but for me it’s just about the music. There’s bound to be a group of listeners that might do that and that’s fine, but I think the support I’ve had from a lot of professionals will show my music first. I’m just going to do what I do without giving it the slightest bit of attention.
You do have youth in your corner though.
Being young and having mixtapes out is great because it gives you a group of fans that will see you grow from an 18-year-old into a 23-year-old. My youth is one of the unique things about me. The fact that I’m young gives you the opportunity to grow with my projects.