The break-out indie hip-hopper Mac Miller (aka Malcolm McCormick), from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is opening another chapter in an already astronomical career. McCormick’s third album, GO:OD AM, has surfaced on a major label – Warner picking up his REMember Music fold for a reported US$10 mill. But, beyond those entrepreneurial moves, McCormick has experienced personal struggles, making GO:OD AM his profoundest outing.
There is no sign of stress today as McCormick takes this call at the airport. The 23-year-old offers a friendly “Hey”. An alarm goes off somewhere, but he only laughs.
McCormick, raised Jewish, hails from a middle-class family in ‘Steel City’. He learnt multiple instruments, sang and, crucially, freestyled, circulating mixtapes. McCormick signed to the local Rostrum Records, home of Wiz Khalifa. He courted a grassroots following through the Internet – and gigging. In 2011 McCormick masterminded a YouTube phenomenon with the braggadocio Donald Trump, which the tycoon himself lauded, inevitably proclaiming the rapper “the next Eminem”.
Yet soon the pair were beefing, Trump demanding royalties. Nonetheless, the controversial Republican has co-opted Donald Trump for his Presidential nomination campaign. McCormick now distances himself from Trump, while conceding that, “he’s entertaining – a fun guy to watch.” “I by no means support him as the next President of the United States,” he says. “[But] I want him to scare the country so bad, that Donald Trump could be your President, that we look at ourselves like, We almost put the cat in.”
Again in 2011, McCormick’s notably guest-free Blue Slide Park entered the US charts at No. 1 – the first indie debut to do so since 1995. He consolidated his crossover status with the acclaimed Watching Movies With The Sound Off – less a frat b-boy party than a psychedelic cloud rap opus referencing his addiction to the codeine-based concoction ‘purple drank’. (McCormick performed Watching… live with Odd Future’s The Internet as his band.)
Meanwhile, the MC launched REMember Music. He also starred in an (alt) MTV reality show, displaying a lavish Los Angeles crib. In 2015 Mac’s success is attributable to his enviable work ethic. Between albums, he has aired endless mixtapes and side-projects (including a lounge EP as Larry Lovestein & The Velvet Revival – Very Handsome Boy Modeling School), produced (as Larry Fisherman), and cameoed (Ariana Grande’s smash The Way).
McCormick recently transplanted to Brooklyn, New York – Hip-Hop Central. “I actually haven’t really created since I’ve been in NY – I’ve just been living,” he reveals. “But I’m excited to see how the next record ends up.” McCormick has made other changes. He parted Rostrum for Warner, the deal affording him a larger marketing budget – they’re “trying to possibly bring in a radio element.” But, McCormick insists, “We still run things how we always run things.”
GO:OD AM’s headnoddin’ lead single, 100 Grandkids, produced by 50 Cent affiliate Sha Money XL, has a cute video: McCormick, ignoring that Hollywood maxim about not working with children or animals, raps alongside kids in animal costumes. “It was really entertaining – you get to think of a crazy idea and then you could see it come to life and it’s kinda awesome,” he chuckles. “It was great – it was a new experience. They were fantastic, though – hardworking, good kids.”
McCormick’s industriousness is all the more valiant as he’s battled anxiety, depression and drug abuse – lately crediting industry legend Rick Rubin for facilitating his sobriety. As such, the candid GO:OD AM thematises resilience. “I think it’s just important to give fans the truth – you know, your fans are the people that stand by you through everything and that allow you to have a professional career, so it’s important to tell the truth and be real with them and let them know that you’re human, too.”
Among GO:OD AM’s surprise guests is avant-soulster Miguel on Weekend. However, this time McCormick didn’t cut beats, instead relying on his old allies ID Labs – and the likes of Tyler, The Creator. “I just really couldn’t come up with anything, production-wise, that I wanted to be the sound of the album,” he explains.
McCormick is a de facto Odd Future member, newly sharing management. Tyler previously helmed his cult track OK – and they’ve clicked. Of course, Tyler’s 2015 Australian tour was cancelled in response to calls to block his visa by feminist activists Collective Shout, who, primarily targeting urban music acts, claim his music promotes violence against women – not unjustifiably. “I think it’s stupid!,” McCormick bursts out.
In fact, he’s perplexed over double standards. “I just kinda look at myself – I’m like someone who has rapped about drugs and rapped about all types of violence and different things and no one gives me any issues.” (Indeed, even Donald Trump is casually sexist.) But McCormick feels Tyler’s output is misrepresented. “You’ve got a kid who may have written some lyrics that are tacky in, what, 2010 – and to continue to police him for that, which is just a creative writing exercise at the end of the day, is kinda ridiculous when his content is becoming further and further away from that… You’re talking to a sober creative kid who goes to bed at 10pm. It’s just not anything to worry about.”
McCormick – who joined 2014’s Big Day Out with (the again contentious) Snoop Dogg – is plotting his own return. “There’s some talk about me going back to Australia at the end of the year, so hopefully that happens – ’cause Australia’s one of my favourite places in the world. I actually loved it so much last time I was there that I got a tattoo of a kangaroo on my leg to commemorate the time! I was really drunk – but it stays. I’m not gonna regret it!”
‘GO:OD AM’ is out now, grab a copy here. Check out Mac’s upcoming Aus tour dates below!
Gallery: Mac Miller – Big Day Out 2014, Melbourne / Pics by Anwar Rizk
Mac Miller GO:OD AM Tour
General public on sale: Thursday 22 October 10am local time
Sat 2 Jan
Forum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC (18+)
Tix: Ticketmaster or 136100
Mon 4 Jan
Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW (AA)
Tix: Ticketek or 132 849
Tue 5 Jan
The Tivoli, Brisbane, QLD (18+)
Tix: Ticketmaster or 136100