Sitting shotgun in a white Dodge Grand Caravan as it cruises down Baltimore Avenue in College Park, Maryland, the 19-year-old Pittsburgh MC obsesses over the flawed execution of the concert he just performed at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union. “I don’t think people really think I think that much about my shit,” he says of the faults he found with the first show of his 70-city Blue Slide Park Tour. “I always be just hard on myself.”
You wouldn’t think he’d need to be concerned. An hour earlier, Mac seemed to have a thousand University of Maryland students in the palm of his hand. Sporting a Daily Bread snapback hat, a red T-shirt that read “All Terp Everything” and jeans cinched right below his backside, he jumped up and down, spun around in circles and dashed back and forth across the stage as he delivered YouTube favorites like “Senior Skip Day” and “Nikes on My Feet,” with the concertgoers rhyming along to every word.
After the show, too, there was plenty of evidence of his success—if only in the throng of wannabe Mrs. Millers waiting outside his dressing room backstage. “There was definitely some bitties out there looking to…na’ I’m saying,” he admits. Most teenagers would jump at the chance to get some groupie love, but Mac shrugs his shoulders. He has more pressing matters on the brain. Seconds after getting offstage, he gathered his crew and went around the circle, searching for feedback on the night’s performance. Unsatisfied with the lack of criticism, he ran down a list of things that needed improvement. To hear him tell it, and he did so urgently, his entrance wasn’t up to par, and he didn’t get the crowd as amped up as he would have wanted. And with tickets selling out in 30 seconds, according to a UMD show coordinator, he thinks the venue still could have held another 2,000 people.
“I want everything to be perfect,” Mac stresses. “I have a vision for it, and I want it to be what it is in my head, and it’s just frustrating when you’re trying to get it there. I really want to make it like a theatrical performance. I want people to really come and, at parts where it’s supposed to go crazy, go crazy.”
The rant finally stops when the Caravan arrives in the parking lot of a Comfort Inn—Mac’s tour bus is parked there—where he will decompress for a few hours, before heading to New York City, to perform his next show, at Irving Plaza. Then, 68 more dates through the end of December.
Rest is definitely something Mac can use. It’s been a meteoric year for him, one that has taken him from his local public high school’s graduation to the verge of international stardom. He just got back from a two-and-a-half-week stint overseas in September, which included shows in Paris, Amsterdam and London. “It’s just a journey,” Mac says, a hint of accomplishment in his tone. “We started out last year driving eight hours to Indiana in a Volvo station wagon packed up with all dudes in there, just to perform for some people who didn’t know who I was. And to see that grow to, I have two buses. And I’m independent… Went in my pocket, pulled out 200 stacks and got two buses.” Mac reportedly pulls in between $20,000 and $25,000 per show. Not bad for a kid who still lives at his parents’ house.
Mac Miller was born Malcolm McCormic in Pittsburgh on January 19, 1992. His mother is a photographer, and his father, an architect. Raised Jewish, he was bar mitzvahed at Rodeph Shalom, attended Taylor Allderdice High School and led a pretty normal suburban American childhood—though he took to the partying lifestyle that he raps about early, inhaling his first puffs of weed and losing his virginity in the fifth grade. “I was getting it at a young age, bro,” he says with a mischievous smile. “I was getting my dick touched, feeling boobies. I was doing all types of crazy shit.”
In high school, Mac and his boys made a clubhouse out of an attic in a friend’s house. They spent hours upon hours there, smoking, listening to the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Big L and OutKast, watching How High over and over again and playing Super Smash Bros.—and freestyling. It was in this attic that Mac recorded his first rap songs.
Mac was just 15 when he released his first mixtape, Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, in 2007. After it and his next tape built up a buzz, Rostrum Records—home to fellow Taylor Allderdice alumnus Wiz Khalifa—took notice and signed Mac to a deal in June 2010, a month after he graduated.—Carl Chery (@cchery)
**FOR MORE OF THIS STORY, PICK UP THE Dec./Jan. 2012 ISSUE OF XXL, ON STANDS NOW**