Kids Just Want To Look Cool: My Day With Mac Miller
Throughout my day with Mac Miller, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous—for better or worse, the movie that makes anyone want to become a music writer—comes up in conversation a lot, especially the last scene. In the scene, Russell Hammond, lead singer of Stillwater—a band that main character William Miller is commissioned to write a Rolling Stone cover story on—approaches Miller cautiously and alone, and says the famous line, "Just make us look cool, man." It's heartbreaking, because by this point the main character has seen so much of the band and who they are as individuals, and more importantly, who they aren't, and Hammond pleads with him to ignore the rest and just make them look cool. Mac jokes that most journalists (including past writers at XXL) often miss the mark when writing a story about him, picking quotes and placing them in convenient places to tell an incomplete story, but all he really wants is to look cool. It's not that he feels misunderstood in the artsy "You'll never understand me" way; he just feels uncomfortable about always being labeled as something. So, I ask him, if he had the chance to write his own feature story about himself, what would it be about? He thinks about this throughout the day.
It's a quarter to 5, and Mac Miller and I are idling in a holding area in the underbelly of New York's Beacon Theatre, waiting for his chauffeur to pull up and take us back to Mac's hotel in the Meatpacking District. He just finished getting onstage at an event called MTV Up Front, during which the stars of various MTV shows like Catfish, Teen Wolf and The Show With Vinny awkwardly present their shows to potential ad buyers. The whole thing feels like some old-world ritualistic event where aging farmers offer their fertile daughters to willing suitors.
Mac is here because his (actually hilarious) MTV2 show, Mac Miller And The Most Dope Family, has recently been renewed for a second season, which is exciting news, but Mac's exhausted. Earlier, Mac was backstage, anxiously pacing around a room filled with "talent" and MTV execs for close to an hour, memorizing his three or four lines. A member of Mac's management team, Artie Pitt—who's also the VP of Rostrum Records, the boutique label that first signed Mac—and friend Q (Quentin Chandler, co-head of Mac's Most Dope brand) tried in vain to calm him down, but he finally looked over at me and explained, "My brain is just in crisis mode right now." The reason being that he spent the past four days without sleep in a last-ditch effort to finalize his sophomore LP, Watching Movies With The Sound Off. The work paid off, and he's turned the album in to be mixed and mastered, but dude is on-edge.
When Artie tried to tell Mac his nerves were all in his head, Mac jokingly lashed out, "You can't tell me how I feel! Why are you telling me it's all in my head? Everything is in my head." The MTV starlets looked uneasy, huddled in a corner of the room, looking down so as to not be involved in the argument, even if it wasn't real. When Mac mentioned that he was making the girls uncomfortable because they don't know who he is, Artie looked over at them and dropped the incredible famous rapper line: "Do you know who he is?" In a mix of laughter and exhalation, the mood lightened, but Mac still feels really out of place at events like this, admitting, "The reason I don't like to do this stuff is because I don't really get what it's all about." But, he knows that as an independent rapper with a major TV show, there are certain things he has to do.
Back in Beacon Theatre's underbelly, we're still waiting for the chauffeur when we suddenly hear chants and screams as an oversized, blacked-out Mercedes van pulls up to the venue. When its doors open, the entire Upper West Side block we're standing on is engulfed in a cloud of weed smoke, giving everyone from security guards to the tween girls yelling for attention a contact high. It's Snoop Lion. As he exits the van, he glides—literally, he doesn't walk, he glides—through the handlers and moves toward Mac. The two shake hands and catch up, getting along like old friends, which is really strange to watch considering their 20-year age difference. They must be kindred spirits.
Snoop is apparently a surprise guest at Up Front and mentions to Mac that he'd love to be on Most Dope Family's second season, which starts shooting in L.A. in August. Snoop then asks Mac what he's up to tonight, to which Mac ashamedly responds, "I think I might just rest. And I'm never that dude, but…" You can tell he's tired, but you can also tell by the way he lets his voice trail off that he might get into some fun tonight. Snoop persists and tells him that he's headed to The Box—an exclusive burlesque/performance art space in the Lower East Side—later, around 2 in the morning. While Mac's never been, Snoop tells him it's one of his favorite attractions in New York City and that he's been six or seven times. He explains, "There's some nice pieces in there, but there's some weird shit in there, too. It's more weird than anything, but we the type of motherfuckers that like that shit. The homies may trip, but you definitely gotta go look at it." Mac, still unsure, asks, "Is the shit that goes down in there…illegal?" Snoop knowingly laughs, then says, "You can do anything. It's like a porno movie… there's transvestites, hermaphrodites, everything. You just gotta have an open mind." As he starts to walk away, Snoop mentions, "I got that shit, too. That California shit" and winks at us. If Mac was considering heading to The Box before Snoop said that, this definitely wins him over.
And just like that, Snoop glides away and heads back to his van, but not before dapping and taking pictures with the screaming fans waiting to get a glimpse of Mac. When we finally exit, Mac runs by the fans with a barrage of high-fives, like a basketball player running onto his home court as he's introduced, but leaves most of them gasping and yelling for more. As we get into the SUV and drive off, we hear screams like "We love you and you won't even take a picture?!", "Really, Mac?", and "Are you fucking serious?" There are a lot of boos, too. Mac is kind of upset with Snoop for showing him up—"Why'd he have to do that? He fucked it up for everybody!" but Q tries to justify Snoop's friendliness, arguing, "That's why you can't tease 'em! A nigga like Snoop, who's done this shit for years, he knows all you gotta do is hop in the picture real quick and breeze through that shit." Mac's learning, but he's still bitter. "If Snoop wouldn't have done that, to keep it real, I would've been on top." He might be right, but I'm pretty sure it's a hard fact—similar to facts like the Earth is round and JFK was assassinated—that you can't compete with Snoop when it comes to charming fans, even if they're your fans to begin with.
As we patiently sit in traffic and slowly make our way downtown, Hot 97's DJ Enuff tweets about Mac's trippy new video for "SDS," starting his tweet with, "Jewish indie superstar Mac Miller…" Mac carefully tries to piece together a joke about the tweet and eventually wonders, "Like, what if every time they tweeted something they called out someone's race or ethnicity, like, 'Black football player…'" Everyone laughs. "It's so funny, that was the whole thing, like 'The Jewish kid is good at business. What a surprise.'" As he thinks back on the ways that fans have tried to come at him in the past—including a rabid follower who yelled "I'm Jewish, too!"—Mac becomes incredulous with the fact that people, mostly kids (why weren't they in school?), stood outside for so long to spot a celebrity. "Why? Like, who's there that's really that interesting?" Artie quickly responds, "You," but it takes Mac a second to remember that he's a mainstream celebrity now. Looking at him—a 21-year-old red/brown-haired kid with a tiny bit of a beer belly and full sleeve tattoos on both arms (as well as the knuckle tats that read "MOST DOPE" in old English)—it can be easy to forget.