Mac Miller is diving into one of the most important parts of his career, but you wouldn't know it just by talking to him. The 22-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh wrapped up a massive 2013—during which he dropped his sophomore album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, toured Europe alongside Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, released his first-ever live album, Live From Space and dropped his Delusional Thomas mixtape under his Larry Fisherman alias—by leaving his longtime record label Rostrum Records following the end of his initial contract. The label, his home since he first gained a national buzz with his K.I.D.S. mixtape in 2010, parted with Miller amicably, and he set out on his own, more independent than he'd ever been.

Many expected Miller to sign with a major, but he went the opposite way instead, pouring his time and effort into his own label, REMember Music, and the heaps of new music he's churning out from the studio in his Los Angeles house. On Mother's Day last Sunday (May 11), Miller dropped Faces, a new mixtape which he describes as more of an album than anything else. The 24-track tape is certainly cohesive despite its sprawling mass, and includes friends like Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt as well as Mike Jones, Rick Ross and Sir Michael Rocks. After the release of his tape, Miller spoke with XXL about the enormous amount of music he has in his vault, the idea to ask fans to make a digital sandwich in order to download Faces, and where he goes from here. —Dan Rys

Mac Miller

XXL: The last time we spoke, you had just gotten your dog Ralph. How's it going being a dog owner?
Mac Miller: Wow. It's great. And when you said that, I really remember—straight flash vision—me walking up the hill, talking to you on the phone. Usually I don't; usually I'm like, Fuck man, I'm sorry, I'm a piece of shit. But I do remember that one. It's been great, man. Dogs teach you a lot, man. He's just a really awesome dude, and now that we have a space—because I've moved out to my house, so there's some grass to run on—it gives you perspective at the end of the day, just like, man, dogs need to be dogs, bro. There's nothing I could do—I had to keep him in the crib [before moving to the house], I would take him on walks and there wasn't even grass. It was really depressing. But now there's grass, and he's doing great.

You mentioned Vince Staples, and Vince is on the new tape, too. Have you guys been working together a bunch?
Vince is my brother, dude. Me and [Ab] Soul were just talking about this last night—we're all homies out here, we're actually just friends, because we enjoy the same things a lot, so it's not really that we're sitting here working all the time. Vince is being a real rapper right now. He's out here touring, shot a video, he's with No I.D. and shit, that's fucking beautiful. And I haven't seen a lot of people in a while, I've been sort of [sings] "creating."

mac miller ralph

I wanted to ask you about the concept of making the sandwich in order to be able to download Faces.
I love sandwiches. I don't know. And to be real, I'm actually trying to put my finger on it, because I was asking whose idea it was, and Que [Mac's manager] was telling me that I thought of the idea, and I don't remember, and I don't know. At some point we were trying to create a cohesiveness with the food truck and Old Jewish and everything, and I have no idea. But people seemed to really like the sandwich thing, which was awesome. It's so funny, 'cause you put out a project and it's like, "Hell yeah!" And everyone's like, "Hell yeah, we're making a sandwich!"

Were you able to see the sandwiches that people made?
I tried to look a little bit. I definitely go on the Internet when I drop something, just to gauge the initial reaction from the fans a little bit, but I'm actually very bored of the Internet. I wanna get music out—and maybe I just make too much music—but I don't really look at web sites. There's times to look at Twitter and it's entertaining and shit happens, but I don't know. It kind of starts to piss me off that there's actually this society that is run off this app on your phone that has this little picture next to you and you can be anyone you want to be. Which is cool! That's very awesome, but there's other ways to use your imagination. But I'm not a hater, bro. Twitter all the way! Twitter all the way!

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mac miller faces cover

Mac Miller, Faces

With all this music, are you thinking about more tapes? Or are you working towards an album?
There's a lot of separate worlds and projects that are happening. And that's another thing. By the way, I'm from the mixtape era, and I call them mixtapes, and that's what they're called, but these aren't mixtapes. A mixtape was when a DJ came through, you fuckin' tried to get him your verse, he picked the verses he wanted, then he handed out hard copies on the street. That's a mixtape. I think we all say these are mixtapes—Wayne did mixtapes—but these are fuckin' albums, bro. I produced—all that shit is original music. And I'm not even being bitter about it, I wanted to call it a mixtape, not an album.

But I'm always working on shit. If people actually knew what happened here, it's amazing. Everybody around me loves every kind of music, and that's everybody. The types of songs that are on my computer, it's anything. And that's what it fuckin' should be, bro.

Has that helped you out from the production side, just having all different types of music around you?
Yeah. I think it's just practice makes perfect, and just being able to sit here and jam with Thundercat every day has made me a better musician. And at the end of the day, that's some of the frustration, too. They tell you in this business to always do the same shit. I remember when I had one of my very early meetings, [and they said] "Never go outside your means." Like, who the fuck are you? How are you gonna tell a grown-ass man who loves music what to fuckin'...? It's possible there's a revolution going on, is what I'm saying. 'Cause if this shit works, and I can just sit here and pump out whatever the fuck I wanna make and people trust that, I hope that everybody does that. And everyone is doing that. Everyone's just making music to make music.

Mac Miller

It is kind of crazy in an industry that relies on creative people to then try to channel that creativity into only one lane.
It's this whole business of art, right? I believed when I was younger that if I wasn't always doing something—I had to make sure that I tweeted, I had to make sure I was dropping videos. I was blessed to be able to get to the point that I'm at. The most important thing is that you be happy with what you're creating, because then if a motherfucker says something to you then you really don't feel any type of way. The only time that an opinion on your art pisses you off is when you already don't like it yourself, and they say that and it just proves to you that you were right and didn't like the song. Just do what you love to do.

But it's tough, dude, because I'm fuckin' sitting here and there's so many wild types of music here and I would hate if the world was built in such a way that I couldn't put it out because it would confuse people. Like, what? I'm just a dude, how you gonna tell me what to put out? But oh, here's the good part—there's nobody to tell me shit. I run my whole thing. So I can do that, and I think that's important.

I did want to ask you about that—since leaving Rostrum, are you handling everything yourself, or do you have another label situation in the works?
I'm pretty honest, bro—I've taken meetings. But I have my own operation. My label's REMember. And it's really because, I'm not being arrogant and believing I can take on these major labels, because at the end of the day they're there for a reason, they can do something for a reason. However, I actually have an amazing situation right now. Because I was able to step back, and I have everything right here. It's people that grew up in Pittsburgh and everyone has a different skill set, and we're actually gonna be the people that—I'm sure a lot of people say this, but—we're not doing this to be a big business record label. We really want to be a label that lets artists just do whatever the fuck they want. We wanna help artists find themselves. I could sit here and make all my artists' records. But I'd rather people be fans of my artists rather than be fans of me, and then fans of my artists.


Photo Credit: Misha Vladimirsky/Filterless