Mac Miller Talks Sea Turtles, His New Album And Rapping About Movies
At some point while putting the finishing touches on his sophomore album, Watching Movies With the Sound Off, Mac Miller had himself a bit of a Dark Side Of The Moon/Wizard Of Oz moment while watching a documentary on Netflix about sea turtles. "Me and [my friend] were chillin', and I clicked to this random part of the movie and just started [the album]," he says. He's sitting at a table at Rostrum Records' ornate house-turned-office in lower Manhattan, which boasts two floors, a pool table and a gigantic brass bull head on the wall. "How on point it was was crazy. Like, I would say 'open your eyes,' and the turtle would open its eyes. I would say 'world,' and it would go to a shot of the world. When Action Bronson came on, whales were going. When Jay Electronica started rapping, it was chaos everywhere, every fish was just all over the place. When Ab-Soul started rapping, the moon came out. It was representative of every single person on that album, and the turtle was so representative of me. When 'REMember' came on, all the fish started getting eaten. Then 'Aquarium' comes on and they fuckin' catch the turtle, the fisherman has the turtle, and then he lets the turtle go and 'Euphoria' comes on, and it's like this little safe haven with the turtle swimming next to a shark. It was crazy."
The revelation was such that Mac played the movie—silently, of course—in Manhattan's IFC Center Wednesday night (June 12) at his album's official listening party ahead of the project's release on June 18, a day which just happens to double as the single biggest hip-hop release date of the summer so far. But it turns out that the album's title and Mac's propensity for having muted movies playing on a television in his studio aren't out of character for the now-21-year-old from Pittsburgh—Mac Miller is very serious when it comes to films. "I get real into movies—like, I cry at sad movies, I smile when cheesy parts happens, I'm really into characters," he says, alternately standing up and sitting down as the stories he tells require. "I always get pissed about movies, that they're not real. I always want them to be real."
Mac's love for the medium goes back to his childhood, where he says he used to act out additional scenes of his favorite films when he felt like they would end too soon. He named his breakout 2010 mixtape K.I.D.S.—which ostensibly stood for "Kickin' Incredibly Dope Shit"—with the 1995 Harmony Korine film of the same name in mind. He's a softie on the low, someone who gets sucked in by the heartbreakingly romantic storyline of one of his favorites, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, just as much as he does by the utter mindfuck that serves as the film's premise. He even recently broke his long-standing aversion to horror films by heading to the theaters to see Paranormal Activity, discovering in the process that he's one of those people who stands and yells "AW, FUCK" when the scenes get intense. And, like most kids his age, his love of Netflix—the nature docs in particular, which is how he found the sea turtle documentary in the first place—borders on an obsession.
"I'm just really serious about movies, I take them very seriously," he says when asked about the hook to his WMWTSO track "Watching Movies." "Not to do the cliche rapper, 'My life is like a movie,' but I just enjoy that concept. The idea of nothing being real, if everything is not actual reality. So [that track] is kinda toying with that."
Naturally, with all that percolating inside his head, film references bleed into his music, with numerous tracks on Watching Movies With The Sound Off, as well as his recent guest verses on Statik Selektah and Earl Sweatshirt projects, containing direct nods to Hollywood's creative output. This week, XXL visited Rostrum's headquarters to talk movies, sea turtles and the films behind some of his most overt silver screen references. —Dan Rys (@danrys)
"I'm royal like Tenenbaums in Lebanon" - "I'm Not Real," Watching Movies With The Sound Off
Yeah, Royal Tenenbaums is an amazing movie. The imagery there is tight, just imagining the Royal Tenenbaums in Lebanon, that'd be sick. All the Wes Anderson movies he casts very well. Like the Luke Wilson suicide scene? That shit is so tight, that shit is crazy. I love that movie for real. It's one of the movies that I've purchased off iTunes so I can watch it whenever I want.
"Panickin,' spar with Anakin" - "Guild," by Earl Sweatshirt feat. Mac Miller
"I'm cool with Vader and blowing up rooms that's full of strangers" - "I Am Who I Am (Killing Time)," Watching Movies With The Sound Off
That was one of my kid movies, Star Wars. I had the VHS three-piece. I definitely had that. We used to watch that shit all the time. Luke Skywalker, dude. I haven't seen them in so long, but I gotta say the last one [is the best]. It's gotta be. The other day I was with the homies, and we were talking about how funny it'd be if we overdubbed Star Wars, and it's the whole movie, and all we changed was at the end we had Darth Vader say, "Luke, I'm not your father." That would be so tight. [Laughs] And Luke's just like, "What? Why did you have to tell me? I know that. I didn't think you were."
"I'm Ron Burgundy mixed with Hercules" - "Guild," by Earl Sweatshirt feat. Mac Miller
Yeah dude, Ron Burgundy is an epic motherfucker. Anchorman, that's another fantastic movie. That would be a crazy combination. It's all about just wild imagery and taking crazy mixtures, and I enjoy doing that. Sometimes music should be really real, but sometimes it should be completely imaginative, completely pulled out of thin air. Sometimes things should have a lot of meaning, and sometimes they should have no meaning. Isn't Drake in [Anchorman 2]? And Kanye too. Kanye's in the fight scene, right? He gets his arm cut off or something? Legendary. Drake has the afro—I can't wait for those memes and .gifs. I'm a huge fan of Drake's music, and I know this is, like, super pause-worthy, but looking at pictures of Drake is very entertaining. [Laughs] They're just all so funny, it's great. Drake's one of the best rappers in the game, period. I would go to war with anyone saying [differently], but [those photos] are incredible. But I hope that he enjoys it. I don't know if he takes it personally or not.
"If I was Johnny Depp in Blow I would let it snow" - "The Star Room," Watching Movies With The Sound Off
Yeah dude, did you get that? Like, I would sell coke! Hey hey! If I was Johnny Depp in Blow I'd have no choice because that's what he does. I love Blow, hell yeah. It's an incredible movie. I really like drug kingpin stories. Fuckin' Scarface. But if you're a rapper you can't even talk about Scarface. "I fuck with Scarface." [Laughs] But Wayne took it the farthest, remember when Wayne's crib had the Scarface...? Or Trick Daddy, Trick Daddy took it the farthest? [In the background: "Trick Daddy had the Scarface blinds!] My house, I'm suffering too. When they asked me what I wanted for my office, I said I wanted the Scarface desk and chair. Damn! Pacino, that motherfucker. The other day we had squirt guns, and I said 'Say hello to my little friend,' and I was like, imagine how many white kids with squirt guns have said that before. Twirl that in your mind. How many white kids have had a squirt gun, ran up to their homie, and screamed, "Say hello to my little friend!"
"I hit her up, she come through and watch Adjustment Bureau" - "Guild," Earl Sweatshirt feat. Mac Miller
Yeah yeah, dude, that's a good movie! That's what I'm saying, there's no meaning, I just hit a bitch up to watch that movie with me. True story. She came through, we watched Adjustment Bureau. The best thing you can do is take things that everyone says sucks and make the statement that they're cool. You can just do that. That's how things become cool. Things are not cool for a certain time, and then someone comes out and says "Hey, this is cool," and then it's cool. That's just how these things work.
"I'm Blade 3, you're more Blades Of Fury" - "21 And Over," Statik Selektah feat. Mac Miller and Sean Price
Damn, I got a lot of movie references. It's great, I'm saying, there's a million things to say. Man, Snipes. He's good, though. Man, that's a great movie, fuck out of here. I love bad movies. I love all movies. I've never seen a movie I didn't like. I mean, I like some movies more than other movies. There are some movies I don't actually just really like, but I can never understand when people are just mad at movies, like, "That movie fuckin' sucked!" I guess I've seen some bad movies, but I always enjoy them for what they are. Always.