Since moving to LA, Pittsburgh-born rapper Mac Miller’s house-cum-studio nicknamed The Sanctuary has become a hub of creativity. From TDE to Odd Future, anyone who is anyone on the West Coast has spent time hanging out and recording in Mac’s pool house.
When Clash calls Mac to chat about his new mixtape, ‘Faces’ (news and download), he is uncharacteristically low-spirited. “It’s pretty sad, dude. I’m moving, so we gotta rip this place apart, and I’m sad to see it go. It has a lot of soul, but it’s just going to become a pool house again.” He soon enough composes himself. “Whatever though, you know, bad endings are good beginnings.”
“The hallucinations have stopped, finally, thank god / But my adrenaline reserves are burning out, and I’m staring straight into the face of a total psychotic freak out,” begins ‘Faces’ closer, ‘Grand Finale.’ The quote is taken from Bill Murray depicting gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in the semi-autobiographical film Where The Buffalo Roam.
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Mac Miller, ‘Faces’ (full mixtape)
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“This project was like hallucinations and sleep deprivation turning into everyday life and seeing faces everywhere,” explains Mac, speaking to Clash for the first time since his summer 2013 cover feature (here). “What is a face? What’s not a face?” explains Mac of the sample – which was chosen by his engineer Josh Berg, who incorporated a narrative into the mixtape’s 24 tracks.
“He put all of the samples together at the end,” says Miller. “I had so much shit that I had to step away from it, and I sent him the tracklisting and he put it together. We both love speaking through that type of thing.”
“I’ve never recorded something for a project per say, I just create,” he continues. “I’m not trying to plan so much, I’m just trying to let things take shape and let the universe guide me, if you will. But once I decided that I was going to call it ‘Faces’, I think [that influenced] the music that I was creating.”
It’s clear from talking to Mac that he’s fuelled by creativity, and the fact that he can drop 24 tracks to the standard of those on ‘Faces’, in the nonchalant way in which he talks about releasing the tape, is a testament to that. However, in the back of his mind, he is working on a follow-up to last year’s redefining ‘Watching Movies With The Sound Off’ (review).
“There’s a bunch of that stuff that I was just working on for the album,” he admits. “This month I’m in this world, next month I’m in another. The deciding factor is: do I wanna take all of the songs from this month and make one project, or should people get a bit of a variety of what the last two years have been?”
While it’s common to see mixtapes circulating blogs for months before their release, the lack of deadlines often delaying them indefinitely, the lack of fuss leading up to ‘Faces’ feels refreshing. In April Mac performed three new songs at a homecoming show in Pittsburgh, and told fans that he would be releasing a new mixtape on Mother’s Day. The Tuesday before the tape’s release, he tweeted: “i have a mixtape dropping in 5 days and nobody knows. that is awesome. i don't even know what's on it.”
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Mac Miller, ‘Avian’, from ‘Watching Movies With The Sound Off’
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The campaign for the release was formulated the week before, and impressively the results included an interactive website – oldjewish.com – a collaboration with street wear brand Diamond Supply Co. and Mac serving food to fans from a truck with his mom.
“We put the whole thing together really quickly,” Mac explains, “because there’s something to be said about, with a gun to your head, what do you do? What songs do you put on? You’ve got a day to choose what songs to put on, and with a gun to your head how do you drop it?”
He also has no gripes about putting out his music freely and independently. In fact, he sees the process as partially selfish. “Releasing music is an interesting thing, because you do it for the fans so that they can have music for free, but it’s just as much for me. I just wanted to get music out, because it’s how people find out what’s going on. Even people in my life too, if you want to know what’s going on just listen to my music.”
He also extends this spirit to the creation of his music, and the way that he collaborates with others. The ability to freely create and the community aspect of The Sanctuary is clearly important to him, and is the reason he is particularly upset to be losing it.
“I’m not bullshitting because some label set it up or anything like that, I just don’t really remember,” he replies when asked about his collaboration with long-absent Houston rapper Mike Jones. “I’ve never paid for any collaboration or done anything strategically. It’s never like, ‘Ohh, I’m going to do ‘Insomniak’ and I’m going to get Rick Ross on it, because of this…’ Literally, like, I just wanted to hear him on it. I think it’s important that someone who makes music should not think of what they’re doing as a key. The music should be sacred.”
Wrapping up the interview, he stops to make one last statement about his home, before he returns to the deconstruction of his studio. “I’ll say one more last thing about the house, because I’m currently here for the last couple of days and then it’s gone. It’s been this magical place, dude. Everyone coming here has been a really beautiful thing. And it hit me that, at the end of the day, it’s important to have people who care about music. I want to let the homies come here and record their shit just because I like to be around creation. I don’t think there can be a time limit on creativity, like, ‘Oh you have two hours in the studio’. That’s horrible, you can’t do that. It’s all about creating an environment that you feel comfortable in, and I like having other people that do that, too.”
Going back to what Mac says about good beginnings, if ‘Faces’ marks the end of a chapter, then we’d better prepare for an impressive third album once he settles into his next home.
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Words: Grant Brydon
Photo: Liam MF Warwick (from Clash issue 87)
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