In the past two years, Mac Miller, a 20-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh, could have signed a number of deals from major labels.
Instead, Miller stayed loyal to his hometown independent label, Rostrum Records. The payoff came in November, when Miller's first album, "Blue Slide Park," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the first independent album to do so in more than 15 years.
In Miller's world, a major label simply isn't necessary, not when he can continue to release free mixtapes (such as last month's "Macadelic") as he pleases and gain fans through touring and word of mouth. Miller, who performs April 26 at Pier Six Pavilion, spoke about his latest project, working with Lil Wayne and his thoughts about signing with a major label.
The tone of "Macadelic" is much darker than "Blue Slide Park." Did you have a vision for "Macadelic" before you started recording?
The music I make is a direct reflection of the emotions I go through — that's how I pick my beats. I was in a different place recording "Macadelic." It's definitely a different emotion that people aren't used to seeing or hearing from me. But that's how I grow as an artist — exploring different things, being like any other person and just living.
Before, you were just a young kid with flow, but your latest single, "Loud," basically says, "I had a No. 1 album, I'm selling out shows and a Grammy is next." Did it feel like people weren't taking you seriously enough before?
I think that people don't really get the whole picture. I can't blame them. To understand me as an artist, you have to be the type of person who listens to everything [I release]. You can't get me by going off a couple songs because I do such different types of stuff. I think I put out a lot of records that were fun records, but I always had that side of me that kept it real.
"Macadelic" seems to be your drug album, or drugs are a more prominent theme than they've ever been. Are you going through your free-love, experimental stage right now?
I've always been a fan of Pink Floyd and different types of psychedelic music like that. For this project, I dove into that. I was listening to [The Beatles'] "Sgt. Pepper" a lot and [Pink Floyd's] "The Wall." I like creating different types of moods and energy. The thing about this project is [the music is] supposed to be the drug. I'm trying to give people a drug experience without having to take drugs. I'm not trying to tell people to take drugs to have to listen to this. Pink Floyd created light shows that were so big that I went to as a kid. There were people that did acid and went to the show, but there were people that just went and experienced it in their own way. I'm creating that type of experience and letting the listener decide how to take it.
Any concern with how that might fly with younger fans?
Look, man: I'm, like, a 20-year-old dude just making music and being himself. I understand that I have a responsibility because I have young kids that look up to me, but I'm not here to be that dude. I'm here to make the music that I'm going to make.
Lil Wayne appears on "Macadelic." How did "The Question" come together?
Wayne's been one of my favorites for a while. Wayne's a beast. I think we're kinda similar people in some ways. It felt right, man. I can't really explain it; the song just needed him, you know? ... That song in particular, there was no one else for it.
What's your plan with staying independent? Do you see yourself eventually going major?
I haven't even looked into any other [offers], but I know they're there. I'm just taking it one day at a time. Right now, I'm just kicking it with my people, independent. If the time comes, the time will come. It's not now, and I don't see it being soon.
For fans that have seen you before, what will be the biggest difference they'll notice about the "Macadelic" tour?
It's a story. It's a real performance, a real show. There are all different types of emotions that come into play. It's a lot bigger of an experience visually and sonically. It's stepping into a different world for a second. It's definitely necessary to come see if you want to get the whole picture.
If you go
Mac Miller performs April 26 at Pier Six Pavilion, 731 Eastern Ave. $30. Call 410-783-4189 or go to piersixpavilion.com.