It was towards the end of summer 2011. I was in Pittsburgh for the first or second time. I was sitting in a house that would be familiar to early Mac Miller fans. TreeJ and Peanut were rolling up an entire ounce (that Cheese was some of the best weed I’d smoked on the East Coast at that time.) Fran was cutting up per usual, and Q played us the entire Blue Slide Park album a couple months before it’s commercial release. Q had this look on his face with each song change. He asked numerous times if I was “fucking with this one” but his head nod and face showed he didn’t care. He knew what this album meant for their entire group of friends. Looking back at that time, the humidity was a mere foreshadow for the Burgh’s music scene, which was about to reach its full boiling point.
Three years prior, I had met a rapper through MySpace by the name of Franchise. We had sent tracks back and forth over the years and built a friendship through our love of classic hip-hop, marijuana, and shared dedication to the “grind.” When I first met Fran, he was one of the front-runners for the Pittsburgh music collective East End Empire. I had produced a few records for Fran over the course of the next year and through him got hip to a whole circle of artists grinding right as Wiz Khalifa was blowing up Pittsburgh to the pop level and Boaz was bubbling in the street scene. Without ever having stepped foot in PA I never would have guessed that a super young white kid that was 1/2 of the group Ill Spoken would have been the next to blow from the Burgh.
It wasn’t until I went back to college that I really heard of Mac Miller. He had laced verses on my guy’s mixtapes and I’d seen the name on MySpace a time or two. But once his mixtape K.I.D.S. dropped it seemed like ever kid at school was onto Mac. It’s funny, a kid who never went to college birthed the ‘frat rap’ era. Having a white kid in hip-hop that wasn’t corny but wasn’t trying to be anything other than himself gave inspiration to an entire generation of Caucasians in hip-hop. All of the sudden every rapper on the planet wanted to tour fraternities and labels were signing Sammy Adam’s, Mike Stud’s, and Huey Macks. Mac was incredibly different from all of these artists that labels suddenly wanted to copy. He was authentic, he was genuine, and he truly had a love and understanding of music that most rappers could never grasp.
Over the course of my next couple of trips to Pittsburgh, I watched from a distance how life changed for Mac’s close friend group. Up until recently, Mac had always had his YouTube channel set up through his friend and old hype man TreeJ. His best friend Q stayed his manager throughout the success. His other friends were employed to design and sell merch. His platform provided the ability to sign other Pittsburgh artists and take them around the country like my brothers Franchise and Vinny Radio (The Come Up Boys). While Wiz quickly grew past Pittsburgh for the LA life, Mac stayed around a little bit longer. Even after eventually moving to New York and Los Angeles, the rapper stayed putting on other rappers from his hometown. And of course, repped the Steelers black and yellow like a religion. He played a big part in helping ID Labs relocate and become something bigger than it could be on its own. The humble recording studio he started out never left a place in his heart of music. E Dan and Big Jerm have had their hands on every project he’s done.
I think the outpouring love from fellow artists we’re seeing in his passing is not only a testament to his character but his love for creating. His true love for music is really what set the artist apart. As soon as he grabbed a glimpse of fame and notoriety, he used Twitter to reach out to the artists and producers he looked up to and reached out to work. Countless records were made without any thought of the label, release strategies, or singles. He quickly began playing the guitar at live shows. Later learning the ins and outs of the piano and music production. Picked up singing and decided to make an entire Jazz album. Seriously, what could this kid not do?
I never met Mac personally. I spent quite a bit of time around his camp and saw his energy through them. The culture and bond he created around those who came in contact with him were unmatched. It wasn’t the fame or success, it was the atmosphere, the never-ending fun, and the belief that dreams can come fucking true. It’s crazy for me to think that at 26 years old, the young white kid from East End Empire is a hip-hop legend, but it’s true.
Mac Miller Playlist (Mitch Picks)