Last November, Mac Miller's album Blue Slide Park made him the first independent artist to have a debut release top the Billboard 200 in its first week. It was a remarkable introdution for the 20-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh (and labelmate of Wiz Khalifa), whose subject matter focused largely on getting smashed and hitting on chicks.
Now, as Miller (born Malcolm McCormick) begins work on his second studio effort, he is ready to dig deeper. As he tells Rolling Stone while relaxing on his decked-out tour bus in Chicago, "It's about growing and really just trying to bring out my heart into the music, how I feel, my emotion, my views," he says of the as-yet-untitled album, which he hopes to release in early 2013. "With Blue Slide Park, everything was exciting and positive about all these new things I was experiencing and getting the opportunity to do. Now it's figuring out how to cope."
Miller's new approach, something he says began with this past spring’s Macadellic mixtape, is also being channeled into a project the MC says he is working on with super-producer Pharrell Williams. Miller says the duo plan to release a joint EP, Pink Slime, later this year. "It's definitely a different world working with him," Miller says of the Neptunes mastermind. The two first linked up in Miami last November and, according to Miller, there was an instant connection. In fact, it was Pharrell, Miller says, who brought up the idea of a joint project. "He was feeling that people were kinda labeling me as a certain [type of] artist when I had a lot of creativity," he says. "There were certain things that I wasn't getting credit for."
Both men's jam-packed schedules have made the recording process for the EP, which Miller says is comprised of "crazy festival music," a challenge. To that end, the two have been emailing tracks back and forth to one another, and Miller is anxious to finish the effort. "We've gotta get back together to work," he says, "but it's definitely coming along nicely."
The collaboration marks a new step in Miller's long stylistic evolution, which the rapper says he can trace from the "boom-bap" and "gritty hip-hop" of his earliest recordings to the feel-good music of Blue Slide Park and its preceding mixtape, Best Day Ever. However, though Miller says he used to be concerned about how critics, fans and his management would respond to his music, he believes that he has since matured to the point where he feels comfortable taking his career in any direction he chooses. "I feel like I've grown to learn how to really make a project and how to make each one mean something different," he says. He adds that he is still looking for his true artistic calling, though. "It takes time, man," he admits. "I'll be real: I'm young."