Evan Nabavian will slap the taste out your mouth if you call him an old soul.
Before I say anything about Mac Miller, let me disclose that I am white and I was four years old when Illmatic came out. I rapped under the name Judah The Maccabee for about two weeks before I realized that my true calling making snarky quips about Young Jeezy songs. There’s your irony.
Like Asher Roth before him, Mac Miller is openly white. He approaches rap as a lovable stoner dork and he reps the burbs because he can get away with that in 2011. The only reason I’ve paid more attention to him than, say, Fred the Godson, is because he is working with people like Pete Rock, Just Blaze, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and DJ Premier. He told The Well Versed, “We’re trying to get as many pioneers in hip hop involved…I’m excited because this younger generation—I want to give them that. I want them to know who Jazzy Jeff is, who DJ Premier is.” We heard a similar spiel from Termanology in 2008 when he got every big name producer from the 90s to contribute beats to his album Politics as Usual. Term and Mac are buddies, in fact.
The 90s rap fetish comes in various forms, with Rock the Bells as its annual homecoming. Kanye was supposed to put boom bap back on last year. He was even supposed to have a Madlib beat on his album. Jeff, didn’t you say he had Madlib beats? Alas, the extent of Kanye’s boom bap revival was relegating Premo to perfunctory scratch duty on the yet-to-be-released “Mama’s Boyfriend” and putting Pete Rock on an Internet freebie/Watch The Throne bonus track.
But Mac Miller is more accessible and mainstream-minded than the staunchly underground Termanology. He makes knockoff Southern rap, he releases songs when he hits Twitter milestones, and he scored a viral marketing coup in the form of a nod from Donald Trump last month. And unlike Kanye, he’ll actually rap on the Premier beats that come his way, albeit with cliched rappity rap lyrics and a voice like a Stinky from Hey Arnold. I’m guessing a Hey Arnold reference is age appropriate for a post about Mac Miller.
DJ Premier and Pete Rock think Mac Miller is their ticket to some modicum of mainstream success. I’m not saying they’re– No, shut up asshole, you didn’t let me finish. They’re not sellouts. They’ve just been deluded into thinking that 19-year-olds want to hear 90s rap. They don’t. I’m 22, I can walk among them. They listen to Wiz Khalifa and Kanye and that’s if they listen to rap at all. The rest listen to Lady Gaga. And I’m not just throwing her name out because she’s the go-to mainstream name. The little shits notify me of everything she does whenever I go on Facebook.
The problem with these fans-turned-rappers is that they’re just collecting famous names. It’s like hip-hop fantasy camp. “Face the Facts” is a tribute to 90s rap that could have been written by any of the gushing fans who leave comments under Gang Starr videos on YouTube. There are dozens of rappers who would sound better on this throwaway Premo beat. The best throwback rap comes from artists motivated by their musical sensibilities, not nostalgia or a revivalist agenda.
The only Mac Miller song I can get behind is “She Said,” which is produced by Khrysis. For once, Miller isn’t aping anyone’s style, new or old. He’s speaking to his own experience: lounging at his friend’s house after school, smoking weed. And he makes it sound cool. That is all I ask of rappers, white or otherwise.