Mac Miller back on tour

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Rapper Mac Miller will perform at Belly Up Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 11.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

Who: Mac Miller

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Sunday, Jan. 11, 9:45 p.m.

Tickets: Belly Up box office;

Mac Miller hasn’t been on tour in more than a year, but the 22-year-old hip-hop sensation got back on the road last weekend with a three-night run through Colorado, including Sunday’s show at Belly Up Aspen.

“I’m excited to come back, perform some new stuff and old stuff, and get back on stage,” Miller said last week from his mother’s house in Pittsburgh, where he was visiting for an extended holiday.

The proud Pittsburgh native’s stay at home included going to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round NFL playoff loss to the Ravens – a memorably sad experience.

“It was the most depressing vibe in the stadium because you could just sense it slipping away,” he said. “You know it’s bad when the random drunk people are yelling out the calls that should be going down, like ‘Run a sweep! What are you doing!?”

Taking time off from touring to be with family and watch football isn’t the kind of thing you can imagine Miller doing just a few years ago, when he seemed to be making music around the clock. In 2013, the rapper released the album “Watching Movies with the Sound Off” – a turning point for him into polished, thoughtful hip-hop – along with three online mixtapes, while making guest appearances on countless tracks with the likes of Earl Sweatshirt, Ludacris and Action Bronson.

Miller began releasing songs online at 15, and grew into an underground and online rhyming legend a few years later. His 2011 debut album, “Blue Slide Park” became a no. 1 Billboard hit – the first independent hip-hop album in 20 years to reach that commercial milestone.

Last year, Miller finally signed to a major record label – inking a deal with Warner Brothers. But he says the move into the mainstream side of the music business won’t water down the creative output or bad boy lyricism of the rapper behind “Smile Back,” “Donald Trump” and “Loud.”

“It was apparent they were down to let me do whatever,” he said of the record company. “So if I want to do a weird instrumental album or make whatever album I want, they’re in it.”

He is currently at work on a new rap album, due out sometime this year. Having grown up a bit over his rap career, Miller, who turns 23 this month, said he’s trying to set himself up for long-term success and creative evolution.

“Who knows who I’ll be when I’m 27 – how I’ll see the world and see myself,” he said. “So I just want to make sure I’m in the position to grow.”

He’s embraced collaboration as a means of growing creatively. Miller’s 2014 mixtape “Faces,” featured guest spots from Earl Sweatshirt, Rick Ross, Ab-Soul and others. Collaboration, Miller said, needs to be personal.

“I don’t like to work with people that I can’t hang out with,” he said. “I need it to be very natural. Before I ever jump into trying to work with someone, it’s important to me to have a conversation. That conversation is the most important part of the process for me personally. If you just jump in and get to work it becomes this superficial thing where we’re just here to rap and see who has the better verse or whatever. If you can connect on another level, then you’re able to really make a song.”

Miller has recently been working with Grammy-winning jazz pianist Robert Glasper, and recording on and off with producer of the moment Pharrell Williams.

“There’s no restriction in genre for me,” he said. “I think it’s important to branch out and build things in different places.”

Asked whether he’d be making the rounds in the recreational marijuana shops on his run through Colorado, Miller said he would check them out, but said his partying has slowed down mightily.

On his 2012 “Macadelic” tour, Miller developed a dependence on promethazine, and curbed his intake. But because his rhymes so often revolve around drugs, he said, fans have a skewed perspective of him.

“All the time, people will be like, ‘Man! How much weed do you smoke!?” And I’m just like, ‘Actually, nothing crazy right now,’” he said. “I’m kind of on the whiskey right now. That’s my poison.”