Mac Miller was anointed as a teenage rap prodigy in the late noughties when he was barely out of school, and the late artist admitted that he owed his whole career to one album.
Although figures like Kanye West were integral in his development as a rapper, however, it was the vintage gangster rap records of the ’90s that took Miller down his chosen path. In fact, despite being the son of an architect and photographer from Pittsburgh, his early recordings were in the vein of vintage gangster rappers from the golden era.
Unsurprisingly, Miller didn’t have the necessary life experiences required to make this gimmick work, and it all came off as a pastiche. Although it felt more like an impressionist’s interpretation of a rapper than art, there’s no denying that it came from a place of love.
Even though their upbringings were incomparable, that didn’t stop Mac from thinking that he was Big L, and the Pennsylvanian particularly adored his 1995 album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous.
Tragically, both L and Miller lost their lives in avoidable circumstances in their 20s. He was Mac’s first musical hero, and truth be told, without him, then he’d perhaps never have had the career he enjoyed and created five albums that will keep his legacy alive together.
Speaking about the influence of L’s debut, Miller told Complex: “That’s the album that made me start rapping. Everybody knows that about me. That’s who I used to try to be like. I used to be a fucking straight gangster street rapper from the projects of New York.
“Did I ever play you when I was a gritty New York rapper from the projects? It’s definitely on YouTube. It’s crazy, I was 15, I was robbing people, and I was into the East Coast/West Coast beef [in my raps].”
He continued: “In one of my raps my line was like, ‘On the East Side we ride on the weed high, Jacking cats packing fat stacks in their Levis, Rap stacks for cash that we divide, Fee-fi we ain’t going down where you reside, creeping, Running through your house while you sleeping.’ I had a line where I said, ‘Stay strapped with the gat to your kneecap.’ I was bad, gang banging. Not to be fucked with. Hardcore motherfucker named Mac. That shit was crazy.”
Thankfully, Miller wouldn’t pretend he was a kid from the projects forever, and that phase would come to its natural conclusion with him finally finding his own voice, which helped him ascend to greatness.