Mac Miller needs no real introduction. He was one of the most significant rappers in the genre’s history, an iconoclast who made music of a real density, a constructive force in both his life and music, making the story of his untimely death that bit harder to bear. In many ways, he was a moderniser. He was a genius wordsmith who possessed a sharp intellect, and because of this, he breathed new life into rap, and today it looks much healthier for it, a contribution he’ll always be remembered for.
Miller initially went by the name of Easy Mac, and it was under this name that he made his debut with the mixtape But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy in 2007 as a 15-year-old who’d only been rapping for a year. However, things moved fast, and only a couple of years later he had settled on the name of Mac Miller and released his first two mixtapes under the new moniker, The Jukebox: Prelude to Class Clown and The High Life, both in 2009.
As fans of the late rapper will know, both releases saw the Pittsburgh native receive much recognition and it was this momentum which helped him to truly kickstart his career, and over the course of the next decade until his tragic death in 2018, he was one of the most refreshing rappers out there, delivering modern classics such as GO:OD AM and Swimming.
Whilst there are many talking points from Miller’s short but consequential career, one of the most interesting came in 2011 when he released the single ‘Donald Trump’ from his mixtape Best Day Ever. Notably, the song sampled the melody from the track ‘Vesuvius’ by Sufjan Stevens.
One of the best-loved cuts from his early career, the track is something of a typical rap song in the sense that it is money-inspired wherein Miller discusses where he came from and where he aspires to go, spitting vitriol at some of those who went to high school with: “Bitches on my dick that used to brush me off in high school”.
The song references Donald Trump, who, only five years after the song’s release was elected as the 45th President of the United States, which became perhaps the most polarizing premiership in the county’s history.
Throughout, Miller outlines his ambitions to become filthy rich and prosperous like Trump, rapping: “Take over the world when I’m on my Donald Trump shit / Look at all this money, ain’t that some shit?” When questioned about his decision to include Donald Trump’s name in the song, he invariably maintained that namechecking the former star of The Apprentice was a last-minute decision, and that he “was just somebody who symbolized financial success to everybody at that time”.
Interestingly, after the song became a success, gaining over 20 million views on YouTube in August of that year, Trump released a video on the website when he congratulated Miller, going as far as to label him “the new Eminem“.
Responding to the praise Miller was appreciative but caveated it saying: “He’s not going to be like ‘I was listening to this Mac Miller kid and he seems influenced by Tribe Called Quest, he seems like he listens to a lot of Big L growing up and that he’s really going there in Hip Hop.’ All he meant was I’m a white rapper and I’m blowing up.”
However, being the icon of greed that he is, when the song carried on being a success into 2012, Trump became more aggressive, demanding royalties from Miller for using his name, which ignited a feud.
In a January 2013 interview with Complex Miller gave his honest opinions on Trump and explained why it irked him that Trump was attempting to take credit for the song’s success. He also said he could have referenced Microsoft founder Bill Gates instead and that the name did not matter, as it was what they symbolised that mattered.
“I think he’s a dick,” Mac said. “When he started running for president I was like, ‘Oh, fuck—this is horrible, I have a fucking song with this dude’s name and now he’s being such a douchebag.'”
“The thing that bothers me the most is that he always says things like, ’75 million views on the song ‘Donald Trump,’ Mac Miller you’re welcome,” Miller continued. “I could have said, ‘Take over the world when I’m on my Bill Gates shit.’ It doesn’t [matter]. That shit just pisses me off.”
Responding to this perceived slight, Trump threatened the rapper with a lawsuit in a series of Tweets: “Little @macmiller, you illegally used my name for your song “Donald Trump” which now has over 75 million hits.” The future President continued, “Little @macmiller, I want the money not the plaque you gave me!”
Employing a strategy that we’d see him use countless times over his presidency until he was finally removed from the platform, Trump raised the stakes writing: “Little @macmiller, I’m now going to teach you a big boy lesson about lawsuits and finance. You ungrateful dog!”
Whilst tensions reached an impasse, Trump seemingly changed his attitude regarding the song and Miller when he said “By the way, great song,” complete with a wink and a finger point in a July 2015 interview as the song approached 100 million hits on YouTube.
Regardless, Miller did not relax his views on the presidential hopeful, and during Trump’s campaign he denounced him and urged voters not to elect him, tweeting: “Just please don’t elect this m—–f—– man.”
He wasn’t finished there either. When appearing on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore Miller stated unequivocally that he “hated” Trump, describing him as “an egomaniacal, attention-thirsty, psychopathic, power-hungry, delusional waste of skin and bones”.
In what was one of the strangest feuds in recent memory, Mac Miller’s refusal to back down to one of the most powerful men in the world is just another reason why he’ll be remembered in the best of ways for a very long time. Class is timeless.
Listen to ‘Donald Trump’ below.