When we first met Mac Miller he was a teenage rap machine whose concerns orbited around cutting school, partying and the Nikes on his feet, but the Pittsburgh prodigy has grown immensely since his 2010 break out mixtape K.I.D.S. (Kickin' Incredibly Dope Sh--).
Anyone unconvinced need look no further than Live From Space, Mac's new live album which he released on Tuesday (December 17). The material for the 14-track LP was compiled from different stops on Mac's 2012 The Space Migration Tour, where he showcased music mostly from his June 18 studio album Watching Movies With the Sound Off. During the run, Miller not only rapped, he showed off other facets of his musical self by playing the guitar, piano and drums.
"I've been wanting to do a live album for a while. I think the music just happened," Mac told MTV News on Sunday morning from the Sanctuary, his home studio in Studio City, California. "The best things happen organically."
Pulling off a successful live rap album is no easy feat, the Roots (1999's The Roots Come Alive) and Jay Z (2001's Jay-Z Unplugged) delivered two stand-outs, but most MCs stay away from the format. But Mac has figured it out.
"S.D.S.," the first single from Watching Movies, has quickly become one of Miller's most popular singles, and while he keeps it familiar on Live From Space he adds new twists with lush and live keys and a rhyme delivery that is half rap, half jazz.
There's also a jazzy improv element that didn't exist on the studio-recorded Movies. On "The Star Room/ Killin' Time," Mac goes up and down starting calm with scat-like wails. "Eh, eh, eh," he sings setting the melody before he starts his spoken-word raps.
Since his 2011 The Incredibly Dope Tour, Mac has built a reputation as one of hip-hop's best live acts. Fans who've never bought a ticket may have a hard time grasping the MC's growth, but Live From Space helps.
"If you look at Drake, you see he's been knocking down this door like, 'I want to be accepted on a level as a Jay Z and a Kanye,' and he's probably been feeling that way for a long time. It just happens when it's supposed to happen," Mac said using the OVO rap star's trajectory as an example. "And now you see Drake, and Kanye putting him up where he deserves to be."
Though he's wanted to do a live album for some time, he knew it was something he couldn't rush.
"Blue Slide Park was a great album, would it have been a great live album? I don't know," he pondered of his #1 2011 debut. "The live aspect of the music is breathing new life into these songs and giving them another platform to be understood. Plus, they're just fun to play."