For Mac Miller, an album isn’t a vehicle for promoting a slew of singles. The 21-year-old Pittsburgh rapper’s second LP, “Watching Movies With the Sound Off” (June 18, Rostrum Records), is just the latest element of a nearly nonstop process of delivering music to fans. But there’s still anticipation-produced by Miller (under the name Larry Fisherman) along with guest production by names like Diplo and Flying Lotus, the album is the follow-up to his 2011 debut, “Blue Slide Park,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
“I got this house in L.A. and I built my own studio,” Miller says from his cellphone before a performance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” with Ariana Grande, whose hit single “The Way” features him. “The whole idea of the record was to think about it not like, ‘Hey, I’m putting together an album. This is what I should do to make a good single.’ It was about making music and letting the journey inform itself.”
Miller has unveiled four tracks ahead of release, kicking off with “S.D.S.” on April 23. The song, whose video arrived the following day, isn’t meant to be a single, however, and Rostrum doesn’t plan to push anything to radio. “Mac wanted that one to be the first one that people heard,” says Rostrum president Benjy Grinberg, who’s also Miller’s manager. “Same thing with ‘Watching Movies’ and the other songs we’re shooting videos for right now. They aren’t the most commercial songs off the album-they’re just part of him telling the story the way he wants to do it.
“His radio is YouTube, his radio is touring,” Grinberg adds. “Those are the ways he reaches out to his fans. That’s the way he gets new fans, that’s the way he expresses himself. Radio’s not really a focus, nor is it something we talk about when he’s making his albums.”
Miller’s ongoing strategy is to remain engaged with his fans by releasing a sizable amount of music between albums. Since “Blue Slide Park,” Miller has put out mixtape “Macadelic” and a digital EP under the moniker Larry Lovestein & the Velvet Revival, as well as numerous tracks and music videos. The rapper also tours extensively, and starred in MTV2’s “Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family” earlier this year. The series will begin filming a second season in the fall.
“I finished working on ‘Blue Slide Park’ in July 2011 and I make a lot of music, regardless of whether it’s for an album or not,” Miller says. “So I was evolving as an artist, and I put out ‘Macadelict’ to just continue showing that journey. It’s not necessarily thinking about it in terms of trying to tide people over, but just wanting to keep people with me and show them where I’m at.”
“Albums are an important piece of the puzzle but they’re just a piece,” Grinberg says. “All of those things are part of Mac’s conversation with his fans. He was never away from them at all.”
Miller may not be concerned with getting radio airplay, but the rapper recently expanded his fan base with his appearance on Grande’s single, which arrived March 26. After working with Grande in his home studio on some music, the pop singer/ Nickelodeon actress asked Miller to guest on the track.
“It’s cool to have all these different types of things out there while staying genuine and true to myself,” Miller says. “I can have a song with Ariana Grande that is going to be the song for all the kids and the teen girls, and then another song that could be for a different group of people who all love the song. I’m with whoever. Whatever type of people want to love the music and whatever they love about the music is fine with me.”
As the release date for “Watching Movies With the Sound Off” nears, Rostrum plans to release several more music videos, as well as some nontraditional clips that Grinberg won’t disclose details about (“We have a lot of stuff up our sleeves,” he says). Miller will embark on a U.S. headlining run, dubbed the Space Migration tour, on June 25 with a group of hand-picked openers including Chance the Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt and Meek Mill. The tour will also feature appearances by a few developing artists Miller has signed to his recently formed label, REMember Music.
“Right now it’s all about my album,” Miller says, “and after that it’s all going to make sense.”