Typically when a beloved indie rapper signs to a major label fans cower in fear, wary that their hero's music will soon be controlled by A&Rs and men in suits, but I don't remember hearing much of that worry when Mac Miller announced that he had signed a massive deal with Warner Bros. Records.
Miller certainly had the track record to make the label believe their best interests lay in leaving Mac's recipe for success untouched, but at the same time, if he wasn't thinking about trying to get on radio and expand his circumference of success, why would he sign to a major at all? The plan worked in small doses on GO:OD AM, "100 Grandkids" got relatively few spins, although 100% more than it would have received if he was still on Rostrum, but there was really no mainstream, no truly radio-friendly record, on that album.
And so when I saw the video for Mac's new joint with Anderson .Paak, "Dang," it truly hit me - holy shit, Miller really figured out how to go full pop, his way. With the major label machine behind him and seemingly all his day one fans still riding, this truly could end up becoming the biggest hit of his career so far.
I heard "Dang" briefly before, went it debuted on Beats Radio, but it really took the pastel and dance-driven video to drive the point home. Miller's certainly no stranger to making love songs, or break up songs, but the way he switches to singing, the bright synths in the background, the horn blasts, this is the kind of song that could easily become a late summer anthem, the kind of song that could be played in roller skating rinks and Coachella sets.
Figuring out how to bring the mainstream to you, instead of going to the mainstream, is one of the most deceptively difficult and complex feats an artist can accomplish, but Miller's just cracked the code, and if his upcoming album, The Divine Feminine, contains more expertly balanced pop like this, come the end of the year we could be looking at an already immensely popular Miller taking that next leap into a next level stardom.
Remember, it's not selling out if even your most hardcore fans are buying in.
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.