Writing Year of Mac interview intros gets more and more difficult the more I come to learn just how becoming of a man Malcolm truly was. Few people were as generous. To celebrate his generosity and commemorate the eighth anniversary of his 2011 mixtape Best Day Ever, we spoke with his producer and longtime friend Big Jerm about their relationship and the making of the tape. Life couldn’t get better.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
First of all, how are you?
It’s been rough. I lived with Malcolm for a little bit in LA, two years ago, and then he’s busy out there and I was living in Pittsburgh. We hadn’t talked a whole lot, so when everything happened, it didn’t feel real at first. As time goes on, it just feels weird not seeing him at the holidays. That’s when it kind of hits you.
Talk to me about when you first got in with Mac, what really drew you to working with him?
I met him, probably, through MySpace honestly. It was probably 2008, or so. He was 16 and I think he might’ve heard stuff I did for Wiz [Khalifa]. He was still Easy Mac at the time and I didn’t really take him seriously at first. He got a beat off me back then for something off The High Life. A little later, in 2008, I interned at ID Labs as an engineer. Around 2008, 2009 I would see Mac around, working with other people. We kinda connect, and he was persistent so we started working like that. We became closer, and I understood that he was more talented than I originally thought. It just evolved from there.
We’re talking about Best Day Ever today. I play that project every Sunday morning. Do you still spin it back?
I can’t even listen to his music right now. It’s hard to, for me, but… A lot of times, by the time that [material] comes out I’ve heard it so much, I almost don’t wanna hear it for a while [laughs]. I wouldn’t say I listen to it all the time, but a song will come on if I have [my music] in shuffle mode.
Do you remember the genesis of the project, when Mac knew he was making BDE?
It’s weird because that was the first thing after K.I.D.S., he got busy and was traveling a lot. I think he was figuring that all out, beyond Pittsburgh. “BDE Bonus,” I feel like… That was originally the intro until E. [Dan] kind of switched out the beat for the actual intro. I feel like between those two, I was at the old ID Labs, and I was in the front room making “BDE Bonus” and Mac was in the back room with E., and he heard it in the front. That was the song that triggered everything.
Was there any pressure since K.I.D.S. really took off the year prior?
I probably should’ve felt more pressure, but everything was so new for all of us. In Pittsburgh, that never happened before. Wiz's Kush & OJ came out and then K.I.D.S. that same year. All of that was unexpected for me. I didn’t really… I was appreciative of everything, but I wasn’t sure of where it was at. I probably could’ve taken it more seriously [laughs], looking back.
What was the general energy like for the BDE sessions?
It was just fun! Everything was so new for everybody, it was like… Nobody was thinking about money stuff. At the time, we were just having fun and that was probably the best part about it, honestly.
Bring me back to the making of the original “Best Day Ever.”
I had that sample for so long. It’s an Earth, Wind & Fire sample. I had it chopped up for years. I might’ve sampled it in 2005, or something. I was messing with it in the studio that day and [Mac] heard it. I put the drums on it and then E. played live bass on it, and that was really all [laughs]. Drums, the sample, and bass.
Were all the big moments the simple moments?
Yeah, from my perspective. He had some other people in there… I recorded 90 percent of it, too. It was pretty carefree back then for everybody. I don’t think he felt like there was pressure yet. He didn’t really start feeling pressure until after Blue Slide Park got some bad reviews. At this point, it was just go to the studio, see what happens, and have fun.
Which was your favorite song to work on?
I’d say “Snooze” or “BDE Bonus,” it just came together so quickly. I always like when that happens. Like it’s meant to be, kinda. Everything comes together the way it’s supposed to. “Keep Floatin’” was cool because Wiz did his hook first, maybe six months earlier. It was for Rolling Papers, and I don’t know what happened. It was just sitting there, and Mac found it, and Wiz said it was cool. I thought that song was never gonna come out, and then Malcolm heard it and made it into something cool.
Which was the most difficult track to finish?
I just remember it as us going in and having fun. I don’t remember it being too stressful.
That’s a beautiful thing.
Yeah, exactly. That time period, I think we were all just kinda naive. It was still just low level. He was gaining notoriety, but we were just in our little cave in Pittsburgh and there wasn’t a whole lot of thought behind it. Whatever happens, happens.
Talk to me about the making of “Oy Vey,” because as a Jewish woman, that’s my favorite cut.
He might’ve said “Oy vey” to me because, I’m not gonna say we fought, but you know. From being around Malcolm a lot, he was kinda like my little brother in a way with the music stuff. So we would always mess with each other. So it was like he was annoyed with me [laughs]; I did something that made him say “Oy vey.” He came with that sample, too. It came together from there.
Working with Mac on such an early project, did you foresee all the turns his music career would take? Did you see Macadelic and Watching Movies in him?
I saw the talent. I didn’t really know where he would take everything. I always knew he was talented because he could always play instruments. That’s what E. was talking about: the musicality that Malcolm would bring to the table. I could definitely see the artistry in him, back then.
Biggest surprise during the sessions? Eric was very surprised that he could play any instrument.
I think that surprised both of us because, like I said, I met him as Easy Mac. That’s all I thought of him as, at first. I think E. [Dan] figured that out, too, when we all were in together. He would sit down and play anything. I don’t even know where that came from. It was just natural to him, really.
Was he just as much of a studio rat in the early days as he was in LA?
Yeah, definitely. It was more financial, at the time. Not being able to pay for studio time was the only thing keeping him out of the studio. He would try to trade us computer monitors and random stuff for a little bit of studio time…
Wait, please elaborate.
I’m not even sure if he legally acquired these things, but he would show up with random stuff and try to trade it. He had one of those CD turntable things that he traded to E. [Dan] for a mix or something like that. Just anything he could do to further his music career, he would do.
That was one of the best stories I’ve ever heard.
[Laughs] that was a big one. We were both kind of annoyed because I can’t pay my rent with this computer monitor, you know what I’m saying?
Is that what helped you take him more seriously?
He would literally do anything to be in the studio. When Rostrum [Records] came about for him, it just made it easier for him to be in the studio at all times. And his charisma, he could make anybody like him in a very short period of time. He was just a likeable person. I never foresaw everything that happened, but he just had the effect where people gravitated towards him.
It helps that he was an extremely generous person.
It’s not even something I like to bring up... I got shot in 2016, and I luckily had health insurance, but somebody set up a GoFundMe for me and he sent 10 grand, which basically paid everything off. That’s about as generous as it gets. And he even, after that happened, that’s why I went to LA. I just think he wanted to, like, take care of me in a way. He was just that type of person, where his friends were just important to him. I think I texted him or something, but him and Ariana [Grande] were some of the first people to come to the hospital, too.