Mac Miller took over the world while the haters got mad. We love him for that.
This week, to honor his memory we reached out to producer and friend, Sap, the man behind “Donald Trump” and a handful of other essential Mac records (“Watching Movies,” “Thoughts From A Balcony”), who remembers Mac as an infectious and bright soul. Sap’s love for Mac came through in every word we shared.
Our full conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: I always like to start with: How are you?
Sap: I’m doing a little better about it, it’s just crazy, you know? He left us so much stuff, so it kinda seems like Mac is still here, you know what I mean? I just try to stay inspired and try to use the things he left us here to keep it going. Do what he would want us to do: keep it moving.
Take me to the first time you met Malcolm.
I had went to Pittsburgh on a train. I had reached out to him to work on stuff. I had a friend of mine tell me to go work with him. I had looked him up and thought he was dope, and he was talking about how he had reached out to me before in the Myspace days. I ended up taking a train from Philly, it was eight hours. When I first met him, he was finishing up Best Day Ever, and that same night we had met, we had made "Donald Trump." It was pretty cool.
What was your favorite thing about Mac when you first met?
He made you feel excited about everything, you know what I’m saying? Every little thing that was going on, he was just excited. He always kept the energy lit up in the room. No matter what mood you was in, he kinda put you on the same page as him. It was infectious, you know?
Everyone describes him as really kind and really generous.
Definitely! And it was effortless. That’s just who he was. His attitude, to me, was infectious. If you wasn’t feeling a session or whatever, that day, he would just make you hype about the session. It was crazy. Not a lot of people can do that: bring the best out of everybody they working with by making them feel comfortable.
What did Mac bring out of you?
I would say that: maximizing my potential. He was somebody that just always made you excited about things. He had crazy ideas and he always tried to bring every idea to life. If you hear his projects, he went for a different thing each project. He was so good at reinventing himself with each project he dropped.
How did your relationship evolve as he evolved as an artist?
We started on Best Day Ever, and I seen a change when he was working on Macadelic. We had did “Thoughts From A Balcony” and I remember him emailing me that and hearing a few things off Macadelic… I remember a shift in him. He did songs with Juicy J, even Wayne. He was really on some other shit when he started recording that. He was recording songs for Watching Movies as well. He started really incorporating instruments; he started working with Thundercat a lot. On the music level, he started to go crazy. His production started changing. He wanted beats that were a little darker, a little more out there than the super bright beats that you heard on K.I.D.S.
What was the craziest idea you two worked on together?
[Laughs] Mac tried some crazy shit. Me and him, alone, probably have eight to 10 records that I didn’t even hear. Stuff from Watching Movies, stuff from just a minute ago he laid ideas. When he was working on The Divine Feminine, he was gonna name it something else… He tried some crazy shit. It was always a treat every time he sent you something back. “Watching Movies,” actually, he produced the end part of that. When it gets real slow and crazy at the end. Mac is just out there, man [laughs]. I can’t explain it. It’s nothing you can pinpoint about him. It’s so many records that I have, I don’t even know the projects they’re from.
Is there any music you wish the fans could hear that’s in the vault?
Not really… I feel like he was somebody that put out everything that needed to be out, you know? I feel like he gave the fans the right music. I’m sure a lot of fans want more Mac music, especially if he’s your favorite artist. I think he gave the fans a good amount of work. What, 12 projects he has out?
Fifteen. And one is a jazz album. He has so much stuff out there. I don’t think his fans are unfulfilled. How do you feel about that? You a Mac fan.
I feel like he did everything with intention, and gave us everything he wanted us to have.
Right, right, right. That’s how I feel. I feel like he didn’t get cut short of, like… The stuff he put out, that’s a full career for somebody else. That’s a lot of music, and he still had so much more, which is insane.
What’s your favorite song you worked on together? Released or unreleased.
I’ll say, “Just Some Raps, Nothing To See Here.” It’s actually a song that we put out, and he put it out when he announced his deal with Warner. That’s probably my favorite. Of course, “Donald Trump,” because we just met each other and that was insane. He killed it. I love when Mac used to go in on shit, rather than just crafting a song. Nobody expected [“Donald Trump”] to blow up and do that. You can’t really predict that. And we made that record just for fun, we just made something.
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Do you have any stories that really capture the essence of your friendship?
He got me to eat sushi. He was staying in Philly. He was at his ex’s and I picked him up, and I was obviously living in Delaware and he was like “Yo, man, is there some sushi in the area?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I think so.” I never ate sushi, so he was like “You gotta try some sushi.” That was the first time I had miso soup. He would eat certain sushi that I wouldn’t eat. He loved it, though! He put me on and I started loving it.
It was fun being around him, every time, you never know what you gon’ get. He’s like one of the people in the business where whether you’re a fan of the music or not, if you met him, you became a fan. That’s just how he was. It’s crazy! He’s just one of those guys, man, fuck. The last time I seen him, I was at his house and he had come home, and he had just bought this trumpet. He was just playing it, not really playing it, just these crazy ass fart notes and shit. Just trying to figure it out. That was him! That was him every day: wanting to learn something new, wanting to try something new. That’s how he lived life, man. It made you wanna be that way. It made you not wanna put boundaries on yourself.
It was just a pleasure to know him and have created the things I created with him. So many times I had come over his house to just chill. I watched him and Thundercat just jam out. It was madness over there in his crib when he first moved [to LA]. And he brought a lot of people together. He worked with Thundercat, with ScHoolboy Q. Odd Future, Tyler [The Creator]. It was crazy.
He brought the whole West Coast together, in a way.
Yeah, yeah. He always linked with somebody. He did stuff with Freddie Gibbs. Do things with Ariana [Grande] and still get on with Gibbs and ScHoolboy Q. He even was in the studio with Nipsey. I remember seeing that old footage, damn. That’s classic footage. Mac created some classic shit, in my opinion.
I agree with you.
The way he did a lot of things, even the level of being independent he was on. He was on some business heavy shit. Then you seen Chance The Rapper, and many people follow that path in their own way. Him and Wiz [Khalifa], to be honest.
Do you have an “I’m just happy I told him…” moment with him?
Yeah, actually last time I seen him. I told him that I just thought that everything he was doing was the shit. He played me some stuff and it was crazy. Just every project, you know? Every project, he come with something like “Damn, I wanna hear this.” Even projects that you didn’t hear… He might have 40 different songs that sounds totally different. A lot of people, a lot of times, you don’t get to tell people certain things like that.
We were in the studio, actually, my last time seeing him. He invited me to his house; we finished a record. I collabed on a beat with a producer with Mac, and he had laid the idea and I had added some drums to it. We was playing it in the crib, but the neighbors were complaining about it being loud so we ended up making that shit crazy. It was insane. I wanna try to get that song, too. I don’t even have that song. That’s the last thing we ever made, and the last time I seen him.
When was that?
That was right before Swimming came out. It was during that process. We was working on stuff for that. It came out crazy, we finished it, too. It was definitely more of, uh… It wasn’t a record like “Watching Movies,” but it had energy like that. He was flowing on that. It was double time, you know? It was one of those type of vibes. It was crazy, aggressive, kinda. It was fire. It never made the album, which was cool. He might’ve put it on something else.
Also, “Money Shot.” When I sent him the “Money Shot” beat, he gave it to Curren$y for his project. When I heard how that came out, that’s one of my favorite songs as well, from Mac. I was blessed that I got to do that. I love the Mac verse on there. That shit is hard.
I loved that beat.
Thank you. I felt like it embodies… It’s like player Mac. That swag. It’s one of my favorite versions of Mac. What’s your favorite Mac project?
Faces is crazy. What’s your favorite song from him?
“I Am Who Am.”
Yeah, that’s hard. Watching Movies is actually my favorite album. I think that album should have gotten a GRAMMY nod back in 2013, especially with him dropping around the same time as a lot of heavy hitters that people would have avoided, probably. He stood with them. He dropped the same day as Cole and Kanye. People still was listening to his shit. A lot of other people would be like, “Nah, let’s wait a couple weeks.” But he was like, “Let’s do it.” I fuck with that courage. He was just fearless. That’s why he gave us so much of himself. It still, to me, feels like he’s still here. It’s amazing. I don’t know if any music is gon’ be released for Mac, but as a fan, I’m definitely very grateful for the amount of music [he did drop].
I feel like there’s always a new lesson to be learned by going through his discography.
Yeah! It’s so much shit. It’s even things where I kinda slept on shit. There’s so much, man! I feel like he has music for every mood, almost.
With that in mind, how do you want Mac to be remembered?
Man, that’s a question right there, because I feel like he defined himself with everything he stood for and everything he gave us. If anybody learns anything from Mac, it’s live free and be fearless. Get your art out. You just gotta get all your ideas out and not take stuff so seriously. Little shit didn’t fuck his day up. He always kept it moving. That’s one thing that I definitely learned from him. I only seen Mac get mad, probably, one time. It was this show in Jersey where I guess they messed up his introduction and he had to start over. I think he, like, punched a wall or broke his hand. He still kept performing. I ain’t even know that until after he got off the stage and he had to go straight to the hospital. He gave people everything. He never made too many things about him.
He wasn’t selfish, at all. Honestly, I still can’t figure out how he was able to balance all of that shit and still give himself to so many people.