I do not have the proper words to introduce this interview. One of the most touching conversations of my life, with Karen Civil about Mac Miller, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
First, how have you been feeling in the time since his passing?
I have up and down days. Malcolm was somebody that helped me get through my days, good or bad. We poured into one another. There are good days and bad days.
Take me to the first time you met Malcolm.
This was maybe nine or 10 years ago. He had a show in New York City, and I happened to go, and I met him. He didn’t have all the tattoos like he does now. We took some silly pictures, and he was just a great individual. His smile… He just was great at our first time meeting. I said, “I wanna continue building a friendship” or something, with him. He just was great.
How did your friendship blossom?
He and I kept in contact. He followed me on Twitter. I followed him back. He was somebody who I started off meeting for my website, on business, but it turned personal, very quick. He was just that friend.
What was your favorite part about being friends with him?
Malcolm had a way of seeing the world differently. How he explained things, his laugh. I was still growing my site. Whatever I needed—an interview, a song—he was obliged to giving it to me.
What was it like watching watch him evolve over the years?
It was honestly incredible, because, you know, we all evolve. But him? He did it in a way where it was like… I remember he bought the big house in LA and it was like “Woah! Really?” That was just the place you went to. His Thanksgiving dinners… That house and him had a way of bringing people together. I met so many people for the first time at that house. Through the years, he added the tattoos. Life changed. His outlook on certain things changed. The way he rapped was different, but change is good. And it was great for him! He just got mature.
What was your favorite thing about his music?
Before it came out he’d be like, “Let me play it for you. What do you think about this one or this one?” He always had options for you. “This one, or this one” [laughs]. It felt like when you go take an eye exam and they’d be like, “Could you see out of this one, or this one?” That was Malcolm. He would go through six to 12 songs with you and expects you to pick one, which was so hard because his music was incredible. Even with that, he put out quality music, and he did it his way. It wasn’t what’s new, what’s hot. He was just an incredible musician.
His music really soundtracked people’s lives.
I come across a lot of people who say that. Malcolm was just one of those people with different music, it was very relatable. He just made music for everyone that touched your soul; that had a deeper meaning behind it. He was just that guy.
Do you have a story that really sums up your friendship?
I remember I went to see him in the studio a couple of years ago, and I was like “I’m hungry,” and he's like, “I’m hungry, too. Let’s go for a walk.” We end up walking for, like, three miles for some pizza. We stopped. We found this sneaker store that had other things, too. It had a basketball court. We stopped in there for a minute. I remember he picked up all this stuff to buy. I was like, “No, no, no, no. Go play basketball. Let me haggle the price. Let me haggle, we gotta get a discount!” We end up walking back, but… We didn’t talk for a while during that time, for personal reasons. It was good to have that moment and… That walk was so incredible and so important. I think that’s one of my favorite moments.
Another one was the Thanksgiving dinner at his house. It was Ab-Soul, it was Da$H, it was ScHoolboy, myself, and it was Yams, and my dog. And we took this picture, and I have it by my bedside, and it was just an incredible time because Mac really brought people together at that house.
It was always his prerogative to bring people together.
That’s always been him. He brought people together, made you feel welcome, and he always had a smile on his face.
He was always filled with light, even when he was dark in the music.
Yeah, that was just him. You know, music was one thing. It may have been a situation he was going through, but the music didn’t change his perspective on life. It didn’t hinder him. It didn’t make him feel isolated. It didn’t make him feel different. He just always had a positive perspective on life.
Do you have one moment with him you feel blessed to have had?
I was in the hospital. I had a tumor and was getting it removed. At that point, I just wasn’t in the best shape. I didn’t know what the outcome was gonna be. I wasn’t breathing on my own. But I remember opening my eyes and seeing him and Q there. I had them take the breathing machine and thing out my throat, and it just… Dealing with everything that was happening, it felt so normal. We played tic-tac-toe. We had a conversation. It didn’t even feel like I was in the hospital when he was there. He was just an incredible light who got me through a very dark situation.
When I was 17, I also had a tumor and his music was my rock in the hospital.
He was just an incredible individual who brought people together and I wish I could better formulate into words… But he was one of my closest friends. We were in a non-judgment zone with our friendship. We uplifted each other through any situation. I’m glad God gave me that opportunity for him to sit with me, to hold my hand, to just talk me through one of the most painful situations. And even then, he was smiling and making jokes. It changed my attitude because I was so mad in there and I was so defeated.
How do you want Malcolm to be remembered?
He was somebody who loved, who continues to love, who brightened every room, and brought people together. He was an incredible human being, who loved life and who loved and valued everyone he brought into his circle. I met so many people through Mac, from his tours [to] just everything.
I remember, he said, “I got a show in Paris.” I said, “Cool, I’mma come.” He said, “Karen, it’s Paris, France.” I said, “Okay, I’mma come. I’mma come see you.” He was nervous. This was when JAY-Z and Kanye were performing the Watch The Throne tour. I did not tell him I was there. I hit Quincy, I said, “Hey, Quincy, please make sure you put my name on the [list] and get me a pass.” I remember passing a monument with a thumbs up, and I text it to him. And he was like, “Where are you?” I said, “I just passed this statue, and it’s just a reminder,” because, you know, he had his whole thumbs up thing. It reminds me so much of him. He was like, “Where are you?” I was like, “You’ll see.”
He was already performing on stage. Everyone was on the left side, I was on the right side. His security was just like “Who is that on stage?” They couldn’t tell what was happening. So, Dave, that was his security at the time, he came over, trying to figure out who I was. He said, “Karen! What are you doing here?” I said, “I told him I was coming to the show.” Then he walks me to the other side, Mac turned over and he came inside. He’s like, “You really came!” I said, “Yeah, I’m a person of my word. You were nervous,” and I said, “Look at this crowd!” He gave me a hug, he went back on stage, and it was great to see him perform.
I’ve seen him perform all around the world. I’ve just been so supportive of him, and it definitely hurts, because you don’t have that voice anymore, and those conversations at two, three in the morning.
It hurts because it’s not just about a musician passing. I lost my friend. I lost one of my closest friends, and I continue to miss him because I just wish one day it’s a bad dream and he will just walk into a situation again. But even in life, and in death, he brought us together. And it’s so amazing. It’s so amazing what he’s able to do. I will not stop loving him as a human being, as an artist, and as one of my closest friends. It sucks talking about him in the past tense, but I absolutely loved him as an individual, as a friend, as a brother.
He was a lot of things to me, and I miss him.