Why We Still Love Mac Miller’s ‘K.I.D.S.’

“When I think back to high school, this is the first thing that comes to mind.”
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Why We Still Love Mac Miller’s K.I.D.S.

Mac Miller stole our hearts with K.I.D.S., and nearly a decade later, the tape still feels as fresh and hopeful as ever. Mac immersed K.I.D.S. in a brimming youth and happiness that feels absent from today’s musical climate. From the videos to the flows, the mixtape was a definitive moment for Mac Miller and his first creative renaissance. Everything about the project screamed carefree joy and love. Mac’s happiness made the mixtape into a living classic upon release.

To celebrate the project’s ninth birthday on August 13, I spoke with The Gumbo’s Editor-in-Chief and fellow MacHead Nadirah Simmons about our shared love for Mac Miller, the K.I.D.S. mixtape, and what we can glean from an album filled with childlike wonder all these years on.

Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

DJBooth: Do you remember the first Mac song you heard?

Nadirah Simmons: Oh, my God! It was something with him and Beedie. The song was called “Like Aaay!” and it was him and Beedie, and their group The Ill Spoken. That was the first song I heard, and it was on some playlist with him and Kooley High, and some other group. I looked it up, found out about Beedie, found out about Mac, and then Mac just started making music on his own. Wow. I completely forgot about that.

Why did you become a MacHead?

I’m such a big fan of sampling in music. I love soulful hip-hop songs, and I can’t remember what tape it is off the top of my head [The High Life], but he sampled “Just My Imagination,” and I was just like “Wow! This white dude is sampling this old, classic song, and doing it justice.” Then, just seeing the way he interacted with dudes so early on in his career. He’s on a song with YG, and he’s hanging out with Chance and bringing Chance on his tour. Something about him just having respect for the culture… The fact that he, and it’s so weird to say “was,” so respectful and he was so in tune, and he was a student of the genre and of the culture. That sold me.

What did K.I.D.S. mean to you when you first heard it?

I loved it! It made me feel very free and young. I was a senior listening to “Senior Skip Day,” literally plotting with my friends. It’s just so weird how relevant that tape was. It was just exciting, like, wow, this guy was able to take the freedom that I feel as a young adult and also take this very insane movie, and make rap that resonates with you.

It doesn’t always have to be “This is my hardship.” It was, this man is telling a story from his perspective that a lot of us can relate to. Like, “Yo, we’re young, we’re in high school, we’re gonna skip school.” Mac Miller’s music was the fucking soundtrack of that entire teenage experience.

And the videos were just lovely.

And you know what else I love? I love his videos; it’s always his homies with him. The one thing that separates Mac Miller from the blog era was that they stuck with their homies. To see a video and see TreeJay and see Jerm, and all these people that he is so tight with, and not only are they on his team… They’re making this art together, and they’re having fun together. It’s like “Yo, let’s all go hang out and just do what we do, as the people we are.”

What does the tape mean to you now, in the wake of everything?

It’s been harder for me to listen to K.I.D.S. after he passed than it was before. I think about that youth and that innocence and Mac before heartbreak and his different vices. The first time I heard it was the day after he passed. I turned on K.I.D.S., and I cried because it just felt so odd. I’m pretty sure it was “Nikes On My Feet” and seeing that visual in my head, and just how happy he was.

It’s hard because that wasn’t necessarily “Happy Mac,” but just the Mac before all of the fame. The Mac that my dad finally let me see in concert. That was my first concert ever. I got to see him perform songs from K.I.D.S. and I was so excited. K.I.D.S. is a sad one, but also, in a way, it makes me happy. He shared that part of his life with us. I have so many memories, and I’m happy that he was able to create something authentic. I’m glad that I have it.

What’s your favorite K.I.D.S. memory?

It was listening to “Traffic In The Sky.” My friend and I, Sarah, we would go, every day after school, to a pizza shop around the corner from my high school. Everybody loved Mac, but everyone only wanted to listen to “Senior Skip Day,” “Nikes On My Feet,” “Kool-Aid & Frozen Pizza,” and I was like, “Yo! There’s other good songs on here.”

Finally, I was controlling the aux cord in my friend’s car, and I put on “Traffic In The Sky,” and I was so happy, and it was so vivid. I felt like I was cool as shit! I was putting everyone on to music and seeing my friend bopping her head to this one song that we would always skip on the tape? That was our self-care: listening to Mac and having our wings and pizza.

Why do we still love K.I.D.S. to this day, even though it’s not Mac Miller’s best work?

Do you know what’s crazy? When he was at our job last August, he had come either that day or the day after the anniversary. I will always regret not going downstairs at work that day and telling him, “Yo, K.I.D.S. means so much to me.” This is why it means so much because I felt so compelled. I didn’t know he was gonna pass three weeks later.

What makes K.I.D.S. so vital, and why I can still bump “Good Evening” and be happy listening to it, is because it was made by someone who was young and talented and was growing even within that tape itself.

What’s one life lesson you took away from K.I.D.S.?

When he says, “We’re just some motherfucking kids.” That is my life lesson. Not to be so hard on yourself. Especially in life, in the time that we’re in now, with society and the pressures around us, we are so hard on ourselves. Granted, I’m 24, I’m not just a motherfucking kid, but I’m also human. I’m just a person. It helped me not be so hard on myself when I disappointed myself. You are only a kid; you can make mistakes. I do have the capacity to make mistakes, and I can grow, and I can learn.

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