Kehlani Remembers Mac Miller: Interview

“It’s really rare to find someone that is smiling all the time and can have compassion for any situation.”
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Mac Miller had fun. That was apparent from the first Easy Mac tape to the final notes of Swimming. Mac Miller was in love with creation, and he spread that love unto all of his friends. 

For this week’s Year of Mac, we speak with his close friend Kehlani about their friendship, Mac’s legacy, and the overwhelming honesty Mac brought to his music.

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

DJBooth: Take me to the first time you met Malcolm.

Kehlani: We had been in contact for so long, on social media and texting, and we were supposed to link up. We had never clicked up in person. We have a picture of each other on both our Instagrams, that was our first time intentionally linking up in person. It had been so many “What are you doing today?” and we never made it happen.

It was a great time. I went over there, expecting to make a song, and we always joke that we didn’t end up doing the song. We sat there, and we watched the Mary J. Blige commercial, the Burger King commercial. The whole day we were crying over him re-enacting this commercial. I did his birth chart! We were supposed to get lunch the day that everything happened. That’s the beginning to the end. It was very deep, for it to be very short. We were talking every day. We were talking about relationships and getting very close and talking about my baby. So, it was very sad.

What drew you to him?

Well, I think it’s the fact that we’re like-minded. This industry tends to split [people] in two. One side being of people who care about things like status and impressions and care about amounts of money or jewelry, the lifestyle. The other half is people who are just grateful to be successful that are just happy to be here; people who are honestly grateful to be able to make music and have people fuck with it. He cared on that level. When the fans would rile up about award shows, he didn’t care.

What was most important to him? He was just happy that he was going as far as he was, and people fucked with it. He felt like he was making music that he felt like he loved. He was doing all these tiny shows versus doing giant concerts because he was telling me that meant the world to him: having intimate experiences.

Everyone also told me he had the kindest, most generous soul.

Absolutely! He made that a point. Even when it came down to talking about things that could potentially upset him with other people, it still came from the angle of, “You know what? God bless him.” That always ended up being the verbiage when it came to speaking on other people. It’s really rare to find people like that.

As a person, what did he bring out of you? What did you learn from him?

I learned that there are so many routes to success, and there are so many ways to relax and be happy. That's one thing that he taught everyone in the world, as well as being honest—being honest about when things aren’t going as well as you feel like they could be when it is time to get help. When it is time to reach out, and look for friends and look for family and look for love. He knew how to do that. It was evident in his music: Him knowing when it was time to give him self-care, knowing when it was time to get help, to relax and let this part of his career be when he enjoys being a human.

And to be grateful. He was so grateful all the time. Grateful that there were so many people around him that loved him. Grateful for his family. Grateful for his talent, and not letting it inhibit him or let him be lazy. He let that fuel him and allowed it to inspire his friends. That meant a lot to me. He started having so much fun. A lot of people don’t let themselves because they’re overthinking everything. He fully enjoyed everything he was doing.

What was the best conversation you ever had?

One that I will always remember is him telling me, “It’s so cool you have a mini Kehlani in your stomach,” and him asking if I knew if my daughter was a boy or a girl yet. And he was like, “If it’s a boy, I think you should name it Malcolm because I think that’s a pretty special name.” And I was like, “Yeah, I’ll think about it because there’s plenty of special Malcolms in the world.” And he said: “Yeah, and he’ll be another special one.” I never forgot about that, because I found out she was a girl maybe a couple weeks after he passed.

When did you realize he was a special person?

He was giving advice without realizing he was giving advice. He was talking and not realizing that everything he says is something to soak up. We were just sitting there, and he said, “Bro, I just realized, you have to love everything that you do. As long as you love it, that’s really what matters.” He was talking about how we waste so much time self-sacrificing and doing it for business, and even the fans start to notice. The people that love our art begin to notice. He was taking it upon himself to double back and make sure he was still having fun. That’s when the people that enjoyed him would notice that the most. Now, whenever I’m doing something, and I’m overthinking [it], or I’m going too hard, I’m like, “Man, this shit is not that serious.”

Was that your favorite thing about being his friend?

He’s just full of compassion. Compassion, empathy and he was full of emotion. It’s really rare to find someone that is smiling all the time and can have compassion for any situation. I’ve listened to this man talk about things that hurt him, and people that hurt him, and still approach it with the emotion of: “Well, I get it. Sometimes people are the way they are.” He never had a bad thing to say about anyone. That was the best thing about him.

I have to know, what’s your favorite Mac project?

I was in high school; I wasn’t even doing music. I felt like his teenagehood at the time. K.I.D.S., my life was parallel to that. I’m listening to “Senior Skip Day” on Senior Skip Day. “Kool-Aid & Frozen Pizza,” I’m a weed-smoking kid in Oakland, kicking it with all skaters. I felt every word because that was my life at the time. I told him when I first met him: “Bro, I’m a stan.” All we listened to in high school was Mac Miller because we were trying to have some fun. We were just kids like he said. To me, that’s my favorite era besides Swimming.

How do you want his music to be remembered?

I want people to remember his humanity as they’re listening to the music. Also, realize how much bravery and courage it takes to be that honest, be that self-aware, and be that real about things going on internally. He let us witness that entire journey. He let us witness him going from a weed-smoking, school-skipping kid to a grown man who had been in relationships and dealt with substance abuse and depression. He never hid that. That took real courage. That took humanity. Really look at [his discography] as an entirety. Not just, “I heard these big songs, and that’s who Mac Miller is to me,” but take a second to go and experience the journey from the first tape to the album. Take in the fact that this man grew up in front of our eyes, in a really beautiful way.

Finally, how do you want Malcolm, the man, to be remembered?

As a man, people gotta remember that he was so much more than the circumstances of how he left the earth. He was so much more than the downfalls and his relationship history, so much more than even his art. How he left us all, it did leave a lot of room for people to judge him, and that’s sad because he’s so much more than that. Watch an interview, listen to the music. Listen to the way his mom speaks about him. People speak about him in this loving, positive way. That’s how they should remember him as a man. So many people are keeping him alive in the best way.

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