For many high school graduates, childhood ends the moment a diploma hits the palms of their hands. To those students, the end of standardized tests and homework marks the beginning of life by their own standards, a journey toward aspirations they were never given permission to follow.
But for 18-year-old rapper Mac Miller, who has been moving full speed toward a career in hip-hop since freshman year at Allderdice High School, signing a deal with Rostrum Records to release the mixtape "K.I.D.S.," has given him a chance to embrace the adolescent experience in a way his schedule often didn't allow as he was living the moment.
"If you're not a kid anymore, [the mixtape] is about remembering when you were a kid and how you were able to live. This is great for me because I don't have to pay a bill. I live with my mom. For right now, I just get to be a kid," he said.
Most kids don't get the opportunity to perform on stage with national artists such as Young Jeezy and Wiz Khalifa, as Mac has in the past year, and Mac admits he never really grew up like most kids. Born Malcolm McCormick of Point Breeze, Mac is a self-taught musician who plays guitar, drums, bass and piano. By the time friends in high school were preoccupied with extracurricular activities and each other, Mac was focused on his music, spending summers making songs on his laptop or cloistered in an attic studio with friends.
"Once I hit 15, I got real serious about it and it changed my life completely," he said. "I used to be into sports, play all the sports, go to all the high school parties. But once I found out hip-hop is almost like a job, that's all I did."
After selling around 70 copies of his first album, a work he said was "of horrible quality" that he recorded on his laptop, he released his second solo work, "The Jukebox," in 2009.
"I was still trying to figure out who I was at this point," he said. "When you're a young kid and you're trying to rap you listen to the radio and you don't know what you want to talk about. I didn't know what I wanted to talk about. I just wanted to tell people I could rap."
With his next release, "The High Life," came a more self-assured artist who shared stories straight out of his life about house parties, dating and the universal anxieties that come with growing from a teen to an adult. His earnest reflections led to about 30,000 downloads of the album and also kicked off a whirlwind of college tours that could have interfered with his education if Allderdice administrators didn't allow him to complete missed work.
"They [supported] me because, at Allderdice, there are kids that won't go to school because they're into some street stuff. Me, on the other hand, I told them I wanted to graduate. It means a lot for me to graduate from somewhere that doesn't end in dot-com. I wanted to wear my gown, walk down with my homies, go to prom, do all the stuff a regular high school kid does."
Even though the "K.I.D.S." mixtape is dedicated to the notion of carefree young adulthood, some might say the Rostrum deal means playtime is officially over for Mac.
But if you're going by his definition of playtime, you would say the fun has just begun.
"I don't do anything high school kids do anymore. We don't go to parties anymore. I haven't been to a party in so long," he said.
"We shot this video where this metaphor just kicked in that I'm not doing anything, [but] then I go to the studio and I'm having a good time. The studio is like my party; I choose that over the party. It's not work, it's what I love to do."
The "K.I.D.S." mixtape hits stores Friday.
Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652.