Quad Recording Studios
Wednesday, October 27
Better than: Waiting until 11/8/2011
“Turn it up loud because I like to listen to it loud,” Mac Miller gleefully prefaced as his debut album blared over the speakers. Joint in hand–sometimes alternated with a bottle of champagne–and cloaked in a hooded sweatshirt with a pair of slide sandals with socks, the wunderkind known for goofy lyrics about mogul Donald Trump and turkey sandwiches previewed Blue Slide Park (slated for 11/8/2011 release) to a small group of hip-hop journalists and influencers last night at Quad Recording Studios.
Symbolically speaking (not so much acoustically), the plush lounge space served as an ideal venue for the burgeoning Pittsburgh rapper’s fare; Quad Recording Studios has long been a fertile breeding ground imbued with musical history from 2Pac’s infamous 1994 shooting to the countless notables who have recorded there like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. The multitude of accolades and plaques adorning the studio’s walls seem more decoration now than anything and hearken back to better, seemingly obsolete times. Nine platinum plaques (signifying nine million sales) from Ace of Base’s debut The Sign for instance, glistened visibly on the wall. Tet we can only imagine how our favorite Swedish foursome would fare in the present-day musical mélange.
A rare collegial geniality pervaded the room and à la the opening theme to Cheers–it really felt that everyone knew each other. Fraternal love however proved both enjoyable and very maddening and greatly impeded the critical listening experience. Above the din of beer bottle caps being dislodged, crunchy pretzels being munched, marijuana not-so-surreptitiously being passed, and journalists wheeling and dealing future pitch ideas, I strained to actually listen to music.
Distractions aside, Blue Slide Park sounded pretty good; it’s fun, upbeat and teeming with youthful vigor. The jumpy single “Frick Park Market” and the teen anthem-ready “Loitering” were standout cuts and featured the suburban playfulness Mac has artfully honed completely with shout-outs to “chillin’ in the playground” and Adderall name checks. The album is devoid of guest appearances, refreshing for a neophyte, aside from instrumentation from Mansions on the Moon and a small handful of others (Mac also mans the guitar on some tracks). The rapper explained to me afterward that he forewent collaborations to keep the album self-focused and thereby avoid relying on anyone but himself for the album’s success or lack thereof.
It’s easy to downplay Mac Miller as the proverbial pesky little brother or to glob him into the ever-growing ‘another white rapper’ menagerie, but there’s budding talent here that hints at a career well past quippy one-liners. Blue Slide Park is a debut worth a listen (preferably in quieter settings) and heck, he already has The Donald’s stamp of approval.
Critical bias: Wearing slide sandals with socks ranks up there as one of the most heinous fashion violations in my book. Mac Miller, consider this your first citation.
Overheard I: “This is excellent Bar Mitzvah music”–attendee musing over the sonic possibilities of Blue Slide Park.
Overheard II: “Don’t fucking record anything or [manager] Benjy will kill you… He’s willing to commit his first murder for this shit”–Mac Miller admonishing attendees from recording music from the listening.
Random notebook dump: Quad Recording Studios peculiarly still touts 2Pac as a client. All publicity is good publicity, right?
1. “English Lane”
2. “Blue Slide Park”
3. “Party On Fifth Ave.”
4. “PA Nights”
5. “Frick Park Market”
6. “Smile Back”
7. “Under The Weather”
8. “Of The Soul”
9. “My Team”
10. “Up All Night”
12. “Hole In My Pocket”
13. “Diamonds & Gold”
14. “Missed Calls”
15. “Man In The Hat”
16. “One Last Thing”