Mac Miller: Tiny Desk Concert Mac Miller reflects on his journey's peaks and valleys in a boisterous set of songs from Swimming, featuring special guest Thundercat on "What's the Use?"

Tiny Desk

Mac Miller

There was a shift in Mac Miller's boisterous demeanor as he started the third of his three-song Tiny Desk set. It's the first time he's performed tracks from his new album, Swimming, in front of an audience. On "2009," he rubbed his chin with clinched eyes, looking like a young man who's beginning to crack the code. Backed by a piano loop and a string quartet, he reflected on his journey's peaks and valleys thus far.

I ain't asking why no more
I know I'll take it if it's mine
I don't stay inside the lines
It ain't 2009 no more
Yeah, I know what's behind that door

With nearly a decade under his belt at 26 years old, these words ring like an artist twice his age.

We were introduced to Mac Miller via 2011's XXL Freshman Class, which featured a special crop of MCs such as Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and YG, all of whom are now considered in the upper echelon of hip-hop. After his big splash, he's been able to find a groove and consistently release quality rap records, ultimately keeping his name in the conversation with the other young greats. His 2011 album, Blue Slide Park, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the first independently distributed debut album to do so since 1995's Dogg Food by Tha Dogg Pound. These consecutive triumphs amassed plenty of fame, fortune and insurmountable obstacles, causing a stumble here and there. Throughout the years, however, Mac has brushed himself off and put it in the music.

For this performance, Mac Miller invited frequent collaborator Thundercat, who graced the Tiny Desk last year and will join Mac on tour this fall. Thundercat put on a dazzling shaker routine and played the deep centerpiece bass line on "What's The Use?" These Swimming iterations don't veer far away from the recorded versions, but here, his lyrics seem easier to interpret under live instrumentation.

Set List

  • "Small Worlds"
  • "What's the Use? (Feat. Thundercat)"
  • "2009"

Musicians

Mac Miller (Vocals), Thundercat (Bass), Justus West (Guitar), Klynik (Keys), Joe Cleveland (Bass), Kendall Lewis (Drums), Robin Fay-Massie (Violin), YaShauna Swan (2nd Violin), Lelia Walker (Viola), Melanie Hsu (Cello)

Credits

Producers: Bobby Carter, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, CJ Riculan, Beck Harlan, Khun Minn Ohn; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Rhiannon Giddens plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 17, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Rhiannon Giddens

Giddens shares songs from her latest album, There is No Other, in an emotional and transfixing performance at the Tiny Desk.

Come From Away plays a Tiny Desk Concert on Aug. 12, 2019 (Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR

Come From Away

Sixteen performers from the Broadway cast crammed behind the Tiny Desk to sing songs and share stories about thousands of airline passengers who were stranded in Newfoundland after 9/11.

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley

With eyes shut, Marley dug deep into the healing power of music with songs from his 2017 album Stony Hill.

The Tallest Man On Earth plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 10, 2019. Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

The Tallest Man On Earth (2019)

The Tallest Man On Earth's second appearance at the Tiny Desk comes almost 10 years to the day after his first. He returns with a touch of grey and a beard, but no less intense or moving.

A-WA plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

A-WA

The three Israeli sisters in A-WA mix Yemenite and Arabic traditions with splashes of reggae and hip-hop.

The-Dream plays a Tiny Desk Concert on April 12, 2019 (Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltrán Villamizar/NPR

The-Dream

The singer and mega-hit songwriter showcases three of his own tracks, including "I Luv Your Girl" and two songs from Ménage à Trois: Sextape Vol. 1, 2, 3.

Dan Tepfer plays a Tiny Desk concert on July 30, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Dan Tepfer

The pianist and programmer has transformed the acoustic piano into his duet partner.

47SOUL plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 1, 2019 (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

47SOUL

47SOUL's message of equality is meant for the world. It's music without borders, mixing old and new, acoustic and electronic from a band formed in Amman Jordan, singing in Arabic and English.

Mandolin Orange plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 21, 2019 (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Mandolin Orange

Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz made everything seem so easy, with just a few acoustic instruments and a single microphone behind the Tiny Desk, performing songs full of joy and thoughtfulness.

Nicole Bus plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 8, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Nicole Bus

Nicole Bus' sound is reminiscent of vintage R&B, yet still feels current and capable of transcending age and demographics.

Back To Top