If you’re familiar with the bubbling rap scene in Detroit, the name Earlly Mac should ring a bell. He’s been down with Big Sean’s Finally Famous crew since they were in school together, and now Earlly is starting to make some noise with songs like “Next Room” and “#LikeKanye,” the latter of which features one of the most popular young Detroit street rappers right now, Icewear Vezzo.
Earlly’s sound is a tightrope walk that balances his experiences in the streets with higher aspirations. In our interview, we spoke to Earlly about how he manages to equally serve both hardcore fans and the mainstream at the same time. Now that he’s getting in the studio with artists like Rihanna, it seems like his formula has been a success so far.
We got on the phone with Earlly Mac to talk about meeting Big Sean, what’s happening in Detroit right now, and where he’s going next. Watch this kid.
WatchLOUD: How did you come up with the idea for your “Next Room” single?
Earlly Mac: Really, my producer Ice Pic just played the sample for me and the lights were low in the studio and I just got inspired a little bit. It’s a semi-realistic situation I’m talking about and I just got in the studio and laid it quick. Wasn’t really thinking too much about it.
You’re down with Big Sean and his Finally Famous crew. When did you get down with him?
That was before Finally Famous was made, that was like 10th grade, ‘04 probably. [Big Sean and I] started off as friends. Really, I met him through a mutual friend that was doing music. So I was doing music with him at first and then when I left the school we all went to, that’s when I actually met Sean through our mutual friend and we just started making music. I was a producer then, I didn’t rap at that point so I would just produce for those two. We had a group and everything so Sean and I clicked and we stayed friends ever since. It’s a lot of us, too. It’s more than just me, there are a couple more members of Finally Famous. There were 12 or 13 of us at one point. After that, we started throwing parties. We didn’t start getting into the music heavy until like Finally Famous Vol. 1, Big Sean’s first mixtape.
I saw you call Ro Spit (of Burn Rubber) your uncle on Instagram and we just finished the second season of “Detroit Rubber.” What’s important about the Burn Rubber boutique in terms of the music scene?
You know, with this whole streetwear culture, every city has their major streetwear outlet and Burn Rubber is definitely our number one. There are a few others, but they’re definitely our number one place. They’ve allowed for me personally to meet a lot of people and be able to attach. I can say I know Rick, I can say I know Ro because they were like our big brothers early on when we first started. They’re a lot older than us [laughs]. I’m very blessed and appreciative to be accepted like them as I have been. You can call Rick, you can call Ro, they’ll tell you Earlly Mac is good, Big Sean is good. They’re super important, they play a big part to bring awareness to talent from the city. I’m proud of what they bring to the city, because you know Detroit, we don’t really have…we’re just starting to accumulate cool things since Motown.
How do you feel Detroit is right now as a city?
Detroit is definitely rising, the phoenix rising from the ashes, just recently. I stayed in Detroit my whole life. The only time I didn’t stay there was in ’08 when I went away to school for a year. So I’m 26, that’s 25 years in Detroit. I’ve seen it from the late ‘90s to now. My grandma and my dad tell me stories about how it used to be and I visualize it and compare it to now. I’m at the point where I don’t even watch the documentaries about the old Detroit because I walk past and see what it used to be and what we don’t have now. But I also see what it’s becoming as well. Evidently, everybody’s having an awakening from Detroit, everybody is getting tired I guess…in their spirit, wanting to bring back the flame we once had, so that’s why you’re seeing a certain emergence of these artists from the city. I can run down a list. It’s really fascinating. Plus, to spearhead it myself…I looked at what we could possibly do and it’s real deep. It’s surreal too because I’m a part of it. I’m not a spectator at all.
It’s interesting you say you see yourself spearheading this Detroit movement, because you’ve positioned yourself ina very unique space soundwise. Where do you place yourself within this new rebirth of Detroit hip-hop?
Sh*t…I’m just one of the new heavyhitters from out here. I’m not playing. My whole team, Finally Famous, Sean is not playing. We have something to say, we got something to offer. You haven’t even heard the real Detroit sound yet. There’s a sound that in 2014 the world really hasn’t heard. There’s a sound we want to bring and to be honest, me and Sean can’t even bring you that sound, but we got homies that bring that sound and we trying to pull them up.
It’s a whole cultural thing that’s missing from hip-hop because we ain’t hit our zenith yet. We’re on our way, but we haven’t even gotten there yet. From the Certier glasses to the Al Wissam jackets, the Coney dogs, certain Detroit accents you would only know if you knew someone from Detroit, the hustle, the streets, the hood. You hear about Zone 6 and these different places in Cali and all of this types of stuff, but there are hoods and styles and culture that you know nothing about.
I want to bring all that to light. It’s a new flavor I’m bringing. I’m gonna bring you consciousness, Im gonna bring you the street, I’m gonna bring you the hood consciousness mixed, kind of like how Kendrick does. Kendrick is a fellow Gemini like me. I could tell you all I want, but I could show you better than I could tell you. We’re just gonna bring you that magic. It’s about being down three in the fourth quarter and the ball is in your hands and the clock is winding down. That’s what I’m about, that’s the situation we’re facing.
Your cousin is Young RJ from Slum Village. How did you first get into music?
I just started on my own. Really, my start was with Sean and my homies. If you want to take it back before then, it was just me by myself trying to learn Fruity Loops. MY mom was a singer, my dad played the guitar, my cousin is RJ Rice, so I already had a musical background, that’s how I really started. I meat a few homies along the way, Jay John, Pat, Sean, Aloe G back from high school, my n*gga Dolphin.
Then in 2013 I hooked up with my cousin RJ and went on tour with [Slum Village] and did a few runs with them. That was really about it. 2011 I went on tour with Sean and Wiz, and that’s all she wrote.
Where’d you go to school and what for?
I went to Full Sail University. It’s a multimedia college in Winterpark, Florida, and I went for film production. But 2008 hit and I couldn’t pay for it no more, so I had to come back home. I went out there with my homie Dusty McFly, he actually graduated though, shout out to Dusty. Dusty’s another good friend of mine.
You mentioned bringing a street sound, but your recent music has more of a pop flavor. How do you balance the harder stuff with the pop stuff?
I like the contrast of textures. You listen to [Icewear] Vezzo and you hear him on his regular production, then you put him on a track kind of like he would do on his own, the core of it, but then you sprinkle the fairy dust on top.
I just did a track with JMSN and took him out of his element. I had to do something urban that was also alternative-friendly for him too, and it was the content. I had a hook in my mind that was something about the club and he was like, “Nah, I can’t do that, but I can do this.” And I can do it too because I can be eclectic and all this type of sh*t, but at the same time the house next door to my grandma’s is completely burnt out. I’ve been around having to get on the floor because they shooting outside, people getting shot in front of my house.
But at the same time, right now I’m up at Sean’s house in the hills overlooking Studio City, eating at the Beverly Hotel, drinking mineral water and sh*t. Even though I haven’t dived deep to either side, I can still put that sweet and savory together.
How do you feel about Dej Loaf’s newfound success?
Man, I’m real proud of Dej because last time I seen Dej, you know Dej is very quiet, mild-mannered, but you can always tell when someone’s not doing so well or whatever. I never seen Dej bummy or on no broke shit at all, always crispy, always clean, but you could just tell something was…her clouds were gray.
She actually passed out in D.C. not too long before she dropped “Try Me” and was like in a coma or some sh*t, I don’t even think people really know about that. So I called her and told her stay strong, I hope everything is good, because that’s some serious sh*t. In true Detroit fashion, you really can’t hold a champion down, and whether you know it or not, Detroit is a real championship city. We real strong, we real tough. She turned the tides like you’d never believe. I’m talking zero to 100,000, very quick. That’s some of the hardest sh*t I’ve ever heard.
That’s probably the second best story next to Sean’s story. You gotta think, people from Detroit, we got some of the crispiest stories. Eminem going from where he was, a corner in Detroit, a dirty ass, busted ass, nothing corner to being the number one rapper of all time. You got Big Sean getting turned down by so many labels and so many situations and not having a window at all to one of the biggest rappers cosigning him. Dej Loaf, coming from that area where she was at to getting accepted everywhere. We got some of the craziest come-up stories ever.
What happened to the Earl Pose tape?
Just switching it up. I got it done but it’s jus tnort really reflecting what I want it to reflect 100%. It does reflect me, but it’s one of those artist tweaks. I want to keep putting out other songs I know I’m able to make that I have already. I probably disappointed a few people, but I gotta feel comfortable with what I’m doing, so I’ma just put it on hold. I might stream it later, I donno, I gotta just figure it out. It has to make sense
So what’s next for you?
New music. I got a joint with Sean and A$AP Ferg and Key Wane on production, I’m excited about that. Sean’s album is coming out, that’s big for us. Couple projects in the works, situations we might be dealing with, too. Lotta hype shit.