How MTV is Going to Make Mac Miller the Next Big Thing

MTV’s been a fan and supporter of indie hip-hop artist Mac Miller for two years. Now they’re planning to make him a star.

How MTV is Going to Make Mac Miller the Next Big Thing

You may not have heard of rapper Mac Miller yet, but if MTV has its way, that’s about to change Tuesday night. That’s when MTV2, the network’s channel currently reaching about 80 million homes (with young guys making up the bulk of the audience) is debuting a six-episode reality series dubbed Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family.


Why this kid, why now? On the surface, Malcolm “Mac Miller” McCormick could be any one of thousands of self-taught musicians aspiring to snag a bit of the hip-hop spotlight with a fresh face and freestyle rhymes. In fact, Miller was already on his way to being an indie superstar when his 2011 album Blue Slide Park sold 145,000 copies in its first week to become the first independently released album to hit the top spot in more than a decade. That was after building a devoted fan base one mix tape and YouTube video at a time. By the time Billboard took notice, Miller’s video channel had 176 million views. MTV was already paying close attention.

Earlier in 2011, MTV designated Miller an “Artist to Watch” and continued to support his efforts to reach a wider audience. In addition to numerous interviews including an appearance with fellow Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa on RapFix, Miller’s popped up as a presenter at the VMAs, played on Hip Hop Squares, and gave viewers his backstory on This Is How I Made It. According to MTV, Miller’s Live In Chicago live stream is still the network’s highest-traffic single-artist live stream.

“He’s got a deep and wide ranging appeal,” says Paul Ricci, SVP of programming and production for MTV2. Despite Miller’s (which he came off of late last year), Ricci maintains, “I don’t want to speak for the talent team but from my perspective, Miller’s got an authenticity and likability that is unmistakeable.” That said, when asked if he was the next generation Bubba Sparxx, Ricci wasn’t willing to draw any comparisons. “He’s blazing his own trail,” says Ricci, a process that MTV is all too happy to chronicle with its series.

Filmed Cribs-style with similar musical interjections and signature camera angles, Most Dope Family follows Miller and his four friends from Pittsburgh to their shared house in L.A. If it sounds like a real-life Entourage, it is–but with a much younger crew.

Unlike Vince’s heavy focus on hooking up, Miller maneuvers through more wholesome activities. Among them: the baking of homemade cookies for their neighbors (to make nice after making a lot of noise recording), attempting to get a flu shot (thanks, Mom), and playing Scrabble with his family. That’s not to say there aren’t adult situations. Mac does plan an epic “end of the world” party (to coincide with 12/21/12) which did involve alcohol (Ricci assures Co.Create that Miller, then under 21, was not drinking on MTV’s watch) and takes some entrepreneurial steps towards buying a vacant theater in Pittsburgh with the hope of turning it into an entertainment venue.


For Miller, the goal was to find another avenue to document the recording of his new album Watching Movies with the Sound Off. That’s why, says Ricci, Miller was open to MTV2’s pitch to make the show. “It helped that we had a long relationship with him,” Ricci says, noting that negotiations came together very quickly and production started in November. What was most important to Miller, he says, was that the show feel authentic and that MTV wouldn’t handle him too much. “The story lines and the activities were all things he was planning to do anyway,” says Ricci. “He grew up with a lot of TV and referenced a ton of MTV shows. He’s not afraid of the camera.”

Indeed, even if you don’t like hip-hop, Miller’s earnest round eyes, easy laugh, and charming antics make the show easy to watch. But the music does play a part, notes Ricci. From the show’s original theme song to other exclusive new music, Miller’s latest tracks will be available online at the network’s recently launched platform Artists.MTV.

Which is part of the larger plan to cross-pollinate the promotion of Miller. Ricci says there is opportunity for the series to get play across MTV’s ecosystem and to raise his profile, MTV has Miller hosting a Jackass marathon among other guest appearances before Most Dope Family’s premiere.

Ricci says that plans for extending the series haven’t been finalized yet, but that this is the beginning of a long relationship with Miller. “He’s got his hand in a lot of different things,” says Ricci. “As an independent artist, he’s a blueprint for young people charting their own course. You want to root for him and see what he does next.”

[Images: Courtesy of MTV]

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.