Rapper, Pittsburgh native Mac Miller dead at 26
Rapper and Pittsburgh native Mac Miller died Friday of a suspected drug overdose.
Investigators say they’ll need an autopsy to determine how Miller died.
Los Angeles County coroner’s spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani says Miller, 26, was found unresponsive in his home in the Studio City section of Los Angeles and declared dead shortly before noon.
Ardalani said no cause of death was immediately determined and an autopsy is pending.
His family said in a statement that Miller died Friday but gave no further details.
“He was a bright light in this world for his family, friends and fans,” the statement said.
Born Jan. 19, 1992, as Malcolm J. McCormick, he grew up in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. He attended Allderdice High School, which is where Melissa Friez heard him rap for the first time.
“I walked into the cafeteria and there was a crowd of kids around him,” said Friez, who was in her first year as the high school’s principal. “He was doing a rap battle with the others. I wanted to listen.”
She said the students were surprised when she encouraged them to continue.
“I told them, ‘As long as you’re not hurting anybody and being respectful, I have no problem with it,'” Friez told the Tribune-Review on Friday.
“He told me he was a rapper. I said, ‘That’s nice, honey,”’ she said. “There are a lot of students who say they are rappers.”
Then she heard his mixtape and realized he had true talent. A few months later, he was working with a film crew in Shadyside making a music video. By spring, she was working with Miller and his family to schedule his high school classes around his tour schedule.
“He had a magnetic personality,” she said. “He related well to his peers. He didn’t act as if he was better than anyone.”
He released “Blue Slide Park” in 2011.
While Miller didn’t have a hit on Top 40 radio, he had a strong following on streaming networks and even had an album debut at No. 1 on the top 200 albums chart. His songs earned praise from the likes of Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper.
Miller returned to Allderdice occasionally after he graduated and became famous.
“He was always exactly the same,” Friez said. “He was proud of his roots.”
Miller told the Tribune-Review in 2015 that there was “no better feeling” than being back in Pittsburgh.
“There’s no better feeling in the world than being in your hometown – being able to turn it into something that’s good for people and also, basically, check off every Pittsburgh part of my ‘bucket list,'” he said at the time.
Miller was charged with driving under the influence in May when he struck a power pole in the San Fernando Valley with his 2016 G-Wagon. Miller and two passengers ran from the scene, but police matched the license plate to his home, where he was arrested.
A week before the crash, Miller and his girlfriend, pop star Ariana Grande, broke up.
Miller released his first new album since 2016 on Aug. 3, called “Swimming.”
He told the Tribune-Review in 2015 that he wanted every album to have its own sound and to reflect where he was in life.
“I want every record to represent where I’m at,” Miller said at the time. “Mentally and spiritually and everything. ‘Blue Slide Park’ was a very exciting time when everything was new. There’s nothing better than the first time.
“During ‘Faces,’ I was going through a dark period. One of my biggest pet peeves is when an artist is depressed and trying to make happy music, I really hate that. I don’t want any artist I’m a fan of to lie to me.”
In a profile released Thursday in Vulture, Miller talked about some of those dark times that came through on “Faces,” including his battle with addiction.
“‘I used to rap super openly about really dark (expletive),’ he says of that time in his life and artistry and the mark it has left on the way audiences connect the facts of his life with the themes of his music, ‘because that’s what I was experiencing at the time. That’s fine, that’s good, that’s life. It should be all the emotions.'”
He Tweeted on Thursday night, “I just wanna go on tour.” That tour was scheduled to begin late next month, with a Pittsburgh stop scheduled for Nov. 24 at the Petersen Event Center.
I just wanna go on tour
— Mac (@MacMiller) September 7, 2018
Friez, who now works as Pittsburgh Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for support services, was on a work-related conference call Friday afternoon when she heard the news about Miller’s death.
“When you lose somebody so young, it’s such a terrible thing,” she said. “I’m shocked. We send our condolences to the family.”
Condolences poured in on Twitter.
Today we lost a member of our Pittsburgh family.Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mac Miller. We’ll miss you, Mac. pic.twitter.com/isGcaPZ9wR
— Pirates (@Pirates) September 8, 2018
Praying for Mac’s family and that he rest easy #pgh #412
— Wiz Khalifa (@wizkhalifa) September 7, 2018
I dont know what to say Mac Miller took me on my second tour ever. But beyond helping me launch my career he was one of the sweetest guys I ever knew. Great man. I loved him for real. Im completely broken. God bless him.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) September 7, 2018
NOOO! I do not wanna believe my brother is dead! I cannot take this anymore, life is too short…I just know you’re now in a better place now than this place we call Earth @MacMiller …I love you bro, and will miss youu
— Le’Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) September 7, 2018
— bill peduto (@billpeduto) September 7, 2018
Miller missed at the Frick Park Market
One of Miller’s favorite hangout spots growing up in Point Breeze was the Frick Park Market along Reynolds Street. Maggi Cook and John Prodan have owned and operated the shop the past 10 years.
They became internationally known in 2011 through song and video “Frick Park Market.”
In it Miller raps, “Don’t call me Malcolm if you didn’t (expletive) know me then.”
Cook and Prodan have that privilege.
“He’s Malcolm to me,” Prodan said. “Full of energy, unbelievable drive and just like his music all positive, take care of each other, have fun. When we first met him he would bring his CDs and call me Mr. John. Kids in the neighborhood after-school would all come to the store for years, and they still do.
“He would stand outside and try to sell his $3 CDs to his cronies, then he got his stuff together.”
Miller would be at the market several days a week, nearly every week.
“He pretty much grew up in the store,” Cook said. “He came here the day he got his driver’s license. He was so proud. (He came) the day he graduated. Very surprised to get his diploma, but happy because he was going on tour. He was just such a positive, happy kid and we were very proud of him.”
Cook said she heard the news via phone call Friday afternoon.
“I said, ‘No, that’s not true,” she said. “A customer in front of me, her cell phone was working, and she confirmed it.
“Then the (store) phone started ringing off the hook. Mac fans from all over the country are calling and crying. Most of these kids and families have visited Frick Park Market and all of Malcolm’s favorite places in Pittsburgh.
“They’re all wonderful people. Each kid smarter than the next, well-dressed, well-educated and they want to grieve with us. It’s been a tough afternoon.”
Cook recalled the music video filming.
“He had a director and a producer, but he really directed the video himself because he knew exactly what he wanted it to look like,” she said. “They filmed here from 6:30 p.m. Thursday night till about 5:30 a.m. Friday morning. Then they went off to the studio and finished it, put it on YouTube and it went viral by Tuesday.
“That’s when all the Mac fans from all over the world started calling just to see if there was really a Frick Park Market. We’ve met so many wonderful families.”
Cook expects many fans to visit this weekend and the next.
Fans Austin Houser, 23, and Elena Mehalek, 20, both from Doylestown were among those who made it to the market Friday right at closing time.
They said they were driving to Pittsburgh for the Pitt-Penn State football game Saturday at Heinz Field when they heard about Miller’s death. Mehalek said she has cousins that go to Pitt and she attends Penn State’s main campus.
“We just listened to his music and could not even believe it,” Mehalek said. “He’s so young. It’s really sad.”
The couple said Miller’s public breakup with pop superstar Ariana Grande may have taken a toll on the rapper.
“It’s got to toy with his emotions somehow,” Houser said. “Even if it wasn’t a big part of it, I’m sure it had something to do with it. It’s really impacted him since it happened.”
They said Miller was a true talent with his own definitive style who promoted positivity above violence and criminal acts.
“He was different from anybody that you’ve ever heard,” Houser said. “It’s something with Wiz (Khalifa) and ‘the Pittsburgh style.’ He definitely changed and shaped music forever.”
Megan Guza, Ben Schmitt and Michael DiVittorio are Tribune-Review staff writers. Contact Guza at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib; Schmitt at 412-320-7991, email@example.com or via Twitter @bencschmitt; and DiVittorio at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MikeJdiVittorio. The Associated Press contributed to this report.