Studio Sessions | Big Jerm and Mac Miller went from being Myspace collaborators to close friends
For this installment of “Studio Sessions,” producer Big Jerm talks Wiz Khalifa’s evolution and recalls working with the late Mac Miller when he was just a kid.
When Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller were 20 years old and younger, doing whatever they could to get studio time, Big Jerm was supplying them with the beats that would help build the foundation of their legacies.
“[Mac Miller] would try to trade a computer monitor for a session or some shit. Honestly, I thought he was annoying back then. He was a little kid and his name was Easy Mac at the time,” Jerm told REVOLT. “Then, over time, I befriended him more and realized he could play different instruments, and he had more of a vision than I initially thought.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Big Jerm recalls recording early projects like K.I.D.S. for Mac Miller, how one of Wiz Khalifa and Mac’s earliest collaborations happened, and his last days with Mac.
What do you remember about your first session with Wiz Khalifa?
The first beat I did for him was ‘Getting It’ off the Prince of the City 2. This was back when all you could do was give out beat CDs, so I gave his first manager the beat CD and Wiz picked that beat. That was back in 2007. I also went to SAE in New York for audio engineering. When I met E. Dan in ‘07 when I dropped the files off for ‘Getting’ It,’ I talked to him and I started interning at ID Labs a year later. The one engineer there was flaky, so Wiz would hit me up at like 10:00 p.m. to do sessions randomly. The first thing I remember is you could just tell he had charisma. He had confidence and he knew he was going to do it. He had a vision. Even if they’re talented, most people have a hard time having a vision.
So, what was a typical session like with Wiz back then? How has it changed over the years?
It hasn’t changed a whole lot other than the money (laughs). But that’s a big change. Back then, it was a lot of weed, a lot of girls and pretty much all of, like, Hazelwood. That’s where Sledgren and Chevy [Woods] are from. Wiz is kind of from there, too. That’s one thing I respected about Wiz — he still has the same people around. Even his bodyguards are from Hazelwood. Back then, it was just more like a lower-level thing, but it wasn’t a lot different. It was just kind of like a party in the studio.
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You started working with him when he was a teenager. What has he gotten better at as a recording artist?
Singing, for one thing. I think he got more comfortable with that. Back then, he was probably writing on a Blackberry or something. That’s probably what people had back then. Then, around Kush & OJ, maybe a little after that, he started not really writing. He would just go in and do a bar at a time. I just think he got comfortable with the recording process. He knew what he was trying to do. Over time, it was just easier for him to get it out quicker.
How has your role with him evolved over the years?
He trusted us more just from being around us and stuff. I gave him that sample for the ‘Slim Skit’ on Kush & OJ. He wanted something to do a skit over, so I looped up that one part. It’s things like that where he trusts my judgment. I was just in Atlanta for three years. I’ve been back in Pittsburgh for about a year now. So, now it’s more like I send them shit and we text. That’s kind of our relationship now.
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You also had a close working relationship with Mac Miller. How did you two connect?
He hit me up on MySpace. That’s how long ago that was (laughs). It was around 2008, and he was probably barely 16 when he hit me up. I think he heard about me because he heard me on a Wiz mixtape or something from this rapper from Pittsburgh named Boaz. So, he hit me up on Myspace and bought a beat from me, and then I didn’t really hear too much from him. Then, there was a point at ID Labs when this other engineer Josh got into a car accident. He broke his leg, so he was out for a while.
Then, I was there basically 24/7. That’s when Mac started trying to trade me random shit for a session. He would try to trade a computer monitor for a session or some shit (laughs). Honestly, I thought he was annoying back then. He was a little kid, and his name was Easy Mac at the time. I just didn’t really take him seriously. I’m just being honest. Then, over time I befriended him more and realized he could play different instruments, and he had more of a vision than I initially thought. I think all of that came together. Then we started with K.I.D.S. I basically recorded the whole thing. After that, we did stuff like Blue Slide Park. He signed with Rostrum Records in 2010.
What was his creative process like in the studio?
I think at first he was just like, ‘I’m just gonna be a rapper.’ For The Best Day Ever bonus track, that song had an Earth, Wind & Fire sample. I had made a beat from that in probably 2005. One day, I was just in the front room [of the studio] with the loop playing and he overheard it. E. Dan played bass on it — and then that was pretty much it. Everything just came together so quickly. It felt like back then, nobody was really trying too hard. We were just doing what we did and it worked out.
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I saw a photo of you, Wiz and Mac in the studio in November 2015. What did you notice about how Mac and Wiz worked together?
Mac really looked up to him because Wiz was the only person that ever did what he did out of Pittsburgh. They kind of went in different directions musically by 2015. The song ‘Keep Floatin’’ from Mac that features Wiz was recorded for Wiz; he did the hook. That was supposed to be for Rolling Papers 1, and then Mac wanted to get Wiz on something for Best Day Ever and I was like, ‘I have this shit he didn’t even use.’ So, sometimes it would just be like that. We were all so close, working out of the same studio all the time. Then they both moved to LA. Wiz moved out around early 2011, and then Mac was out there in like 2012. I think the picture you’re talking about is out at Paramount [Recording Studios].
You’ve been a part of some surprising studio sessions. What in the world happened that resulted in Darrelle Revis being in a Mac Miller session?
I remember that, too (laughs). So I think Geiger and Mac were probably in touch. Or maybe it was also Mac’s old manager Quentin Cuff. They were all, like, talking and then Revis came to the original ID Labs studio. You can see the original ID Labs in Wiz’s ‘The Kid Frankie’ video. It was such a shitty little place and Darrelle Revis was there rapping. I don’t really know what motivated him to want to rap, but I’m not going to hate on him at all. He was a really nice dude.
Did Mac and Revis do a song together?
I don’t even know. I probably have it on a hard drive somewhere. I pretty much have everything. That was probably 2011.
Photo Credit: North Point Breeze
Speaking of that, what is a song you produced and know exists that you hope comes out one day?
There are a few, but I have no control over what comes out. People ask me every day about them. People DM me asking, ‘Can you just send me an unreleased Mac song?’ I would never do that (laughs). There’s one called ‘The Difference.’ I don’t want people to try to hack me or something to find it. There are ones we did. I used to go on tour with both of them a lot more early on up until 2013, and they would have a studio bus. On the ‘Macadelic Tour,’ we did a bunch of stuff that never came out. I’ve done so much stuff with Mac that never came out for whatever reason.
What have been the funniest moments in the studio with either Mac or Wiz?
I remember Mac was about 18 or 19. He wanted to do this double-time verse and he was drinking. He had two 40 [ounce beers], actually. He was doing pretty well at first. Then, by the time he got through the second 40, I was like, ‘You gotta just stop.’ He was slurring. It was so bad (laughs).
Wiz smokes heavily anywhere he goes. Did you ever have to leave a session because the smoke was too much?
Definitely — even on those tours where it’s even more confined because you’re in the back of a bus. Juicy J called one tour bus ‘The Puff Bus.’ And there’s a song too — it’s called ‘In The Car.’ We did it on that one tour, and then we all ended up going to jail on that tour in North Carolina because of that (laughs). You’d pull up and there’s smoke coming out of the bus (laughs). Stuff like that is when it’s like I literally couldn’t breathe. I smoke a little bit but not like that. That’s a different level.
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What’s the most impactful song you’ve made the quickest?
Probably ‘Ascension’ for Mac off GO:OD AM. That was one where he came back to Pittsburgh for most of the summer. The song had a Curtis Mayfield sample and for whatever reason, I just heard the parts I needed and I just took exactly what I needed. Sometimes when I sample, I’ll take more than I need. I might leave some out or whatever. But I sequenced that one super quickly. Then, Mac went in the booth and did it. It was one of those ones. Sometimes it’s meant to be. It probably took 20 minutes to make the beat.
Mac passed September 7, 2018. When was the last session you had with him?
It was probably Spring of 2018. I actually lived with him in 2017 from January to June. I just stayed with him in LA and we were doing shit together. Then, I moved back to Pittsburgh in the Summer of 2017. So, we didn’t see each other a little bit until that Spring. It was kind of weird. At that point, I guess we were doing different shit musically. I think he, like, evolved past me. We weren’t even really working a lot that last year and I regret that. I didn’t know anything would happen, but I felt like I hadn’t seen him too much that whole year. It’s weird, honestly.
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What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
Wiz got an album coming out. I got a couple of beats on there — but then I don’t know. I’ve just been trying to work with different people, but I kind of end up just making a bunch of beats and sending them out and seeing what happens. So, there’s always potential. But, Wiz is always the priority for me.
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