California artist paints giant Mac Miller mural on side of Etna recording studio

California artist Gustavo Zermeño Jr. was glad he waited three years to paint a giant Mac Miller mural at ID Labs, where the late rapper and Pittsburgh native recorded his music on Mount Etna.

Zermeño painted a mural for Miller, whose real name is Malcolm James McCormick, after his September 7, 2018 death on the side of a friend’s house. As Miller’s January 19 birthday approached, Zermeño Jr. painted another mural for him.

“It caught the eye,” he said. “People close to Mac have reached out and said we want you to come to Pittsburgh someday.”

Although Zermeño has a long experience in painting and drawing, he said he has only been painting murals professionally since 2016.

“Even if I created something artistically on the same level, it wouldn’t have had the same energy,” he said.

The Pittsburgh trip came on the heels of another mural he painted of Miller between 2019 and 2020. He connected with producer and engineer E. Dan, owner of ID Labs.

The mural was the second project outside the state of Zermeño. His first was in Miami.

“It’s his old stomping ground. It’s tied to the people who knew him best, and I wanted to make sure that what I created really represented not Mac Miller but Malcolm,” he said. declared. “Something he himself would like. Who better to measure this than people who knew him personally?

The mural at 363 Butler St. features Miller wearing Steelers gear and waving the Terrible Towel, artwork from his albums and mixtapes, one of Pittsburgh’s iconic sister bridges, and various portraits of Miller.

Another mural honoring Miller, who was 26 at the time of his death, is in East Liberty

The project took Zermeño and his friend Nick Flax a week and a half, working from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. They officially ended on July 19. In the process, the work was already winning the eyes of fans and passers-by who came to take pictures of it or watch it work. He said some people had traveled from Texas, Ohio and Michigan to see the mural.

Everyone from Etna has been really nice, Zermeño said. He said Carl Funtal, owner of Cop Out Pierogies, would bring food and water to him and Flax while they worked.

“It happens in Los Angeles, but I feel like here it was very different. It was beautiful,” he said.

Tyler Norman from North Versailles works in a restaurant near the studio. Every time he parked in the parking lot near the mural, he took a look at Zermeño’s process.

“I think it’s amazing and absolutely breathtaking. I was looking for his other stuff and he did a good job,” Norman, 28, said.

Norman has a tattoo of the KIDS mixtape logo with the words “Most Dope” and Baby Miller’s signature cartoon on his lower right arm. He said he has been listening to this mixtape since its release in 2010.

“If I’m feeling down, I fire up Mac and crash,” he said.

Zermeño credits his connection to Miller and his music as a determining factor in bringing the mural to fruition. While painting the mural for his friend in 2018, he said he listened to Miller’s discography. He discovered that Miller’s birthday was on the same day as his mother’s, which made him feel closer to him.

“Once I started hearing his new albums, that’s when I started to feel a connection instantly,” he said. “I listened to his albums on repeat for two years in a row.”

The completion of the mural is bittersweet for Zermeño, who said it meant it was time to leave Pittsburgh.

“This piece itself, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do another piece that matches the energy that this piece created,” he said.

Miller grew up in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill.

Tanisha Thomas is the editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tanisha at 412-480-7306, tthomas@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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