Updated: Sep 9, 2018
The impact that Mac Miller's music had on me and many others.
Mac Miller is gone. Malcom James McCormick, better known as Mac Miller was found in his home in California and was pronounced dead at the scene of an overdose this past Friday afternoon. He was 26 years old. Mac Miller is gone. Those words still don’t feel real. Mac was in the public eye since 16 years old when he signed with Rostrum records while Wiz Khalifa enjoyed his initial success with the same indie label. My first impression of him was that he could rhyme and you can tell he had a specific type of audience he would attract. He dropped his first project in 2010 titled K.I.D.S. (Kicking Incredibly Dope Shit) and it sounded exactly like what you would expect from a teenager. Very frat style, laid back raps. He was full of energy and there was a certain excitement you can see in his demeanor. He was clearly happy to be chasing his dreams.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Mac Miller’s style put him in a box in a lot of people’s mind, including mine. “Oh that’s the kid signed to Rostrum that has those frat raps and is like the white Wiz Khalifa?” That was my general sentiment of him at the time. Again, clearly he had the skills, but he felt more out of my demographic. As he became a bigger name with the release of his first major single “Donald Trump” and broke records as the first act to have a number one independently distributed album, I saluted his grind from a distance with no real interest in his music. It wasn’t until I heard “the Question” with Lil' Wayne from his 2012 mixtape, Macadelic, that he started to peak my interest. He started to experiment with darker themes and concepts. The whole industry’s perspective shifted when he dropped Watching Movies with the Sound Off a year after Macadelic, but I was still sleeping. Most were already wide awake and were viewing him in a different light.
The rude awakening came with the release of his monumental mixtape, Faces. The mixtape was his darkest one to date, and it seemed like he was fully immersed in his addiction. The themes varied from taking pride in his accomplishments, to lost love, and to his self-destruction. It was harsh but very real. Music has a funny way of being a marker to where you were in your life. In 2014, when I first heard Faces, I was coming off the single worst year of my life the year before. I just went through a near death experience involving a home invasion, I eventually lost my home, and some relationships with my friends were fractured. I was picking my life back up, and working a job I hated with every fiber of my being. Faces played a back drop to that. I couldn’t come close to relating to the pain that Mac was going through, but it resonated with me because I was going through my own pain. I would play Faces during my lunch break and when songs like “It Just Didn’t Matter”, “Wedding”, or “New Faces” came on, I pondered about how I got here and where I’m going in life. The way Mac sang about letting go on “Colors and Shapes” gave me a strange bit of hope although the bleakness of most of the project reminded me of how tough it would be to get myself back up. I became a fan ever since.
As I got my life back together, Mac Miller continued to progress as a versatile producer and rapper. He released two more albums in consecutive years. GO:OD AM, released, in September 2015 explored some of the same themes in Faces but held more sonic diversity. The Divine Feminine released in 2016 was an ode to women and his relationships with them. Great artist are able to give you a snapshot of their lives. Mac Miller and Ariana Grande just started a high profile relationship and by all accounts were in love, so the Divine Feminine made sense. Sadly, Mac’s demons was too much of a cross for Ariana Grande to bear, and they eventually split up. She couldn’t be there to watch him continue on his downward spiral, after two years of fighting with him towards his sobriety. I couldn’t blame her, she did the right thing.
Mac Miller’s final project was released just over a month ago (August 3rd, 2018). On swimming, he was in full command of his artistry at this point of his career. If Faces was Miller fully submerged in darkness and depression, Swimming was him seemingly finding his way out. It’s a slow paced series of valleys in tone and content that ultimately lands on peaks. A self-realization that life is shitty a lot of times and at the end of it, you might just be okay. On the lead single, Self-Care, he spends most of the song lamenting on finding ways to put what’s best for him first. When the song transitions to a different beat, he raps about being stuck in oblivion, an acknowledgement of letting the baggage go. It felt like a victory lap; a man that has been through the depths of hell and slowly climbed out. As I’ve regained my footing in life, I was happy he was doing the same. Addiction, however, is a continuous battle that has no climatic ending. That battle claimed Mac Miller’s life on a rainy day in September 7th, 2018.
As I’ve tried to process this loss, I’ve wondered how we romanticize an artist’s addictions and depression. As I’ve seen continuous social media post trying to decipher what addiction means and how we can check on those close to help, I wondered how much culpability we share in these artist demise. We praise the artist work when they are at their lowest points because of the emotional complexity that exist in their work. We even joke about it. I’ve seen plenty of jokes and have joked myself on how addiction affects an artist. Future is “crying out for help” while we’re still jamming and turning up. Lil Wayne and Eminem was much better on drugs. We love the Weeknd when his music is a grim tale of coke addiction and hedonistic behavior. Mac’s most critically acclaimed project is at the lowest stage of his life. These are sentiments we’ve all shared about these artist. In no way this is to suggest that we are responsible, but music serving as therapy to these artist is clearly not enough. I’m saying this from the perspective of someone that doesn’t have the answers and probably never will.
What I can say with certainty is Mac Miller was a beautiful soul. Outside his music, he was always a big ball of energy. He once had a reality tv show on MTV called “Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family”. The concept of the show was Mac Miller bringing his closest friends with him when moving to a mansion in LA. The jovial frat like energy was in full display and seeing his relationships with his friends and family showed you the type of person he was. One of the best things about that mansion is that it served as a hub for all of the surrounding artist to work, hang out, and collaborate. Everyone went there from Ab Soul, Schoolboy Q, to Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt. Today all of his peers couldn’t help mention how much of a nice person he was and how much he did for them. How he invited people to his home and made an environment that was creative and productive. Not a single person who knows him personally, failed to mention how nice of a human being he was. For all that he left his fans in his music, he certainly left just as much for the ones he came across. I hope his family, friends, and fans, take some solace in that.
Rest in Peace Mac Miller. I hope you’ve finally found the peace you were looking for. Thank you for being a part of me overcoming the hardest year of my life. We’ll never forget you. Rest easy.