In Memorial: Mac Miller
By: Mackenzie Dineen
“A life ain’t a life till you live it,” said the late rapper Mac Miller, and although he only had 26 years, Mac Miller certainly filled his time on Earth with vivacity. Beginning with his debut album Blue Slide Park, released in 2011, at age 16, Miller set a precedent for defying the odds. Blue Slide Park climbed to reach #3 on Billboard charts, marking the first occurrence in 16 years that an Indie album had made this achievement. This accomplishment is amplified by the fact that Mac was a self-taught musician who opted to create his own beats.
Despite his age, budget, and zip-code, Miller published creative and entertaining work, and perhaps that’s what made him so special. After releasing five mixtapes and his debut, Mac rapidly developed a cult following of teens and young adults. His early music cultivated a community and a safe-haven for young people. It is a rarity for those enduring high school to hear and be inspired by the songs of someone their own age, and many of my own peers can attest to the cultural phenomenon.
I recall “Donald Trump,” and “Party on 5th Ave” ricocheting through the halls of my own high school, and overhearing my classmates and friends banter about his latest releases. The fun-loving and mischievous content of the album allowed many to write him off, although Miller continued to create a diverse body of work that proved his status as a serious and reputable artist.
Miller followed up with Watching Movies With The Sound Off, an album colored by star-studded features, fantastic transitions, and lyrical genius. Nearly 400 songs were recorded and scrapped in preparation for Movies. Miller produced most of the album under the pseudonym Larry Fisherman, feeling self-conscious; although much of the album’s praise and criticism revolves around the production value, and whether or not it detracted from the album’s other elements. The record discussed more mature themes, including death, loss, and substance abuse. In 2013, Miller established his record label, REMember, and later signed a distribution deal with Warner Bros.
GO:OD AM was released in September of 2015, and was praised for its artistry and honesty. The album was studded with singles including “100 Grandkids,” “Weekend,” and “Break the Law.” Miller’s musical motivations had matured, with less busy tracks, and an impact-aimed approach. Although GO:OD AM does not provide explicit detail, it painted the picture of a Mac Miller who was working diligently towards sobriety. Psychedelic and jazz influences accented Miller’s style beautifully.
The Divine Feminine, released in September of 2016, served as an homage to the lessons Miller learned from the many women in his life. Miller’s innermost feelings flow easily through his lips, plain and simple; lips that do more singing than on any of Divine Feminine’s predecessors, for that matter. Aesthetically, the record is simpler and sweeter, with extra strings and an orchestral aura. The corresponding music videos are heavily influenced by the work of Quentin Tarantino, and Mac’s attitude is one of reverence. Perhaps Mac sought absolution for his past actions towards women. “My Favorite Part,” featuring then girlfriend, Arianna Grande, was the album’s third single. The Divine Feminine offers a fresh perspective on Miller’s life and work.
Swimming’s flow is Miller’s most balanced to date. The lyrical content is all the more tragic in light of Mac’s passing. He reckons with his recent breakup, the loneliness of stardom, depression, and struggle with drugs. The album’s second single “Self Care” preaches a life that fans have wanted for Miller, one that we had hoped would last more than the month that passed since the album’s release. The song’s music video depicts Miller breaking out of a coffin a la Kill Bill. It is the only record’s only music video. Swimming is dreamy and ethereal, with funky bass lines and refined rhythm. Several critics considered the album to be his best yet.
Chance the Rapper, Kehlani, J. Cole, Post Malone, Halsey, Snoop Dogg, and many other of Mac’s friends have expressed their devastation in the wake of his passing. Drake dedicated Friday evening’s show to remember late rapper. J. Cole dedicated a tearful performance last evening to Mac, opening himself up for those suffering.
Mac Miller’s life and art brought great joy to his family, friends, fans, and peers. Miller was generous to those he encountered. Many of his fellow artists attribute him as an inspiration, and have recounted how he catalyzed there careers. Despite the heartbreak we feel now, we must remember Mac Miller for the fun, kind, hilarious, talented, and prodigal person he was. His overdose is a statement about how our society treats mental illness and healthcare.
We must use the pain we feel to advocate for a system where pills are not the answer, and where those suffering mental illness have an array of treatment options. It is our responsibility to bring the opioid crisis to an end, and prevent the loss of our young people and artists. It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Mac Miller at Band Over Fist, but we also choose celebrate his life and legacy.