DISCUSSION: The Legacy of Mac Miller
On September 7, 2018, the world lost a legend. Malcolm McCormick (aka “Mac Miller”) was a hip hop artist, producer and songwriter who died at the young age of 26. His career started when he was 16, releasing solo mixtape after mixtape, most notably K.I.D.S. K.I.D.S has been revered by most die-hard fans as Mac’s best project, as it catapulted the artist into the mainstream. With tracks like “Senior Skip Day,” “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza” and “Nikes On My Feet,” K.I.D.S was an energetic and positive project that was my personal introduction into the genre of hip hop. Sure, I was familiar with hit songs like “Lose Yourself,” “Buy U A Drank,” and “In da Club” growing up, but never fully invested any significant amount of time within the hip hop genre; I enjoyed sticking with punk, alternative and classic rock. But after hearing some of the early cuts off K.I.D.S, I became a fan of Mac Miller immediately. Without Mac’s early music, I would have never decided to venture into other hip hop artists’ discographies. So with the recent news of his tragic passing, this was the first time in my life where I was legitimately heartbroken over a musician’s death. Not only was I huge fan of Mac’s music, but as a person he seemed so relatable. Even though I was never lucky enough to meet him in person, he made me feel as though we’d been friends for years. And he did that through his genuine personality, positivity and honesty. There were no secrets with Mac. It was well-known that he had a drug and alcohol problem, but after his recent album, Swimming, I got the sense that for the first time in a long time, he was finally at peace with his life. The news of his passing was as big of a shock as it was heartbreaking. In this discussion segment, we’ll be exploring some of Mac’s most significant projects (in my opinion), and I’ll do my best to try to describe what he meant to me as an artist and as a human being.
I grouped these two together because I actually heard them both during my sophomore year of high school. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t all that into hip hop growing up. My brother was the hip hop head for sure, and he tried to get me on the bandwagon, but I never gave in until I heard these two projects. A close friend played the “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza” music video and I was sold right then. We went down the rabbit hole of listening to the entirety of K.I.D.S and moved on to listening to the entirety of Best Day Ever. The title track, “Best Day Ever”, is still to this day my favorite Mac track, and continues to be one of my favorite hip hop tracks ever made. The music coupled with the music video makes for an incredibly positive and touching listening experience. It’s also very nostalgic for me as this was a time of transition of starting to figure out where I wanted to go to college, not knowing that I would end up meeting some of the greatest people on the planet at that school. When I hear “Best Day Ever,” I can’t help but think about all the positive people in my own life and how thankful I am to have such special friendships. It’s a song that encompasses what Mac was all about: making people happy.
Aside from K.I.D.S, this would probably fall under a die-hard fan’s pick for best Mac album. Not only is this thing filled with incredible featured artists, such as Kendrick Lamar, Juicy J, Lil Wayne, Cam’ron and Joey Badass. The project was sort of a coming-of-age moment for Mac as it felt like he was transitioning out of youthful, high school Mac to adult Mac. The track, “Desperado”, is a very somber, yet powerful moment on the record. It’s almost a cry for help from a man seeking guidance from battling his demons. And as Mac fans know, Faces went into extreme detail of Mac flirting with suicide.
For as depressing of an album as this is, I have continued to go back to it. I find the honest lyrics and eerie production to be very unique in the discography of Mac. I think the only project of his that would rival its mystique would be Watching Movies With The Sound Off, but even then I don’t think it has the same rawness as this mixtape. “Rain” and “Diablo” are prime examples of this. While Vince Staples provides the opening verse in “Rain” that details his experience growing up in the ghetto of Long Beach, Mac comes in with the second and closing verse by telling the listener the demons he battles day-to-day. From lines like “Sober I can’t deal, I’m in the corner with my head low” to “Sniff that same shit that got Whitney, that high heel depression”, Mac’s closing verse is as ruthless as it is heartbreaking. Listening to Faces now just make the words hit even heavier.
So many gems on this album. “Weekend,” “Ascension,” “ROS” and “Perfect Circle/God Speed” are all instant hip hop classics in my book. And, of course we have the uplifting banger, “100 Grandkids.” Yeah, this album would be my favorite Mac album had it not been for the most recent project he dropped right before his passing. The second verse on “Weekend” is Mac’s most powerful in my opinion when he says, “I been having trouble sleeping/ Battling these demons/ Wondering what’s the thing that keeps me breathing?/ Is it money, fame or neither?” He goes on,
Never will I walk the line/ I cross the T’s and dot the I’s/ Wondering how I got this high/ I fell asleep and forgot to die.”
There’s a chilling vibe reading those lyrics now isn’t there? That’s how I felt listening to this song back after his passing. For new Mac Miller fans, I always recommend this album first as I’ve felt it’s his most accessible.
An entire album dedicated to women, more specifically Ariana Grande. While I will always respect Mac for putting out a love album, it seemed like it would be a weird listen if the couple ever split apart. Thanks for that, Pete. In all seriousness though, I think this project was a very important one for Mac to embark on. Most hip hop artists wouldn’t dare go near the sounds heard throughout this thing, and I think he should’ve gotten more credit for taking this risk. While I don’t necessarily vibe to a handful of tracks on here, there are some MAJOR highlights, specifically with the song, “Dang!”. This song will never grow old; it’s perfect. If nothing else, Mac’s legacy will live on through the positive energy and grooves of this track.
This album is a double-edged sword for me now. On the one hand, this became my favorite album Mac has ever made after first listen. On the other hand, I was so excited to see where this album was going to take his career, so listening to it back now makes it tough to get through. I say it’s my favorite album of his because it’s his most complete album. Top to bottom, Swimming is a story told from a man who seems to have finally come into his own and has conquered his demons. It provides touching odes to his past, but presents a positive outlook on his future. But listening to the album now only makes me think of what a tragedy his death really is, because he really was healthy. According to multiple sources close with him, they said he was as happy as they’d ever seen him. His overdose was a mistake (a huge mistake) and shouldn’t have happened, which is why so many close to him are legitimately angry. He wasn’t in the same place as he was after making Faces. He was excited to go on tour with his friends and family. The whole thing is just shitty and so incredibly sad, but it’s a reminder of how fragile life is. Even though Mac Miller is no longer with us, his legacy will live on forever. His music has and always will be an important part of my life.
My Top 10 Favorite Mac Miller Tracks:
- “BDE Bonus”
- “Senior Skip Day”
- “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza”
- “Nikes On My Feet”
My Top 10 Ranking of Mac’s Projects:
- GO:OD AM
- Best Day Ever
- Divine Feminine
- Watching Movies With The Sound Off
- Blue Slide Park
- I Love Life, Thank You
I’ll leave you here with Mac’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert. RIP to the legend. Thumbs up.