The youthful rapper created musical artistry that’s well beyond his years
I was 13 years old when I first heard Mac Miller rap. The song was a clever, catchy hymn called “Knock Knock.” In it, he spoke of youthful recklessness and unprovoked abandon, “I feel like a million bucks” And “Smoke joints in the whip, no cops can bust me”. For a kid who was just beginning his junior high life, it was a risky, provocative ballad that I couldn’t get enough of. As I grew up, so too did his music which underwent a progression more akin to a grizzled veteran. His frat rap style was what shot him into popularity with the song “Donald Trump”, and his commercially successful album Blue Slide Park.
He then touched into his introspective side with Watching Movies with the Sound Off in 2013. It produced the trippy opener “The Star Room”, and a funky collaboration with Schoolboy Q on “Gees.”
In 2016, his album Divine Feminine focused on the lessons he had learned from the women in his life. This included his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande, and his mother. It represented another cog in his ever spinning wheel of art.
Miller also produced unique aliases for music, with mixtapes from his alter ego Delusional Thomas and songs from Larry Fisherman. It was another way of him to further venture into his creative soul and continually develop as an artist.
Mac Miller died on Friday September 7, at the tender age of 26. He was born Malcolm James McCormick in Pittsburgh, a city seldom known for rappers, save for Wiz Khalifa. Yet, at 18 years old he rose to prominence with his hit mixtape K.I.D.S (Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit).
His death was one that sent shockwaves rippling throughout the rap community, with tributes aplenty pouring in. He was universally beloved, from the likes of John Mayer, Elton John and Drake. Heartbreakingly, one of his last tweets was, “I just wanna go on tour”.
His most recent album labelled Swimming was released on August 3, the same day Astroworld gobbled up the headlines. Yet, when one means to appreciate music, the 13 track album dwarfs Travis Scott’s in pure creative ingenuity.
His death was from a suspected drug overdose, and his lyrics have waxed poetically gut-wrenching with the opening song from Swimming, “Come Back to Earth”: “They don’t want me to OD and have to talk to my mother, telling her they could have done more to help me and she’ll be crying saying that she’ll do anything to have me back”
As I solemnly listened to his music on repeat this past weekend, one song hauntingly stood out; “Brand Name”, from his GO:OD AM album. The lyrics start off with him disregarding the notion of working a “9 to 5” day job as “I’d rather end up either dead or in jail.” Near the end of the song, he seems to foreshadow his demise:
“To everyone who sell me drugs / don’t mix it with that bullshit I hopin’ not to join the twenty-seven club.”
Despite his success in the music scene, he recently broke up with pop singer Ariana Grande, in May of this year after two years of dating. Weeks after the breakup, he was cited for a DUI for smashing into a utility pole with his Mercedes G-Wagon. He was very open and honest about his drug addiction that has haunted him since his high school days, and it was a tumultuous 2018 that had many worried for his health.
Let’s remember him for all the unique music he provided for all of us, and this quote from “Dunno”,
“I think we might just be alright / Thank God”