Here was a musician who evolved each and every step of the way throughout the course of his career.
It’s been some time since the news of Mac Miller’s unfortunate passing, and the music world’s still not the same. As plagued as he was by his harmful coping mechanisms, he continued to churn out brilliant release after release. Even more astounding was the constant evolution that Malcolm McCormick went through throughout his musical career.
Starting with his Pittsburgh rooted and influenced mixtapes from his high school days, Mac really began with the sound of circa 2007-2010 dawn-of-the-interwebs rap. Sampling was more convenient, what with the ease of downloading .mp3s from everywhere, and the beats were loud and electronic thanks to the influences of Kid Cudi and Kanye’s 808s era.
His fifteen-year-old alias Easy Mac started out with a series of homebrewed mixtapes, sounding all young and fresh, rapping about rolling with his friends and lots of marijuana. “K.I.D.S.” rolled out, and with the help of YouTube and other media channels, he had his proper break-out with Nikes On My Feet, and Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza. Mac’s debut album, “Blue Slide Park” capped off this stage of his career, with mainstream singles like Frick Park Market and Party On 5th Ave. further placing him on the radar.
Come 2013, we got a haymaker in the form of “Watching Movies With The Sound Off,” and the next year we got the self-titled “Mac Miller.” These two records really cemented Mac as an artist and musician, instead of just a rapper. In place of pure synths, samples and 808 beats, we’re treated to diverse, live instrumentation and more melodic songs. Collabs and features with Ab-Soul, Action Bronson, and Tyler, The Creator also provided our evolving musician some heavyweight backup to rely on. Where these past two drops diverged and experimented, GO:OD AM pulled back and internalised this newfound musicality into Mac’s hip-hop foundation. It was undoubtedly a rap record, but with way more ambitious track production and elements. We hear a mix of the piano we got a lot of in Mac’s trippier songs, but we also get some of his hardest bumping songs to date.
“The Divine Feminine,” in its tight 10 songs, has the most singing, or melodic delivery of all Mac’s releases. It’s the most soulful, which explains the presence of Anderson .Paak and CeeLo Green, and the overall smooth and silky touch to each song. Dang! and My Favorite Part took quite well to the radio and Spotify playlists thanks to the strong jazzy vibes and catchy hooks. “Swimming,” his final release before passing, was, in itself, a culmination of all his past records. In hindsight, you see flashes of his youthful brashness but matured by the years that have passed. You have songs that embody his newfound soul and musicality while delivering solid bars.
Ariana Grande’s heartfelt message for her former lover on Instagram encapsulates the love and admiration the music scene had for Mac. Many other artists poured out their grief and sympathy for his passing away at such a young age. Unfortunate it was, indeed, seeing someone who turned to dangerous coping mechanisms so early on in life. Miller was well-respected and admired by peers, many of whom have chunks of their careers in debt to their collaboration and cultivation under the thoughtful musician.
Mainstays like SZA, Chance The Rapper, and Vince Staples all had anecdotes to share about their time with him. Famous and mainstream by 19, many grieving grew up with him throughout high school and college days. From his fratboy, juvenile antics, to his deeper, more introspective licks later on, his coming-of-age as an artist mirrored the many who found him from the start. Just like the last moments of his final song, So It Goes, we just have to keep trudging forward the way he would’ve. So it goes, life, thankful for the gift of music that Mac Miller has bestowed upon us. Rest in power.