it was somewhere in the first couple weeks of eleventh grade. i was starting to be immersed into the internet, praying for 3pm so i can surf 2dopeboyz, nah right, you heard that new, onsmash, ddotomen and the smoking section for the newest hip-hop music. i had emo friends in high school who had different tastes so i was into atmosphere, jason mraz, john mayer, gavin degraw, flobots, paramore and others, but i still needed my fix, which is hip-hop. the daily rotation was pac div, dom kennedy (for sure), kid cudi, the cool kids, charles hamilton, mickey factz, xv… anyone who was poppin' in the blog rap era (from the years of 2008 to 2012). when it came to the white rapper, the only ones in mind were eminem & asher roth. while dreaming of ti$a oakland raiders jackets and the "he got game" 13's, i was always looking for a rapper who is just like me… doing the same things i was doing as a 16-year old kid in east orange, new jersey. i was searching for a person i can just listen to that can make me feel like i'm in recess, watching him talk with the freshest jargon and the coolest demeanor.
the homie put me on to a young, 19-year old white kid from "pixburgh", pennsylvania named mac miller. "nikes on my feet" was the record. the interlude played in the beginning of the video is one of the defining moments in my childhood. a young mac, awaken from sleep, is preparing for a wonderful day, ending the process by performing one of our favorite pastimes: getting dressed and puttin' on a fresh pair of sneakers. the song made the moment better. in retrospect, this song (with "black mags" by the cool kids & "everybody know us" by dom kennedy, pac div & cARTer) are three of the records that are completely engulfed in nostalgia for me, personally. i feel like a teenager again whenever i hear records like those. after loving the record, i downloaded the tape that same night. "traffic in the sky", "senior skip day", "knock knock" and "don't mind if i do" were some of the favorites, but there was a song called "kool-aid & frozen pizza" that did it for me.
i grew up to hip-hop and neo soul music. i've been into chords as long as i can remember. i just didn't know what they were. my dad put me on to illmatic and little brother and then, through the internet, i discovered j dilla (and his group, slum village), a tribe called quest, blu & exile, big L (and the diggin' in the crates crew), the hieroglyphics, etc. the diggin' in the crates crew, which consisted of wordsmiths & beatmakers from the bronx, harlem and brooklyn, had a sound that always used stabs of saxophone riffs, SP-1200 drums and those goddamn jingle bells for hi-hats (they work every time). lord finesse was one of the beatmakers from the crew and someone i knew of before i heard what mac did on one of his beats. hearing a guy rhyme like this at his age, and then seeing the video, made me feel at home. even though he was in west pennsylvania and i was in northeastern new jersey, watching his mannerisms, his clothing and his people made me feel like i can get along with him. that's the thing about mac miller: i never met him, but i knew if i did, i would love him. he rocked the snapbacks, the streetwear shirts, the fresh tennis shoes, the pouches you hang on the belt loop with carabiners and a huge connection & obsession with music. i just knew from this one tape that he was gonna be one of my favorites for years and years and years……
only to realize that he was gonna be with me for 8 years.
i was 16 when i first heard him. now, i'm typing this to you all, in a dormitory on a military base in west texas, as a 24-year old grown man. i connected with many more rappers and singers and rock bands, and even became a musician myself. there's only few rappers that i had a connection with like mac miller. those in mind are kendrick lamar, dom kennedy, childish gambino, jay-z, phonte, busta rhymes and kanye west. these rappers (and others) made me the man i am today and mac is a huge contribution to that. hip-hop is the best thing in the world and when you're a product of hip-hop, everything you do in life is hip-hop. i grew with mac miller for 8 years and i hoped to grow old with him.
now he's gone. dead, from a overdose. at the age of 26. i'm 24. this hurts. still hurts.
a month before his death, he drops his 5th solo effort, swimming, to critical acclaim. the album was praised for the hopeful and optimistic nature of the record, released a couple months after his break-up with ariana grande and his car accident under the influence of alcohol. it debuted at number 3 on the billboard 200 (after drake's scorpion and travis scott's superstar album astroworld) and in my eyes, he was on his way. swimming is mac's best album ever. you can hear more maturity & character, along with the signature honesty you get in every mac miller album. with the honesty, you still got the evidence of his demons. i would say that from the years of 2012 to 2015, he was submerged in his addiction with promethazine and codeine. you heard it blatantly on the faces mixtape he released in 2014. you heard it slightly in this new album and it felt like mac was gonna overcome the demons, but he always made sure that he knew he was gonna die. i believe everyone knows obviously, but you can tell he thought about it constantly. he sounds comfortable talking about death, serving a dichotomy with the beauty and gleefulness of the album's production. when i heard the news, it broke my heart. i almost cried. i don't CRY when a rapper dies, unless he was a friend of mine or had a similar bond with me. mac did, so when i found out he died, it felt like i lost a friend.
hip-hop felt the same way. from drake to yg to meek mill to snoop dogg, the whole entire hip-hop community was in complete shock. rappers proclaimed their love for mac on stage, from j. cole & g-eazy (who both teared up during their performances) to childish gambino, who basically eulogized mac miller's wonderful life before performing "riot" in memory of him. EVERY single rapper had something good to say about him, which leads me to what i said earlier… if i had the honor of meeting him, i would love him instantly. he's mac miller.
so……… *sighs* here's a slight album review. i'll keep it simple and a bit condensed. i'll just tell you how i felt.
growing up as a mac miller fan, i always knew that behind the five-panel hat was a mind that was musically expansive. when the weed smoke clears, you see a young white man, grown and established, but was so welcoming and cherubic. the mind though, can take you to millions of places and some of those places aren't so welcoming. staring down the inside of a codeine-filled cup and looking at the paparazzi watching your personal and private ways, life changed drastically for malcolm mccormick. still, in the music, you still hear the boyish, honest nature of a man who has been so much in only a quarter of a century. that's what "come back to earth" sounded like to me: a man who wants to get out of the vast, unforgiving oceans of his mind and just… come back to earth. "i'd do anything for a way out of my head." anything. he'd do anything to start swimming.
"hurt feelings" is a chill-sounding number that, to me, resides in the world of macadelic. his 2012 mixtape macadelic was malcolm's first encounters with the demons who stayed with him until his death. after the critical failure (and commercial success) of his first effort, blue slide park, he decided not to overthink things, light some blunts, and just make good music. i felt that with this song. j. cole gave him a good soundscape to express, with lines like "i always said i want it all but it's not enough" and "used to be feelin' depressed, now that i'm living, i'm a little obsessed." those two lines are the left & right brains in one, summarizing the confines of his ever-expanding mind. this song has a imperfect nature to it. it's very imperfect and that's what i like about it.
this is where the mind of mac miller shows off. "what's the use?", produced by pomo (who also did the anderson .paak-assisted "dang!") and dâm-funk, is basically a party-starter about a having a good time. sometimes, having a good time consists of things that aren't good for you at all but in the sake of enjoyment, there's nothing wrong with it. mac is absolutely careless, rhyming with no frills, over funky basslines by thundercat. to me, it reminded me of "dang!" from the last album the divine feminine, but it still contained a good level of honesty. mac says, "i know i should probably pray more but you gotta love me 'cause i save the day spendin' money", referencing an affluent lifestyle with infinite vices. the chorus is mac's mind in a nutshell, like "it's something about the way this drink or this blunt or this line of cocaine makes me feel. i don't need it but i need it right now. is that bad? probably. but still… what's the use? i'm trying to enjoy myself." we go through countless nights of partying and in the morning after, there's pockets of the previous night we can't remember. still, we do it the very next night. life is good, even when nothing is. that's how it is sometimes.
the chorus of "perfecto" is haunting, especially in the present tense. mac miller is not alive. people close to him has said that he was happy, making plans for music videos, and preparing for the album tour. now he's gone. this song reminds me of people like him, robin williams, and others, where the strong, funny, "happy" people are the ones who need the most help. "it ain't perfect but i don't mind / 'cause on the surface i look so fine, but really i'm / buggin', buggin, makin' something out of nothing." that's it.
there's one line that struck me, where mac says in the outro, "…time don't give a fuck about clocks until they stop." the day before mac passed and the day of are two different days. some people appreciate people when they're gone. he completes the song with "more important is i'm kinda sorta out the door but / she put me back together when i'm out of order." i think that was more so about ariana grande and how she may have been the light in malcolm's life, gluing the pieces of a man every chance she had. ariana and mac broke up in may 2018 and not long after, he crashed his car under the influence. almost immediately after breaking up with mac, ariana is engaged to pete davidson and you can see in her eyes and in her wonderful album sweetener that she's happy. on the other side of things, mac is battling everything… trying real hard not to sink and trying even harder to swim. this song was already a bit dark but hearing it after mac's death makes it darker. the mind can take you anywhere if you let it.
i still never seen the video for "self-care". i kinda don't want to. the thumbnail shows mac smoking a cigarette in a wooden box. it has the same resemblance of uma thurman in kill bill, vol. 2 where she is buried alive, breaks the box and rises out of the earth. seeing that he's gone, it haunts me. the universe is always listening.
overall, this song is mac realizing that he has to take care of himself. it won't be a beautiful woman at your disposal, ready to piece you together every time. you have to do that for the sake of you. in the second part, it's like he's in pittsburgh, driving sober… having a different outlook on life. after countless nights in a stupor, a clear mind looks completely different, almost as if you never seen this side of life before. he sings "you keep on sayin' you in love, so tell me are you really down?" in the loneliest tone. you can tell mac loved ariana but you can also read between the lines that had mac loved himself more, things would've been different. he realized it later than never. it's just sad he had to find out in the last moments of his life.
"wings" is the song that saddens me the most sometimes. i think it's the production. alexander spit made a perfect beat for the subject matter of the record, which is mac miller reaching 100 percent. this song sounds like the deep night, somewhere around 2 to 3am in california during the summertime. you can hear in his rhymes that he's improving psychologically and the sunrise is coming. he's returning into the boy you saw in the "frick park market" video. this song (and the album) is more dynamic in the aftermath of mac's passing because his death created a layer like no other. all the songs are more complex in nature and it feels different all because the writer, who devoted days to be better, is not here anymore.
i'm scared of heights but i love rollercoasters. i can't walk on catwalks to save my life but i can get on a 150-foot tall attraction for amusement. going up is fun but with going up, you gotta throw the idea of going down into equation. that's the way life goes. the only way up is to keep going up but you have to take into account that you can go down. the higher you climb up the ladder, the more scared you are. more thoughts of falling down arrive in your mind but before your eyes, you see a view like no other. mac miller is all about climbing ladders. he knows he'll be scared and he'll be skeptical of what might happen but he knows the view is worth feeling that way.
mac miller's world is small and it shrinks with every blunt lit, every dollar made and every drink finished. money and fame seems so nice until you encounter it at a large scale and when you're a kid like mac was, it's a interesting adventure. "you never told me being rich was so lonely." the last verse of "small worlds" is the thoughts of a man whose world is shrinking so fast and so quick, that he can't breathe easily. still, he shows the dichotomy of his mind, with contrasting lines like "i can feel my fingers slippin' in a motherfucking instant, i'll be gone" and "but the sun coming out now, clouds start to move." you can tell that he had a lot of life to go and even though death became a constant thought in his mind, he wanted to see how he was gonna overcome it. one of the best examples of life is death.
"conversation, pt. 1" is my favorite song on the album. cardo is one of my favorite producers and he delivered as usual, with help from yung exclusive and the legend, flying lotus. this is the low-key number for mac, almost serving as a joint you can play in the car with no guilt, like you're not listening to a man's deep, dark thoughts. this song is just him telling his listeners to turn your words into things and your actions into events instead of wasting your time. everybody wants money as if it's not all over you. you just have to get it. this is mac letting people know that these will be only conversations if you don't do anything about it. sadly enough, we'll never get a part 2.
this song literally feels like fresh air. it feels like mac is at his most calmest state. he's doing it for his girlfriend at the time, ariana grande. ariana is known for her bouts with anxiety and with a man like mac, it's almost imperative that he will try to calm you down. whether it's through the method of laughter, marijuana or sex, he embraced every moment with her and tried to make her feel better. they were together for 2 years and you can feel that both loved each other. i was watching the live performance of "my favorite part", their collaboration on the divine feminine, and you can see the chemistry they had. it was the quirky, cute, weird cheerleader with the cool guy who rapped at the lunch table. all the students knew they would look great together. they just had to be around each other to see it for themselves. i kinda don't know the reason why the record is called "dunno". it's short for "don't know" and i guess in the aftermath of their relationship, mac doesn't know if he can find a connection with a woman like that again. we don't know why it's called that and we probably never will.
in my eyes, "jet fuel" is a number specifically for people who deal with drugs to suppress themselves. in some communities, people smoke weed for a better day or night and some people smoke to get away from the world. there's demons in their respective world and they light up a blunt to escape their problems. mac is just like them… using them to just get away. he wants to be in the clouds forever instead of "coming back to earth". that's one thing about this album: it's so much humanity in this album. there's beauty in the errors.
this is, in some people's eyes, the centerpiece of the album. it has a boom-bap sound, with a great piano melody. it's the past and present of mac's sound and the things being said resemble that. the words "it ain't 2009 anymore" strike a chord with me.
the fact that i found out about his music the year after, i remember the cherubic ways of mac miller and i'm sure he does, too. now that it's towards the end of 2018, mac is sad that 9 years later, he looks in the mirror and sees the evidence of the world in his face. the song sounds like nostalgia, in a way that he's just wishing for it to be 2009 again, before the codeine and the depression and the TV shows. in 2009, he released his first pieces of music under his new name, mac miller. he just want things to be like what it was back then and even though he is more wise and more mature, he just wanna be at blue slide park.
this. this is the last song on the last album and it's ironically called "so it goes".
this is mac miller saying perfectly "i can't get no satisfaction, gahdamn" and "my god, it go on and on, just like a circle, i go back to where i'm from".
we're all from heaven. i found out that "so it goes" is a phrase from kurt vonnegut's slaughterhouse-five, that's used whenever a death occurs. the last instagram story from mac miller is the outro of the record, produced by the legendary jon brion, who scored eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. the end result is pretty much the ending credits of a film. it sounds like a man who has climbed mountains and sulked in the deepest of valleys. it sounds like the last breath and then the spirit of malcolm mccormick, from pittsburgh, pennsylvania, rises from amongst us into the heavens. it's haunting. it's surreal. it almost feels premeditated. he turns the macbook off. he turns the iphone off. he lights one more blunt. he leaves the studio and then goes to sleep, forever. it's the swan song. it feels like a smile. one huge smile.
it feels like the "better place" you hear about when people die.
i didn't wanna rate this album the way i did with ye. i just wanted to say my thoughts on it and just post it. i don't have much to say anymore so…… i'll just end with this.
i love you, mac miller.