By Max Cohen
Miller started his rap career rhyming over fun beats with simple lyrics about being a young rapper making money. His mixtape, K.I.D.S, was on instant classic that brought Mac to the forefront of teen rap. With his new fame, Mac began to use more drugs and eventually started battling depression and substance abuse, but he never stopped making music. His mixtapes, Run On Sentences Vol. 1 & 2, and album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, all are beautiful but depressing dives into the mind of a young adult struggling with his own thoughts.
In 2014, Mac released, in my opinion, his best project of his career in the mixtape Faces. The 24-song, nearly hour and a half mixtape gives you the deepest look into Mac’s head and learn with him how he’s feeling. Faces has a different sound than any other Mac project. It sounds like he focused on every little thing, from the lyrics, to the beat, to every single instrument and feature used. Faces was recorded at one of the lowest points in Mac’s life. Three years earlier, Mac’s debut album flopped with critics, and it got to his head, which led to the substance abuse and depression, and he was at the end of the line. On the mixtape Mac delicately raps, “Trapped inside these dreams of mine, just trying to get some peace of mind, yeah, I've been trapped inside these dreams of mine, so you'll never get a piece of mind.” This is just one example, but as a fan of Mac’s, it sucked hearing this come from him. He had always been a fun, smile on his face kind of guy, but this mixtape finally made me realize that he was struggling.
Soon after Faces, Mac checked into rehab and got cleaner. He hadn’t stopped drinking or smoking, but he was off hard drugs and knew his limit. He signed a $10 million deal with Warner, and was getting ready to release his third studio album. In September of 2015, Miller released his album, GO:OD AM, a rebirth and fresh start for Mac. He started to stray away from the dark and gloomy music he had been releasing for a while, but still reflected on the mistakes he has made. This made for a phenomenal album, but when listening back to one song in particular you hear Mac say, “They don’t want me to OD and have to talk to my mother tell her they could have done more to help me, and she’d be crying saying that she’d do anything to have me back.” I was in absolute awe listening to this at the time the album came out, but listening back to it is gut wrenching. It’s so sad that Mac was already in that place before and got out, only to end up back in the deep end.
Over the next three years Mac Miller went on to release two more albums, The Divine Feminine and Swimming, the latter of which released just a month before his death. Swimming was Mac’s most reflective project. He took a step back from his whole life after his break up with Ariana Grande, and put it into an album. He was in love and that relationship ended, it sucks, but he got past it and wanted everyone to know. He was doing interviews with Zane Lowe saying how much better he was feeling, and put on a great Tiny Desk Concert for NPR. There was no sign of Mac being in any place he was before. In the song 2009 on Swimming, Mac raps over beautifully played strings and piano, “I don't need to lie no more. Nowadays all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind.” I can’t put it into words how happy it made me feel when I first heard this song. It really did feel like Mac was in a good place for the first time in a while, and it made me feel good.
Links to some of my favorite Mac songs