Written by LaZedrick Blackshire | COSIGN MUSIC | @blusatire
It’s not often that you see an artist take a drastic change for either better or worse when it comes to their music. If your name isn’t one like Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, or a couple others, drastic change doesn’t happen often with an artist. Some artist change when their life changes and that’s why I want to take a brief look at Mac Miller over the years. While he does have a large fan base, there are still many of us who don’t really listen to or even attempt to listen to Mac Miller. I believe Mac Miller is a talented artist and deserves a listen, but it took some years for him to grow.
Party Mac: 2007-2011
While Mac Miller had about 4 or 5 mixtapes in his disposal pre-2010, It was the “K.I.D.S” mixtape and tour that put him on the map. during this time, he was signed to the independent label with rostrum records, which was also the label for fellow Pittsburgh rapper, Wiz Khalifa. While very different, both of these artists heavily made music for the smokers and had frequent collaborations. “K.I.D.S.” was heavy with the Mary Jane references, but what captured Mac’s talented the most was his laid-back, cool kid flow. Mac at this time was happy to be garnering attention and fame and it reflected in his music. Production was great and sampled a lot of music from different eras, like Nas’ “The World is Yours”, or “Drake’s Night Off”. He followed up with his mixtape “The Best Day Ever”, which saw improvement in his flow, and being backed by great production again, he was a favorite amongst many.
His breakthrough song was “Donald Trump”, which for good reasons, allegedly is one of his least favorite songs now. Mac along with Wiz found success through touring (all concerts sold out) and major social media presence. His debut album “Blue Slide Park” while major success, met with a lot of negative press. While the album went Gold and debut number 1 on the Billboards, many people did not like the sound and labeled it frat rap. Many believed he had not found his sound yet. Overall this era was the 18 and 19-year-old Mac Miller making feel the good smoking music. It was laidback like his flow, while the overall message was to live life and have fun. However, that style that brought him fame could no longer capture his audience in the same way it used to.
Dark Mac 2012-2014
After receiving the criticism from his debut album, Mac Miller begin to experiment with different sounds and experimenting heavily in drugs, most notably lean. “Macadelic” was the beginning of a transformation in Mac’s style. Mac Miller wanted to start making music about what he wanted to say, instead of making music he thought he should make. “Macadelic” was more introspective and much darker than his previous works while also poetic at times. Mac Miller focused on subjects of promiscuity, drug abuse, and addiction, and held nothing back with the lyrics. This energy was kept and enhanced with his sophomore album “Watching Movies with the Sound off”.
The happy go lucky, pretty positive rapper, completely transitioned into a dark and depressing rapper, speaking on his insecurities and self-doubt about his success. “Macadelic” was the “living my best life”, not a care in the world, binge drinking, lean sipping artist, while Movies is the hangover and facing the problems head-on. “Delusional Thomas”, and “Faces”, while being creative and different, highlighted the drug use and downward spiral that Mac Miller was in. Even darker tones and vivid imagery of his drug usage makes you wonder what was going on in Mac’s head. His production took a more Jazz eccentric approach than his previous works. Lyrics depict how he believes he should be dead, as well as his depression. This era was that artistic turn that many artists take due to negativity in their lives, and Mac Miller used it to produce imagery for us and therapy for himself by being honest with his demons. This would contribute to maturity that would come after addressing his drug issues.
Evolved Mac 2015 -Present
Mac addressed his drug problems and moved to New York away from the environment in LA that contributed to his addictions. In 2015, Mac release GO:OD AM. GO:OD AM was mac miller in a good place for the first time in years. This was also him mixing up all of his styles before and making this album sound nostalgic yet new at the same time, capturing the vibe he wanted to catch with his debut album. This was Mac Miller talking about his past problems and how he overcame them. This was him waking up after a long time in a deep sleep with his own demons. while GO:OD AM was a return to happiness, his 2016 album, “The Divine Feminine” was his transition into maturity. When i say maturity, I mean an artist who becomes completely transparent and confident in who he is as an artist. The “Divine Feminine” takes the jazz influences from the past projects and enhance them by adding some classical vibes (Strings played by Julliard Music Academy, Bass played by Thundercat and piano played by Robert Glasper), while he shows his appreciation for the lessons that women have taught him over the years.
During this time, he was in a relationship with Ariana Grande, who was also featured on the album. This Album embodied what Mac felt love was, and what he wanted others to feel it was. Unfortunately, Mac, still had problems of his own, with his recent break up with Ariana Grande, as well as finding out she is engaged to a new guy. On top of the DUI and hit and run he was charged with, Mac didn’t go back down the Faces, path, instead, he released another album, “Swimming” to divulge deep into his mental state. If the “Divine Feminine” was to teach us about love, “Swimming is here to show us how to deal with heartbreak. Mac Miller’s growth is shown here as it isn’t self-destructive lyrics and drug use that is taking over after disappointment; It is perseverance and acknowledging the pain is temporary and that things will get better. It explores how those same women in the “Divine Feminine” took care of him was a needed temporary thing, allowing him to learn to care for himself. Through Swimming Mac shows that he has learned that it is healthy for your mental health to grieve and take a retrospective look at your life and the people around you while looking for a future.
Mac Miller arrived on the scene as a happy go lucky backpack rapper, with nice flows and goofy one-liner backed up by nice production. Failures and criticism, resulted in dark times for the rapper, turning him into an experimental drug-induced rebel against himself. But with time, he learned caught grasp of his life, and begin to appreciate himself and the people in his life more, transforming him into a retrospective and introspective artist, learning from each situation life has given him.