“I really wouldn’t want just happiness. And I don’t want just sadness either. I don’t want to be depressed. I want to be able to have good days and bad days,” said Mac Miller to Vulture Magazine, just days before his death.
Mac Miller had always expressed his wide range of emotion through his music over the years. Swaying from highs to lows, Mac had always been blunt about his faults, never failing to bring them to the surface, despite the negative backlash. “That’s what I was experiencing at the time. That’s fine. That’s good. That’s life. It should be a
ll the emotions.” That’s what made him different.
Mac Miller’s variety of music played a monumental effect on our generation. His lyrics made drastic changes through his journey as he discreetly evolved to be much more than the “frat rapper” he once was. At the beginning of Mac’s rise to fame the media assumed that his career would fizzle out like most rap artists.
Mac’s performance falls into a very limited category of artists. There’s not an endless supply of artists who can sing, write, produce and rap. As a self-taught musician, he did it all. Mac didn’t just charm our generation through a phase. He started out great and never looked back. He never failed to keep us on our toes with greater intensity coming with each album--not just the maturity, but the message behind the aesthetics. He was an artist that reinvented himself over and over.
Who we know as "Mac Miller" was born, Malcolm James McCormick in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 19, 1992. At just six, he attempted to teach himself to play every instrument in the book. His earliest of his career launched at just 14 years old was a mixtape called But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy. He took part in a rap group called The Ill Spoken, where he worked alongside Pittsburgh’s famous, Beedie. At the time he called himself “EZ Mac.” In 2008, he released another mixtape, How High, which sparked his success and lead to further mixtape releases that same year - The Jukebox: Prelude to Class Clown and The High Life. After his early kickoff at seventeen, record labels were astonished by the energy within his rap creativity so early in time, he signed on with Rostrum Records.
We can all say we remember listening to Mac for the first time during our middle school days with his mixtape, K.I.D.S in 2010 and the ever-so-distinct YouTube videos that blew up and went viral almost instantly. His recognition grew rapidly after he released his first single, "Knock Knock" and succeeded on his first tour, The Incredibly Dope Tour. In 2011, he released his famous first album, Blue Slide Park, which skyrocketed within days, ranking No .1 on Billboard 200. He woke up a celebrity.
"My overall goal is to be able to speak and connect with the world...I'm trying to have it where your straight trap dudes are listening to [my] music, as well as your straight hip-hop heads and people who listen to the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, and the Sex Pistols," Miller said during an early-on interview. He began to turn his bold, ballsy rap into something the music industry would never expect. His second album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off was released June 2013 as the album notorious for the new sound of Miller, moving away from rapping about Nikes on his feet to his internal struggle. Mac signed over to Warner Bros after launching his recording label REMember Music. In September 2015, he released his third album, GO:OD AM, which explicitly spoke of his problems with addiction. In September 2016, he released his fourth, The Divine Feminine, a direct contrast to the lyrics of his previous album. He took on yet another perspective in this album by exploring “the feminine energy of the planet,” while shifting over to singing instead of solely classic rap. Because every new album of his became his best, it only left us to expect the next to be even better. Just one month before his passing he came out with his final album, Swimming, where Mac openly shines a light on his mental state and self healing, but also his enlightenment with reality. “I’ll keep my head above the water.”
Over the course of his career, Miller’s music evolved 180 degrees. While redefining his musicianship, he learned to settle into his own skin and take risks. In John Mayer’s mourning Instagram post he says, “This was going to be Mac Miller’s year. He made a quantum leap in his music. That’s incredibly hard to do, to evolve and get better and more focused while your career is already underway. You don’t get there without a lot of work, and Mac put the work in.” Coming from the crazy, young white rapper he was always known to be, Mac went on to prove not only his ability to change in styles and experimentation, but more importantly his influence on fans through his messages. Mac shared truths about his struggles with a tremendous amount of self-reflection. Unfortunately, there was a lot more to his struggles than we saw.
A lot of Mac’s lyrics were directed at his internal battles with heartbreak and mental illness. His debut album Blue Slide Park was the first to include lyrics about depression and substance abuse. Despite his reputation as a giddy, reckless high school kid, he found a way to quickly transition his self-made music towards a more honest tone, one that truly told the story of Mac. While battling depression, Mac often turned to lean, an opiate cough syrup, which later progressed into all forms of self medicating. In 2013, Mac made his addiction known. “It’s funny because you talk to people and they say, ‘ What do you have to be depressed about? You have money’... Fame is tricky because you read what’s said about you, and you know what you know to be true, and the lines start to blur,” Miller said during an interview with Inside Edition.
As much as Mac struggled, without the obstacles, he would have never been capable of creating the music he has. During his Vulture interview this past August, Mac also said, “I just want to take a moment to thank you for lending me an ear. Music is such a special thing and moments like these never cease to amazing me. I hope you find something in these songs as I found something making them.”
Everyone who knows Mac Miller personally can vouch for his kindness. He was always said to be nothing less than a sweet soul. Mac might’ve rapped about the dark times in his life, but he never failed to light up a room with his energy and happiness. Anyone who dealt with him on a more repetitive level felt so close to him because he’s always been warm. He left everyone around him with good vibes, “No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile.” Despite his internal battles, he bit the bullet to show others nothing but positivity. That’s enough said about his character.
When the news of Mac’s death broke on September 7th, wholehearted tributes and nostalgic reminiscences took over social media. Moments after, Post Malone tweeted, “God fucking dammit. You were such an incredible person. You changed so many lives. Had so much love in your heart. You inspired me throughout highschool, and I wouldn't be where I was today without you. Never a more kind and sincere and beautiful person. I fucking love you mac.” It’s not hard to look past the impact on Mac’s being and the way his lyrics touched the hearts of many. He served as a platform to help other artists find their success and his fan’s growth followed in his footsteps. For that, he will never be forgotten.