Back then, Lil Wayne was still in his prime, Drake had just put out his debut album, “Thank Me Later,” Eminem and Rihanna’s single, “Love the Way You Lie” was dominating the charts and Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller were just starting to make it onto the rap scene.
I was a little late to the Mac Miller party. “K.I.D.S.” dropped and he was starting to get a little buzz in rap game. I think a friend of mine showed me the song, “Knock Knock.” I remember hearing the first “Dum, da dum,” and being hooked. Mac’s first words on the song were, “This is gonna feel real good, alright?” And that’s exactly how the song felt. It was such a fun, feel-good song, and I remember immediately putting a thumb in the air and jamming out. Hardcore hip-hop heads had been vibing to his music for a few months before I hopped on the bandwagon—but I’m glad I did.
Mac Miller’s career trajectory sort of mirrors my rap intellect and musical preferences as a hip-hop fan.
In November of 2011, Mac Miller released his debut album, “Blue Slide Park.” While it was met with mixed reviews—Metacritic gave it a 58 out of 100 and Pitchfork gave it 1 out of 10 rating—the album made it to No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart and No. 1 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart. According to MTV, that’s something an independent artist’s debut hadn’t done since Tha Dogg Pound’s “Dogg Food” in 1995. “Blue Slide Park” was still very much a “turn up,” “feel good” project as it was accompanied by its lead singles “Frick Park Market,” “Smile Back” and “Party on Fifth Ave.”
Mac Miller didn’t stop after “Macadelic.” He came right back with his “Watching Movies With the Sound Off” album. Again, this was a very dark, moody album with a lot of the same sounds that were used on “Macadelic.” It was very much another “conscious rap” project. He even says on “O.K.”—one of the few upbeat, fun songs—“album filled with all sad songs, but this the one that I can laugh on.” At this point, I started college and I really started veering away from strictly club bangers. I enjoyed songs and albums that told stories. I liked music and lyrics that made me think. As Mac became a seasoned rapper in the industry, I became more of a seasoned rap fan, and “Watching Movies With the Sound Off” was definitely an album that made you take the time to realize what the lyrics were saying. Mac touched on a lot of deep topics, and by this time in my life, I really enjoyed that kind of music. “Watching Movies With the Sound Off” reached No. 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart. Metacritic gave the album a 73 out of 100, Pitchfork gave it a 7 out of 10 and XXL gave it a 4 out of 5 rating—still with room to grow.
Well, Mac Miller stuck with the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” On May 11, 2014, Mac dropped a mixtape entitled, “Faces.” This mixtape included a star-studded cast of features and producers and stuck to Mac’s trippy vibes—maybe even more so than any of his previous projects. The mixtape consisted of 24 songs with dark, trippy lyricism. It seemed like Mac Miller had found a lane and was staying the course. As a rap fan, I enjoyed the lyricism and I liked how Mac pushed the boundaries. There were some songs like “Inside Outside” and “Colors and Shapes” that were totally off the wall, but just made for beautiful music. I think that’s what drew me into it—the difference in sound.
Time has been good to Mac Miller. Whether he set himself up for the perfect career trajectory on purpose by starting out in the frat-rap category and working his way to a solidified lyricist or if it just worked out that way, Mac Miller has truly gotten better with each song, each album. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say he’s a top-five rapper in the game right now. He listened to XXL and evolved like the Pokemon he’s been catching in Pokemon Go. The man just makes good music, and I still have my thumb in the air.