With his most recent album only being released a month ago, the sudden death of Mac Miller has been hugely disheartening for the world of music and hip-hop. Hailed as a king of the underground, and an advocate for new music, Miller was only 26 when he died, and many said he still had a huge career ahead of him.
We thought we’d look back at his rather long-lived career, for someone of such a young age, and how he gained so much respect from others in the industry. Addiction is one of the prime reasons for the death of rappers and a hugely serious matter when we consider the legends that have fallen due to overdosing.
THE EARLY DAYS
Mac Miller was born into a Jewish family where, despite his future frequent use of drugs, he stayed religious. An aspect of Miller that makes him so lovable is his genuine personality, he has never changed himself to fit the typical persona of a rapper. He has remarked that he is the ‘coolest Jewish rapper’, which seems like a cocky self-portrayal, but with the personality, the Pittsburgh rapper has, you could only ever really see this as a joke. His musical infatuation began at the age of 6, where he would begin learning the drums, piano and bass; his parents were increasingly supportive of his art, as they themselves worked in creative industries (photography and architecture).
His first use of drugs was at the age of 10/11, in 5th grade, which actually lead to his first mugging. This was by his friend’s brother who took the weed he was using off him. This didn’t stop Mac though, he carried on smoking weed, and this would later fuel the creativity for his early mixtapes and rap battles on the streets of Pittsborough. He went to the same High School as Wiz Khalifa and became a frequent collaborator with the star (on tracks ‘Keep Floating’ and ‘High Life’) once his career took off. Before this though, he was performing in rap battles to no more than 200 people in a club called ‘The Shadow Lounge’. He didn’t win any of the competitions, but he is still one of the most famous rappers to come out of his hometown.
THE START OF HIS CAREER
Mac started to blow up after the release of his single ‘Donald Trump’, in 2010, which incorporated a quirky beat with his metaphorical imagery of the life of Trump, who he recently criticised for his political policies. This contributed to his XXFRESHMAN class list feature, in 2011, alongside the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and YG. Little did he know, that this would contribute to his chart-topping debut album ‘Blue Slide Park’, which received mix reviews despite its fan acclaim and position as the first independently released number 1 in 16 years. Malcom stayed topical with this LP, referencing Judaism and the Holocaust, making parallels between the treatment of his religion and daily life in America. It also featured production from hip-hop heavyweight Clams Casino, who would end up in constant collaboration with Miller, and develop the future course of his more indie and enigmatic sound.
HITTING THE BIG TIME BABY
This was it for Mac now, his career had taken off, and he was quickly becoming one of the most followed rappers in the world. Just about everyone wanted a bit of his cocky, playful wordplay and modest persona; he maintained his admirable, workaholic nature and released an album every year until 2016. ‘Watching movies with the sound off’ had an incredible production list, with the likes of Flying Lotus and Pharell manipulating Mac’s sound, and pioneering the aesthetic he pursued on future releases, like ‘Faces’. However, depressingly so, this was the first album we really heard the rapper open up on his addictions, he rapped ‘That fentanyl, it numbs me/ ...Turns you into a junkie’ on ‘Someone Like you’. At the time, this didn’t seem as serious as it does now; it is incredibly depressing to hear him spit lyrics like these now. ‘Faces’ still told a narrative of his problems with addiction, he likens himself to a ‘drug absorbent endorphin addict’ on the tune ‘What Do You Do’. Many said this album was the pinnacle of his drug problem, he was hardly sleeping and said this helped his creativity, but Syd the Kid from the Internet knew it wasn’t helping his productivity. He has long been a collaborator with Odd Future members, and he performed with the Internet in 2013 for a whole set in London.
During the release of the LPs, Mac had a long-term relationship with singer ‘Ariana Grande’. They famously hit it off on Twitter, but the relationship went downhill very quickly and it didn’t help with Miller’s mental health. She got engaged very soon after, but apologised to Mac in an open letter on social media, claiming she had become his ‘babysitter’, constantly helping him through his addiction.
GO:OD AM UNTIL THE END
For the release of his 5th studio record, Mckormick signed a deal worth $10 million with Warner Bros. In an interview with Larry King, he claimed that people could still make it big independently, but for Mac it was probably time he signed a deal with one of the worlds most elite; he jokily remarked to King that he wanted to sign this deal to appear on billboards. Around this time, the second series of ‘Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family’ came out, which was a reality show documentary on MTV following the life of Miller as he settled down in LA. However, this documentary series didn’t really portray some aspects of he life the rapper was currently living. Malcom was continually using drugs, and to make matters worse, the band ‘Aquarium Dream’ filed a lawsuit against him for sampling one of their songs. Mac lost $150,000.00 in the case.
Mac Miller released ‘Swimming’ this year, the album was one of his most well-loved and individualistic of his whole career. Unlike many of his other albums, there were no featured vocalists, the album was purely him and how he was coping with his depression, drug abuse and love life. It was apparent that he really wasn’t the happy Mac we all loved back in 2011; in May 2018 he also got into trouble with the law for a supposed hit and run whilst under the influence. ‘Swimming’ came out just a month before Mac’s death. ‘Self-care’ was an example of some of his best work on the new album, utilising a wavy, trappy beat.
Throughout his career, Mac captured a scene and became one of the most successful independent rappers of my lifetime. His other aliases, Larry Fisherman and Delusional Thomas, showed just the variety of music Miller was willing to make, and the audiences he ended up appealing to. Personally, I’ve only just started getting into Mac Miller, he was a rapper I never used to indulge in but now I can’t get enough of his work. He was a very talented man, and it’s a huge shame to see another great lost to drug overdosing.