For anyone who went through adolescence in the 2010s, Malcolm McCormick was right there with them.
First making a splash in 2011 with anthems such as "Donald Trump" and "Senior Skip Day," Mac Miller would go on to become one of the most impactful artists of the decade. He came into the game with fun and cheesy "frat rap" and left it with some of the most beautiful, poetic, and honest music of our time. With his five studio albums and thirteen mixtapes, he provided the soundtrack for a generation.
He provided a soundtrack to fit any emotion or occasion; a soundtrack to bolster any high or any low.
Mac Miller left us entirely too soon, but he is kept very much alive through his timeless discography and his adoring fans, friends, and family. It seems as if Mac Miller blessed the life of everyone who had the pleasure of meeting or working with him, and he especially blessed the lives of everyone who listened to him. Luckily for humanity, his art will live on forever.
One year after Mac's untimely passing, fellow writer Ralph Compiano and I have decided to honor Mac as the September Genius of the Month. We will dissect his life and evolution, trying our best to articulate what made Malcolm McCormick such a unique and beloved artist.
Malcolm McCormick was born on January 19, 1992 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His mother was a photographer and his father was an architect. He and his older brother, Miller, were raised Jewish but attended Catholic school growing up (his mom is Jewish and his dad is Christian).
Mac was a self-taught musician, learning piano, guitar, drums, and bass by six years old. Mac had early aspirations of singing, as well. Growing up, Mac was an avid athlete and played football and lacrosse in school. He went to a couple of high schools, but graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School- the alma mater of fellow Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa (an early collaborator/mentor to Mac).
Around the age of fifteen, Mac began to take music seriously. He originally released music under the moniker "Easy Mac", releasing his debut mixtape But My Mackin' Ain't Easy in 2007. He later re-established himself as "Mac Miller" in 2009 with the release of mixtapes The Jukebox: Prelude to Class Clown and The High Life.
In 2010, Mac signed with Rostrum Records- the independent Pittsburgh label of Wiz Khalifa and a handful of other local artists. He then released his career-changing mixtape K.I.D.S (Kickin' Incredibly Dope Shit).
RALPH COMPIANO ON K.I.D.S - FACES
Before I discuss the inception of my membership in the Mac Miller religion, and my relationship to his music, I'd like to preface this with the fact that I still can't believe his personal, real-life absence from this Earth is real. We miss you everyday, my G, and you'll be in our hearts, minds, and on the tips of our tongues till infinity.
KICKIN' INCREDIBLY DOPE SHIT (2010)
"So far, I've done pretty well for myself Couple trophies on my shelf, so what else Could I want that I don't have yet Well, a little more cash and my own fast jet
So I can go anywhere (Anywhere) anywhere (Anywhere) Cali for the kush because boy I know there's plenty there About to be in music stores everywhere but not yet They can't understand my concept"
Lyrics from "Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza"
I remember the first time I'd ever heard of Mac Miller in the 7th grade. My dearest friend, Spencer Weese, introduced me to the idea of him during school. I was immediately stubborn to the idea of another white rapper existing within my playlists, "A white, Jewish rapper? And he's from Pittsburgh? No way he'll ever be better than Eminem. White guys that aren't Eminem should just stick to the MLB." Once we got out of school, we walked to his house and I was immediately in complete shock and awe after viewing the YouTube video of "Kool-Aid & Frozen Pizza."
The hardly-tatted-at-the-time young man just breathed energy through his swagger, and his vibrant flow was unlike anything I'd heard up to that point in my young adolescent life. He was smooth, in control, and someone that could make my mom tap her foot just as easily as it made me want to dissect the entirety of his lyrics on Genius. In other words, he was everything that Eminem wasn't. He was calm and relaxed, yet ready to take over the world (as his lyrics suggested).
Mac was a versatile artist from the get-go. He was capable of delivering bars on top of bars on stoner-anthems like "Kool Aid," or "Nikes On My Feet," but he truly thrived on top of beats that made your body lose control like, "The Spins," and "Knock Knock." No matter what beat came his way, Mac would match the energy with his uncontainable livelihood. And of course, the hopeless romantic in me couldn't get enough of songs like "All I Want is You," and "Face in the Crowd." I would listen to the choruses over and over again until I memorized them well enough to recite them on, like almost quite literally, all of my Facebook statuses.
(I don't trust you if you don't have the same DatPiff account now as you did in the 7th and 8th grade.)
BEST DAY EVER (2011)
"Tryna make it work out, think I need more reps Used to take a bus, now the boy board jets Cause K.I.D.S. got me buzzin' like a fuckin' hornet They say I got next, tell them that I got now It's all Disney boy, my family Proud Make 'em say, 'Ow,' make'em say, 'Oh' The hoes that tell me 'Yes', the same ones that tell you 'No' Woah, I ain't just an Average Joe, way above the average flow Boy, my life is Most Dope"
Lyrics from album-title track "Best Day Ever"
Okay, I can't even front, I straight up teared the fuck up while re-listening to this mixtape for the first time in nearly a year while typing up this portion of the worship-piece in the library.
Some may consider this mixtape to be Mac's first masterful piece of art. While K.I.D.S. was the groovy, yet inconsistent introduction to Pittsburgh's finest flower, BDE was what took Miller's status from an ultra-cult leader to a mainstream mogul.
Sure, "Donald Trump" may be the most popular song on the project, but while I was looking back on the tape eight and a half years later, I became instantly aware that it's definitely not the most influential nor memorable. That award has to go to either the intro track, "Best Day Ever," or my personal favorite anthem off of the tape, "Life Ain't Easy."
Granted, my nostalgia overcomes the rest of my instincts when I'm listening to Mac (the latter track has been one of my five favorite Mac songs for as long as I can remember), but still, the sheer joy, happiness, and excitement for life is relatively untouchable when diving through the rest of the god's discography.
I'd also like to take a moment to appreciate the genius of the goofy, yet solemnly bouncy and hopeful track "Oy Vey," because it was the first time I'd ever really learned to appreciate ad-libs. And really quick, one more thing, the verse where Mac recites,
"My people like to party so inform us where the freaks at Livin’ out my dream, people still sleepin’ The best night of your life, but we do this every weekend Life couldn’t get better, I hope it lasts forever When I spit my verse they gon’ remember every letter like Day in, and day out We tryna get this cake now You think you fly just wait until I pull my cape out Hey, life is good don’t waste it We ha-ha-ha-ha laughin’ at the looks on they faces"
is a priceless piece of Pittsburgh poetry.
Actually, one last thing one more time, "Wear My Hat," is my most-favorite cheesy love song of all-time. That song's lyrics are the epitome of Facebook statuses that make you feel the need to gag when you see them nearly a decade later.
"Red wine up in my glass plus Filet Mignon I got a army right up under me, I'm Genghis Khan Yeah, it's me against the world, I guess I'll take them on I might stop and see my girl, but I ain't staying long What if I'm gone, what the fuck you gon' think then? I told my story, put my life inside this ink pen Said I'll make it big when, everybody know me Well, I made it big and, everybody phony Ha, so could you pour me, I need a cup No, none of that liquor, mix some purple stuff I could talk my pain, but would it hurt too much"
Lyrics from "Thoughts From A Balcony"
Okay, now unfortunately (and also fortunately, somehow), the discussion of this project is where things start to get a little dark. Macadelic was seemingly the first LSD-influenced project that Mac ever made, and it shows through the variety of instruments, voice samples, and frequencies that the project experiments with.
I always found it fascinating that Nike is involved in the creation of this video. I think it was before their sponsorship of Kendrick, so the fact that they're involved with a hallucinogenic video on one of the more psychedelically influenced album of the decade is very intriguing.
The first actual song on the project, "Desperado" includes a segment from Gene Wilder's performance as Willy Wonka that is perhaps one of the creepiest monologues in children's-movie history.
What's interesting about the inclusion of this nightmare inducing speech is that it's followed by perhaps the most uplifting song on the project, "Loud" which was a return of the party animal version of Mac where he encourages the audience of devoted listeners, and his engineer as well to turn the speakers all the way the