September 7, 2018 was an incredibly sad day for so many people around the world, including myself, as we were hit with the news of Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller’s passing.
Indeed, this is a weighty time in the music world, but in honor and celebration of his life, I figured I’d take a short trip down memory lane and write about a few of my favorite Mac Miller songs and features.
Senior Skip Day (2010)
“Senior Skip Day” was the very first Mac Miller song I had ever heard; I’m pretty sure I was a freshman in high school at the time. I can’t remember what exactly led me to discover this 18-year-old white-boy rapper from Pittsburgh — perhaps I was put on by a friend at school, or maybe it popped up in my “Recommended Videos” section on YouTube. Either way, I’m really glad that I found his music.
Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza (2010)
This is a CLASSIC track off of his mixtape K.I.D.S. I’ve seen this video re-circulate social media multiple times just this year alone, including the day of Mac’s passing. Mac raps about his impending stardom over a very chill boom-bap beat. “Senior Skip Day” may have been the first Mac Miller song I ever heard, but “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza” was the one that really made me a Mac Miller fan. The song is so ridiculously laid-back, it’s incredible.
Best Day Ever (2011)
“No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile
Pursuit to be happy, only laughing like a child
I never thought life would be this sweet
It got me cheesin’ from cheek to cheek
And I ain’t gonna wait for nothing
Cuz that just ain’t my style
Life couldn’t get better
This ‘gon be the best day ever”
Donald Trump (2011)
So…I have a complicated relationship with this song. “Donald Trump” aged pretty terribly for me; it’s a song I no longer really enjoy or have desire to hear. However, for the sake of nostalgia and sentimentality, I have to include it on this list. I can’t pretend that this wasn’t my absolute favorite song at one point in time. This song was one of the staples of sophomore year parties and get-togethers. I always thought it was funny when I would rap aloud the line “LOOK AT ALL THIS MONEY! AIN’T THAT SOME SHIT?” whilst having absolutely no money around me. Good times, good times.
The Way (2013)
I remember sitting on the bus and hearing this song playing so many times on the radio; it would get a ridiculous amount of requests. I love “The Way” (pun intended). I loved Ariana’s absolutely gorgeous voice, but the song wouldn’t be the same without Mac Miller’s verses: they were short and simple for the pop audience, but I thought they were also very catchy and fun. This song is still one of my favorite pop songs.
“S.D.S” was the first single from Miller’s 2nd album Watching Movies with the Sound Off, and one of my favorite Mac Miller songs. This was around the time that Mac’s music was evolving sonically — a process that began maybe late 2011 or early 2012, around the time of his mixtape Macadelic. His music was getting more psychedelic; his subject matter was getting darker and more mature; his lyricism was steadily improving. I dig the schizophrenic nature of the lyrics and the beat, courtesy of my favorite producer, Flying Lotus. Indeed, “S.D.S.” was not his most popular single by any means, but one could make the argument that up to that point in time, it was the best song he had put out.
Another song from Miller’s sophomore album Watching Movies with the Sound Off, “Avian” might actually be my favorite Mac Miller song that he’s ever released. The piano from Disney’s Up soundtrack might be one of the most beautiful piano samples I’ve ever heard incorporated into a beat. The song overall is just so colorful and ethereal and gorgeous.
I have posited in many debates with friends that the Faces mixtape is Mac Miller’s best project, and “Diablo” is one of its crown jewels. This single is of the lyrical masterpieces of the mixtape. It sounded like hanging around guys like Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples, and Joey Bada$$ was having a profound effect on his songwriting skills. The instrumental, made by Mac himself under his production moniker Larry Fisherman, is spectacular to me. I actually once tried to remake this beat, using the same Duke Ellington sample; it was nowhere near as good as what Mac Miller did here.
“Insomniak” is an interesting song. It isn’t the best song on Faces, but to me, no song on the tape is as entertaining and amusing as this one. I love the Fantastic Planet sample and the banging beat. Mac and Ross’s energy was contagious. The lyrics aren’t anything profound, but it sounded like Mac and Ross were having an incredibly good time, and in turn I would have a good time anytime I heard this song. I almost always laugh at Rick Ross’s closing line “I’M BUTT NAKED WITH MY CHOPPER, NIGGA!” I can’t speak for anyone else, but I thought it was hilarious.
Dat Sound Good (2014)
The significance of “Dat Sound Good” for me, other than the fact that Mac Miller held his own against the likes of Royce da 5’9″ and Ab-Soul, was that Mac was getting respect from hip-hop’s OGs. DJ Premier is a LEGENDARY producer, and Royce is one of the most technically skilled emcees the game has ever heard. The fact that Mac was tabbed for this collaboration, on an album that also featured the likes of Common, Jay Electronica, Killer Mike, and Slaughterhouse, meant that he had been welcomed into the house of the elites.
100 Grandkids (2015)
Mac’s previous 2 albums, before this single, were dark and explored topics like depression and drug use as a coping mechanism. “100 Grandkids,” the first single off of his Warner Bros. debut GO:OD AM was so much more upbeat and positive and witty. Sure, his darker material was great, but it was geniunely nice to hear him sound so lighthearted. It’s also incredibly well-produced.
“Dang!” is one of the highlights of The Divine Feminine, which was an album in which Mac Miller took a slight musical detour and put out an album solely about women and love. I really enjoyed Mac and .Paak’s performance and the overall groove of this song. The album took some time to grow on me, but when it did, I really appreciated the concept and the direction that he took.
Come Back to Earth (2018)
“In my own way, this feel like living
Some alternate reality
And I was drowning, but now I’m swimming
Through stressful waters to relief”
It’s a beautiful metaphor, in a beautiful opening track to a beautiful album. Sadly, it ended up being his last.
NPR Tiny Desk Concert (2018)
Mac put on a show for NPR in one of their Tiny Desk concerts, performing the songs “Small Worlds,” “What’s the Use,” and “2009” from his latest album Swimming. There are so many beautiful and poetic lyrics from all of these songs. “Guess there was a time when my mind was consumed / But the sun coming out now, clouds start to move.” “I was diggin’ me a hole big enough to bury my soul / Weight of the world, I gotta carry my own.” It was a really soulful little concert, and one of his last live performances.
These are only a handful of some of the great moments I enjoyed from his great career. There’s certainly a lot of sadness during this time, but even in the midst of sorrow, there is cause to celebrate. He left an imprint on multiple generations of hip-hop and touched many lives with his art.
Rest easy, Mac. Thank you for the great memories.