Mac Miller showed me how to be human


Photo courtesy of Tribune News Servicec

Malcolm James McCormick, aka Mac Miller, sings onstage at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 14, 2017. Miller was found dead inside his Los Angeles home Friday due to a drug overdose.

By Austin Stadelman, Columnist

Rapper, musician and producer Malcolm McCormick, better known by his stage name, Mac Miller, died due to a drug overdose on Friday. The Pittsburgh native had a profound presence in hip hop. As one of few individuals who could rap, sing and play multiple instruments, all for the same track, his raw talent for musical production was never in question. More importantly, Mac stood out for his individuality as an artist and personality.

Many rap artists have a certain style they stick with their whole career. They become known for either founding, influencing or contributing to a specific sub-genre of hip hop, which they then use to build their brand through continuity.

Mac did not follow this trend. His passion for creating new sounds with almost every piece not only showcased an emotional journey and musical evolution that is rarely seen in the entirety of the industry, but it also revealed the truth that many artists can hide from in their work — that we are human.

Mac was one of the most honest artists in the game. His music was a story of himself. His struggles and triumphs were described in all of his songs as a means of showing himself to the world as he is and not as a front.

The emotional journey his discography tells is the story of a happy-go-lucky high school kid maturing, as both an individual and a musician, into a developed adult with growing trials and tribulations — and just so happens to have a natural talent for musical creation.

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The emotions expressed throughout this journey are chronologically identifiable in every mixtape or album Mac put out. Each piece reveals a message he conveyed to the audience about both himself and the life we all live.

“K.I.D.S.” and “Best Day Ever” told the story of the kid who went from writing rhymes in high school to living a life of luxury in just a few short years and, in doing so, told the world to chase our dreams with the childhood imagination we are all gifted with.

Upon realizing his success, Mac told us that, although now rich and famous, he’s still the same kid as before, albeit with a bit of angst and eventual frustration. Reflecting this, the album ends with a more cloudy tone than what was previously established in his discography.

“Macadelic” journeys further into Mac’s angst and existential questioning, now more developed, and serves as the turning point in Mac’s career, from the party rap he was known for to a more serious and complex musical experience. This existential dilemma is often felt during one’s coming-of-age, and not just for those who find themselves particularly wealthy.

When you thought all of your problems are solved, but in reality are only greater, it can accumulate into finding yourself in a dark and uncertain place. That occurrence is deeply reflected in “Watching Movies with the Sound Off” and even more so in “Faces.” In these pieces, the weary life of an individual who finds himself in the darkest spot he’s ever been in leads to Mac’s heavy drug use and his growing hopelessness that the optimism found in his youth will never be recaptured.

However, there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. “GO:OD AM” gives a sense of awakening within Mac, letting everyone know the dark days are behind him and that he was ready to start anew.

This progresses into “The Divine Feminine.” Mac took a side-step from his traditional rap style and created an album emphasized around love and one’s salvation through a relationship with one another as he waded through recovery.

But even when newfound love didn’t work out, and perhaps all the problems that needed to be dealt with weren’t entirely gone, Mac created a masterful piece with his most recent album, “Swimming,” released just last month. It captures the idea that, despite all life may throw at you, you just keep going, and if you don’t find all the answers, that’s OK.

Regardless of wealth or status, that personal evolution of growing up — and the consequences that come with it — is found in us all. It is an experience that makes being human unique in a universe full of the dead and unmoving.

To have certain parts of our lives, whether they last weeks, months or even years, that are not in continuity with the rest of them, is a fundamental experience of life we collectively understand. That inconsistency in life paves the way for emotional highs and lows, and emphasizes that, especially during the lows, finding those who make you smile could make all the difference.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of Miller’s death is that he genuinely seemed to be content with himself. Comparing the themes in “Swimming” to the work of “Faces,” it doesn’t make any sense as to why it happened now as opposed to then, especially considering the death has not been ruled a suicide of any kind. It serves as a brutal reminder that life doesn’t have coherent rhyme or reason, that we are all subject to tragedy and that we must cherish life and those around us who experience the same emotional journey we do.

Mac Miller’s music did us a great service in revealing the ins and outs of life’s roller coaster in an honest way, and although Mac’s story has come to an end, the experiences he shared can continue to teach us the lessons of growing pains for the rest of our lives.

For that, we all owe him a large debt of gratitude.

Austin is a junior in LAS.

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