While there are a lot of white rappers, there are only a select few who grace my playlists. The Beastie Boys fall into this category. Folks like Brain Rapp fall into this category. People like Aesop Rock and Your Old Droog fall into this category. Hell, I’ll even include early Eminem in this category, if I’m in the mood to scream-rap along with “The Way I Am.” It’s not me saying “oh, I don’t rock with white rappers because they’re white.” Instead, there’s a streak of superiority that a lot of non-POC rappers have in their music that I can’t rock with.
And then, there’s Mac Miller.
When I first heard of Mac Miller, I respected his music. While I thought he had a frat rap thing going at first, I quickly changed my tune. I knew there was something special about him. He was lyrical, but not snobby with his ability. He had a real throwback sound to him, while still keeping things fresh and modern. He talked his “let’s smoke and chill,” but still could go beyond that. He was a quintessential rapper’s rapper.
While he kicked incredibly dope shit, he wasn’t just rapping for the sake of rapping. He also didn’t really rap just to make party rap. There was a weight to his music. You could relate to his lyrics, both the happier ones and the (even more) introspective, mental health aware, “let’s get into even more real shit” ones that came later.
There’s a sadness to songs like “Senior Skip Day” from K.I.D.S. (which celebrated its ninth anniversary this week), especially considering how things turned out. But that goes along with the weight of his music. In addition to knowing the keys to crafting a song, he knew what to say and when to say it. “SSD” sounds happy and feels like a “don’t waste your youth” song. And it is. There’s also a bit of isolationism to it, a splash of avoidance that comes with growing up and growing older. We know it’s inevitable, but often we still try to hold on to things. We know we should do more than party and bullshit, but sometimes, there’s a comfort in avoiding our situations, a blessing and a curse of sorts.
As Mac grew in popularity, things became darker. A man who wanted to kick dope shit now had to deal with many new stressors and concerns. However, instead of acting like things were okay, he laid his entire life out there for the world to see. His successes, his joys, his sorrows, his anger, his anxieties–nothing was left off the table for him. That’s what made him special as an artist. I didn’t cover much on SOTBMusic because others had already said what I wanted to–and I hate redundancy.
No, he wasn’t the first rapper to talk about mental health awareness. However, he was one who many could relate to because of how blunt and straightforward he was about it. There was often no hyperbole to his tales. We got to see everything that made him tick and, ultimately, some of the devices in his untimely demise.
Mac is a special artist and he’s one who had my respect because of his honesty–and his abilities. For me, he transcended color, background, sound and all of with his music. It was incredibly dope shit that knew where hip-hop came from. It spoke on mental health bluntly and honestly. And it did that while still providing people a shoulder to say “hey, I understand.” That’s rare.
There’s a reason I didn’t speak on Mac much when he passed. I was in shock. Hearing his death was like hearing a friend died, especially since he’d just dropped a project a bit before his death. I had to process everything. Between his death, Nipsey Hussle’s murder, and a few others, I’ve been bit beside myself on musician deaths over the past year. Yes, death is a normal part of life. That still doesn’t really prepare you for it when you don’t expect it. Even while he battled demons, I expected Mac to be one of the new elder statesmen in hip-hop in another ten years.
Additionally, I didn’t know the words to say. Donna-Claire Chesman’s Year of Mac series on DJBooth has been excellent and has summed up many of the things I’ve wanted to say. Though, I still wanted to speak my own peace on Mac Miller and pay homage–and avoid that redundancy I hate.
So, thank you for kicking incredibly dope shit. You are appreciated here, now and forever.