Mac Miller dies at 26
Mac Miller, the rapper, singer and record producer from Pittsburgh, was found dead on 7th September 2018 from an apparent drug overdose in his home in California.
Born on 19th January 1992 as Malcolm James McCormick in Pittsburgh, Miller was drawn towards music at an early age, starting piano lessons at the age of 6 and later teaching himself to play guitar, drums and bass. He first entered the hip-hop scene under the alias EZ Mac, releasing the EP But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy in 2007, as well as founding the group ‘The Ill Spoken’ alongside fellow upper Rust Belt rapper Beedie. But it was in 2010 that Miller made his first significant breakout with his K.I.D.S. mixtape (Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit) which earned him attention from hip-hop blogs and landed him a contract with Rostrum Records.
His five subsequent studio albums represented a steady evolution from juvenile ‘frat-rap’, lusting after fame, money and women, to modest self-reflection. Miller released his debut album Blue Slide Park in 2011 to scathing reviews, famously receiving 1.0 stars from Pitchfork. Though what it lacked in critical acclaim it made up for commercially; the album became the first independently distributed album to go to Number 1 in sixteen years. The sudden ascent to stardom together with reviews that Miller considered “more on me as a person” certainly took a toll on the young rapper’s psyche and he turned to the drug promethazine to cope with stress during his Macadelic tour (a sell-out at every location) in 2012.
His second album Watching Movies With The Sound Off was primarily produced by Miller himself and featured a star-studded line up of guest appearances including Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q and Tyler, the Creator. The record represented a large progression in Miller’s artistry and he wove his rhymes into the backing beats with considerably more introspection and virtuosity. He followed up with the refined album GO:OD AM (released this time on Warner Bros in 2015), The Divine Feminine , which largely explored love and distance (released in 2016) and his reflective album Swimming (released in August 2018). This last album drew much of its inspiration from Miller’s break up with pop singer Ariana Grande and he took his time to carefully explore his fragile mental state through languid, self-deprecating lyrics. Mac Miller sings more on this album (at points reminiscent of Frank Ocean) and allows the instrumentation to breathe, opening up about his hermetic world in between wistful funk interjections.
Throughout his releases, his struggles with substance abuse were all-pervading. On his track ‘Of the Soul’ from his first album he lamented “I ain’t normal, I’m clinically insane, I guess it’s the result of drugs that enter in my brain”. And on the opening track ‘Come Back to Earth’ from his final album he sings, almost prophetically, “I’ll do anything for a way out of my head”. Perhaps he never was quite able to escape his own demons. Mac Miller will, however, live on in the headphones of hip-hop enthusiasts for many years to come.
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