Coming on the scene with a throwback style that betrayed his years, Pittsburgh-based rapper and producer Mac Miller combined languid vocals, playful rhymes, and hypnotic production influenced by OutKast, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, and Lauryn Hill. His debut, Blue Slide Park, topped the charts upon release. Subsequent efforts kept him in the Top Five into 2016, when he hit another peak with The Divine Feminine, which topped the R&B and rap charts. Miller followed up with the Top Three-charting Swimming in 2018, but the rapper died a month after the album's release. Born Malcolm McCormick, Miller first used the alias Easy Mac, a name referenced on his debut mixtape, 2007's But My Mackin' Ain't Easy. His KIDS mixtape became his breakthrough when it was released in August of 2010, earning plenty of attention from hip-hop blogs and landing Miller a recording contract with Rostrum Records. Rostrum released his debut EP, On and on and Beyond, and his debut album, Blue Slide Park, in 2011. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. His seventh mixtape, Macadelic, arrived the next year, featuring appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Juicy J, Cam'ron, Lil Wayne, and more (the set was later remastered for a spring 2018 release). The more experimental effort Watching Movies with the Sound Off followed in 2013, with left-field hip-hop names like Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt, and Flying Lotus lending a hand. A year later he signed with Warner Bros. and launched his own imprint, REMember Music, under the major label. GO:OD AM followed in 2015 with Lil B, Chief Keef, and Miguel on the album's guest list. The single "100 Grandkids" peaked appropriately at number 100, while "Weekend" was certified gold. Just a year after GO:OD AM ascended to the Top Five of the Billboard 200 and rap charts, Miller returned with his fourth LP, The Divine Feminine. The album featured contributions from guests like Kendrick Lamar, Cee Lo Green, Ariana Grande, Robert Glasper, and Anderson.Paak, who lent his soulful rasp to first single "Dang!" A pair of non-album singles ("Buttons" and "Programs") kept Miller busy into 2018, when he issued his fifth album, Swimming. Debuting at number three on both the Billboard 200 and R&B/hip-hop charts, the set included the songs "Small Worlds," "Self Care," and "What's the Use?" A month after the release of the effort, Miller died from a suspected drug overdose in his San Fernando Valley home. He was 26 years old. Following his death, seven of his albums posthumously charted on the Billboard 200, including the debut appearances of Best Day Ever and Macadelic. ~ David Jeffries
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released August 3, 2018 | Warner Bros.
Following 2016's ode to love The Divine Feminine, Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller avoids treading water and continues his artistic maturation on his fifth full-length, Swimming. As flowing as the title suggests, Swimming undulates with laid-back slacker soul and hypnotic production, like a lava lamp bobbing along calm waves. Inspired by events preceding the album's release, Miller's moody and introspective lyrics hint at the post-breakup black cloud hovering above his head, while also addressing his struggles with maintaining sobriety. Coupled with his soulful sing-rapping and input from producer Jon Brion, Swimming is one of Miller's more enjoyable and cohesive visions. Throughout, there's an emo-R&B vibe that strongly recalls Frank Ocean, just with less eloquent or evocative lyrics. Highlights include the popping, Pharrell-assisted "Hurt Feelings," the synth-funk bounce of the Snoop Dogg and Thundercat collaboration "What's the Use?," and "Self Care," a narcotic cloud rap gem that benefits from co-writers Dev Hynes and J.I.D. The woozy production and marble-mouthed delivery can sometimes be a slog (similar to one of Drake's or Post Malone's overly long albums), but every now and then there's something -- be it the surprise jazz piano on "Small Worlds" or the orchestral sweep of "2009" -- that pulls everything back into focus. Licking his wounds after a rough first half of 2018, Miller realizes "You could have the world in the palm of your hands/You still might drop it" on closer "So It Goes." With an eye on the future, Swimming is ample evidence that Miller can pick up the pieces and continue evolving, his grasp on thoughtful, introspective hip-hop getting stronger by the album. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 18, 2015 | Warner Bros.
Mac Miller proved he had swagger with his 2011 debut Blue Slide Park, and then offered some artistic depth with his adventurous, reckless, and overly wandering sophomore release Watching Movies with the Sound Off. Learning from previous mistakes while retaining all that was good about his second LP, this third dispatch from the heart of Pittsburgh adds a slurry and mush-mouthed style that sounds like the confident Miller is now so laid-back, the words leaving his mouth are quite tired from their uphill climb. The great single "100 Grandkids" suggests it is actually a post-junkie style as "I swear to God, I put the 'hero' in heroin" blasts out loud and proud, although there's no doubting the wiser moments on this third album are all post-rehab and even prouder, as the quest for clarity is the rapper's current vice. Big baller "Brand Name" looks to beat the odds with "To everyone who sells me drugs, don't mix it with that bullshit/I'm tryin' not to join the 27 club" as it does the "American Ninja to these obstacles" with one of the numerous beats from the production team ID Labs, who have a newfound love of luminous soul music. Miller is still digging on the dreamy sound of cloud rap and brings in producers Drew Byrd and Thundercat for the heavenly "Break the Law" ("I killed it like Jeffrey Dahmer killed the '80s"), which features Lil B as guest rapper and motivational speaker. Vinylz is the beatmaker for "Cut the Check" where Chief Keef joins for a stoned mix of trap and dub, plus the cut is dropped in the fourth quarter of an album that has no problem reaching 17 tracks. Getting sober and ridding himself of depression are topics that GO:OD AM touches upon, but rather than his past, the "show and prove" Miller is driven by his rebirth on an interesting and infectious LP that's also his strongest to date. ~ David Jeffries
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