Circles by Mac Miller

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Circles by Mac Miller

Urban People |
An Appetizer
The Plug

A Hip Hop Hero

Mac Miller came a long, long way from his "Donald Trump s***." My good friend introduced me to Easy Mac's "frat rap" during my freshman year at college -- braggadocious white boy songs about making money, getting girls, and partying. (If I had identified that "Vesuvius" sample, I might have been expecting more from Mac.) But a couple of years later, when another friend forced me to listen to Watching Movies with the Sound Off, it shocked and delighted me. That expansive album exhibited Mac's sonic, thematic, collaborative, and personal growth; and his potential.

To everyone who sell me drugs: Don't mix it with that bulls***, I'm hopin' not to join the 27 Club.

The Pittsburgh rapper released three studio albums after WMWTSO, each one showing developments to his craft. Depression, stress, and substance abuse were demons that surfaced in many of Mac's lyrics. Tragically, he overdosed in 2018, at the age of 26.

Closing the Loop

In defiance of those demons, Mac often took a hopeful tone. In 2020, the Miller Estate released Circles, initially intended as a companion album to 2018's Swimming. Largely recorded before his death, producer Jon Brion finished the album following Mac's vision. The tone is mellow, understated, and genuine. He continues to voice his inner struggles, disappointments, and frustrations, yet with hints of hope. The lyricism and delivery have a mellow, nearly folk flavor that steers the usual higher-energy and hot-headed tilt towards acceptant and wizened zen. Brion pared back the production to allow Miller's vocals and instrumentation more room, but what remains is equally thoughtful, contented, and somehow diverse.

A beloved and generous contributor to hip hop, the music world, and his hometown, Pittsburgh (whose mayor presented him with a key to the city in 2013), Malcolm McCormick left far too soon. Despite my initial impressions, I came to enjoy his talents, and I wish he had stayed much, much longer.

Thanks, Malcom.

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