Mac Miller’s Music Lives On

Robert Kanehl, Design Editor

On Sep. 7, 2018, hip-hop artist Mac Miller was pronounced dead as a result of a drug overdose. At the time of his passing, Mac was working on “Circles,” a companion album to his previous release, “Swimming.” 

Throughout his discography Mac has dramatically changed his style, undergoing one of the most widely acknowledged changes of style in rap history. In his earliest work, Mac held an emphasis of hard hitting, classic, 90’s style boom bap beats and braggadocious lyrics, in standard hip-hop fashion. Though, with the release of “The Divine Feminine,” Mac introduced more real instruments into his music, and shifted gears towards a much jazzier, slower and more melodic style. 

This is a style that is very prevalent in Mac’s new posthumous album, “Circles.” To start, production on this record is widely varied, while all carrying a unifying theme of drawn out chords, live drums and visceral, unprocessed synths. Despite his album not being finished at the time of his death, the production on “Circles” is very concise, and sounds like a solid, finished product. This is largely due to production being completed by a close friend of his, Jon Brion, who had also produced many tracks on “Swimming,” along with Mac himself. 

Besides the production, the album carries a wide variety of dark undertones in Mac’s lyrics and demeanor. The album’s single, “Good News,” exemplifies these themes with a plucky, upbeat melody, but incredibly sad lyrics from Mac, expressing feelings of isolation and despair.

Why can’t it just be easy…why does everybody need me to stay?” Mac sings. His vocal inflection on this track, as well as many others on this record, are quiet and raspy, which excellently expresses his emotions: without even listening to the lyrics, you can understand exactly how Mac feels. 

Mac certainly has not forgotten how to rap, which he makes very clear on this album. On the song Hands, Mac raps at a relatively slow pace, but his lyrical choice and flow reminds listeners that he never lost his skill, despite his fundamental change in styles. 

You throw me off my high horse, I’d probably fall to my death. Bad behavior, it’s obvious I’m not at my best,” Mac raps. 

Although, his prowess in lyricism does not end there. Mac continues to exert some of his most clever and thought provoking lines ever on this record. He does an incredible job at making the audience feel his emotions. 

“Blue World” is easily the most poppy, upbeat song on this record. The repetitive, sub-chained synth combined with the short and clicky percussion give the song an incredible charm that cannot be found anywhere else on the album. This track specifically adds some much-needed joy to the album, making the project as a whole feel much more alive and much less depressing.

My personal favorite track on “Circles” is “Surf.” It starts out with a very subtle ukulele chord progression, with Mac’s voice being projected very softly into the listeners ear. However, as the song draws on, a fantastic live drum sample, groovy bassline and a charmingly offensive synth work together to breathe life into the originally mellow song. Overall, “Circles” was a wonderful send-off of Mac Miller’s music career to his fans. It sold 164,000 copies in the first week, being one of his most successful projects to date: with very little advertising or marketing. Mac fans are certainly pleased with this release, and will certainly continue to listen to it for as long as he is remembered.