Words: Dylan Murphy
Photo Credit: Amar Daved
It’s more than two years since Mac Miller passed away, but the Pittsburgh native left a lasting impression on the world during his 26 years on earth. We examine the relationships he had with other artists and how his charm and innate likeability manifested in his music.
In increasingly busy timelines and with a relentless news cycle that spits out stories faster than we can digest them, there are few things that command considered responses.
On a bad day, your feed can read like a newspaper’s obituary and with the overwhelming amount of information being presented, our capacity to engage meaningfully with events can often be reduced to a retweet before moving on to the next thumb stopper.
In contrast to the emotionally sanitised nature of our news consumption, there is a simple romance to the magic of Mac Miller’s music. He wore his heart on his sleeve and we could see shades of ourselves in the vulnerability he espoused in his music. When he passed on 7 September 2018 the internet’s heart collectively skipped a beat. Much like the passing of MF DOOM, the eulogies came thick and fast, but unlike the distanced appreciation of semi-anonymous creative outlier, fans shared intimate memories soundtracked by the 26 year old Pittsburgh native.
Whether it was endearing fans with his early carefree and backpack friendly bars that earned the nickname Easy Mac With The Cheesy Raps or the introspective jazz fusion that floated through Swimming, Mac was inherently likeable. There was a magnetic charisma illustrated in his infamous friendships with ScHoolboy Q and Thundercat and a catalogue that read like a series of diary entrys – subscribing to Mac was living high school all over again.
Additionally, one of the most important features of Mac’s musical repertoire was his ability to compliment his collaborators. The rap game’s Kevin De Bruyne, he was often more concerned with teeing up others for team wins, rather than vying for individual honours.
To celebrate the life of Mac Miller and in no particular order we’ve examined our 10 favourite guest verses from the Pittsburgh native and highlighted the skills, relationships and turns of phrase that made him so potent.
It’s hard to imagine sharp-tongued Compton native Vince Staples being tentative about anything. However, whilst he had contributed to early Odd Future tapes and Earl’s 2010 mixtape Earl, Vince had not fully committed to a career in music.
Admitting he was rarely sent the beats needed to take the plunge, close friend Mac Miller stepped in to help. Working under his producer alias Larry Fisherman, he helped kickstart Vince’s career with the collaborative mixtape Stolen Youth.
The result of a 2012 recording camp at Mac’s house, a conveyor belt of acts ranging from Earl Sweatshirt to Cool Kids passing through to work. The Larry Fisherman alias gave a young Mac, who was pinned as the face of frat rap the breathing space to explore the darker and more experimental sounds that would be fully realised on Faces.
‘Sleep’ and the mixtape as a whole is a significant moment in the careers of both Vince and Mac. Miller had the anonymity and freedom to explore the sounds that would catapult his career without the expectations. Whereas, Vince was able to lean on a friend to truly test the waters for a serious career in music.
Ethereal and equal parts sensual, The Internet’s ‘Wanders of the Mind’ sees Mac exercise wilful ignorance of the stresses going on around him. Floating above shadowy drums and emerging off the back of a trickling intro it’s the musical antonym to confronting your problems.
While we’ve all been there most of us are often too afraid to admit it, whereas Mac accepts an invitation from his friends to embrace his escapist tendencies, for better or worse.
Having found success in his hip shaking hit with Anderson Paak. ‘Dang!’, Mac later joined forces with Paak’s band the Free Nationals on their debut album. It was the first posthumous release from Easy Mac with the cheesy raps and with that context in mind, it hits different.
Mac Miller’s relationship with Bassist and singer Thundercat was one of the most wholesome sights on our timeline through the 2010s. Frequently jamming together and goofing around, you can see the genuine chemistry the pair had in Mac’s now-legendary Tiny Desk Concert.
For all the time spent together and talk of a collaborative album that exists on a hard drive somewhere, there aren’t many official tracks in existence. Though after Mac’s death, Thundercat shared a link to a bonus cut from the Japanese version of his album Drunk.
‘Hi’ sees Mac provide an inebriated verse on an album defined by its woozy sound.
Mac’s verses even at their most potent were carried by an effortless delivery that made his words feel deeply conversational. On ‘Round Table Discussion’, Mac more or less sleepwalks into the cut. Rubbing his eyes and waxing lyrical about smoking blunts and drinking diet coke he snaps back to life with a democratic verse about ropey republicans.
Leading listeners into a false sense of security before teeing up the Cool Kids the verse is testament to the goofy character that made him so easy to be around.
As an artist Mac was revered for his ability to connect with his music, but on Freddie Gibbs’ and Madlib’s ‘Piñata‘ he illustrated he could go bar for bar with some of the best.
Coming hot on the heels of Flatbush Zombies’ Meechy Darko, Mac maintained a captivating flow over a relentless instrumental without compromising his trademark lackadaisical approach. A bit like smoking a blunt whilst lifting weights.
Mac had the innate ability to field a range of emotions in his music. His ability to capture the nuances to his being in plain terms is what made him so appealing. For every track highlighting heartbreak, he had one embracing his hedonistic side. On Odd Future graduate Domo Genesis’ ‘Coming Back’ he hit the sweet spot with his no fucks given hook. Perfect for a late summer’s evening drive.
Dreamville high flyers EARTHGANG channelled cosmic energy for their 2015 cut ‘Monday‘.
Though, recognised for his ability to relate with very deliberate tales of the growing pains he couldn’t quite shake, ‘Monday’ is a prime example of Mac’s capacity to whisk attentive listeners away with otherworldly wordplay.
Alien abductions, chasing exotic animals and an array of vivid, head-scratching imagery laces an abstract verse that sees Mac step away from his world that can often be so cripplingly grounded in reality.
Fuelled by purple syrup, Mac’s warped commentary on an evolving drug-induced spiral was a switch up from his days as a backpack rapper. Instead of carefree days smoking and drinking Cool Aide and eating frozen pizza, his drug habit evolved to more dangerous heights on ‘Guild‘.
Earl admitted he had preconceived notions about the Pittsburgh rapper but they ended up becoming tight when they met to create the track. “We was on the same page, became friends and then just naturally started doing music. So it was like we started on a completely fresh slate. I had no idea, so it worked out tight.”
Constantly evolving, this was an early example of Mac’s willingness to experiment with darker, more abstract sounds.
While Mac’s often buoyant delivery often contrasted with the lyrics that detailed the demons that he wrestled with, his production alter ego Larry Fisherman saw him submerge himself in the claustrophobic depths of his depression.
On the ‘The End Is Near’, Larry’s haunting production is the devil on Mac’s shoulder as he dismisses his existence saying “Larry Fish he’s a myth’. Following a spellbindingly intricate offering from Ab-Soul, Mac gives in to the prophetic title as his words fade to dust in his final bar.
Highlighting Mac’s ability to make the deeply personal experiences he endured feel accessible through vivid imagery and relatable quips.