These past couple weeks I’ve been comprising the Songs of the Month for August among many other things that I’ve been working on. I knew that the month of September was moving by fast whether I liked it or not. It’s now halfway through the month as I’m finishing this up, and as I was initially adding songs by Travis Scott, Bas, YG, and others, I was devastated like many rap fans throughout the world when I found out Mac Miller had passed away at the young age of 26.
He was actually my main focal point for the SOTM for August, as his most recent album “Swimming” was released on the same day as Travis Scott’s and YG’s on August 3rd. I personally thought “Swimming” was leagues ahead of “ASTROWORLD” and “Stay Dangerous”, so a lot of Mac’s songs were going to appear on my playlist.
I decided to scrap my whole article and playlist and dedicate this whole SOTM post to Mac. I regretfully wasn’t a huge Mac Miller fan in the middle of his career, but I definitely was in his early days starting in the late 2000s, and became a huge fan again with the release of “Swimming” in early August. For that reason, I’ll do my part in honoring him by talking about my three favorite songs off of “Swimming” in addition to my three favorite Mac songs from early on in his career.
Mac continued his career progression into the grooviest white man on the planet straight into the lead single off of “Swimming”, titled “Self Care”. The whole first half of the song features the song’s main, catchy chorus highlighted by Mac’s trademark singing flow. “Self Care” is sort of two songs in one, with the whole second half on a completely different beat and flow. The whole song’s message is the same however, which can be interpreted as rolling with the punches and moving forward through life in the face of adversity. Mac talks about losing his mind, being in “oblivion”, all the while saying “we gon’ be alright” and being strong, saying, “you can find me, I ain’t hiding”.
He has a small lyric about possibly abusing substances, but even more eerie is the music video for the song, which will also go down as Mac’s final music video.
“Small Worlds” is one of the most melodic songs on an album full of them, but also boasts some of Mac Miller’s clever, yet simple word play. It’s hard not to sway side-to-side during the uplifting song, as Mac switches flows here and there to highlight his rap skills along with his overall ability to pair vocal melodies with the beats he uses.
A few lyrics stand out to me, each for different reasons. The main one that stands out is Mac talking about the troubles of being famous. He has talked about the loneliness associated with his success in the past, which makes this line really hit hard.
You never told me being rich was so lonely
Nobody know me, oh well
Hard to complain from this five star hotel
The next song is a fitting transition into the second part of my blog, the beautifully reminiscent “2009”. The song starts with the best string ensemble on any rap song EVER (and no, I won’t go back through the history of rap to find another song with a better string ensemble). It goes from the strings into beautiful keys paired with some 808s.
The song is a perfect snapshot of Mac Miller’s career from his first mixtapes in the year of 2009, to the release of “Swimming” that followed the public breakup from his ex, Ariana Grande. The references to his beginning days are prevalent throughout the song. In one instance he says, “And sometimes, sometimes I wish I took a simpler route, instead of havin’ demons that’s as big as my house, mhmm”. He’s talking about if he took a different career path in the 2008, 2009 days instead of embarking on his dream of being a rapper. He discusses the line further in an interview with Vulture.
“We actually joke all the time, we’ll take a moment where we’ll be like, Man, life would be so simple if I would’ve just had a job somewhere. You know, like been at one place and then come home. And there’s that moment of peacefulness, when you think about it. But I would never actually do that. I’m also very attracted to my own demons.”
The reference to present day and his former relationship with Ariana Grande can be seen in the chorus, as the “and she don’t cry no more” lyric can be connected to Grande, whose first song following their breakup was titled “No Tears Left to Cry”. It’s a heartbreaking lyric, paired with the half-happy-half-sad song that is a great one to go back to in the following years as we recap the kid, Mac Miller. I’ll also throw in the NPR “Tiny Desk” performance that Mac had, since “2009” was my favorite from it (the video will start at the “2009” mark, but please watch the entire thing).
“Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza”
We will now pivot to the early Mac songs that made me love the guy. These songs definitely have an almost opposite feeling to them, as they were made when Mac was more of a carefree guy. There’s not much more of a carefree and childish song title than “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza” which is the first Mac Miller song I ever heard. It was also the song that signaled to me that he would be something big.
These were the days that I was discovering certain names like Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean, and Mac Miller was right with them in my eyes and many others’ eyes with songs like “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza”. It was Mac just going bar-after-bar off one of his patented old school type beats. It also produced probably his most famous music video, giving off even more old school vibes as his friend literally follows him for its entirety with an old school big boombox.
“Nikes On My Feet”
Another old school beat with a blatant old school sample of the all-time great Nas. “Nikes On My Feet” was probably the second Mac Miller song I heard if “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza” was the first, and is almost equally as good rap-wise, but is paired with a catchy chorus anchored by the Nas sample. You get to see the snapback culture that became extremely popular in the late 2000s that was made popular by him and fellow Pittsburgh up-and-comer, Wiz Khalifa (the snapback has carried into present day, though not as prevalent). The song is obviously an ode to his favorite sneaker brand, but also sneakers in general. It contains a Scottie Pippen reference and, in true 2009 fashion, features a Darrelle Revis reference.
“Lucky Ass Bitch (feat. Juicy J)”
I end on a fun, fun, FUN note. Yes that’s right. LUCKY ASS BITCH.
Mac Miller used to make fuck boi, trap anthem frat songs that were perfect for me at the time as I was in college when this song came out.
He enlisted Juicy J for the track who was, at the time, experiencing a career renaissance that was from him making songs exclusively about drinking, smoking, and drugs. Combining those three elements in his songs, he became a hit machine along with becoming a sought-after feature, just to say things like “Goddamn, that’s a lucky ass bitch!” over and over. The result of the feature in addition to Mac’s great rapping is one of my favorite turn up songs of all-time.
When I decide to reminisce about Mac Miller’s career, I’ll definite explore his mid-career discography to see all the great stuff that I missed. I’ll also go back to modern hip-hop classics like “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza” but will also get into those smoke-heavy, turn up songs such as “Lucky Ass Bitch”. Whatever I go back to, I’ll definitely miss Mac. He left us way too soon, and in my opinion, he left as one of the most underrated rappers of all-time.