Mac Miller – Watching Movies With The Sound Off – The STiXXclusive Review

This guy couldn’t have chosen a shorter title for his album or what? I get the point behind it though, because it takes me back to high school when I was in TV Broadcasting class (the beginning of it all). My teacher Mr. Avison told us one night to go home and watch TV with the sound on mute. He said if you weren’t able to follow along with the story without sound, then it wasn’t done properly, and that same theory was brought to my attention in editing class in college. When you think about it, in a weird way it makes sense, because you can see a story happening in front of you although you can’t hear what’s happening. The purpose of that is to assess just what’s happening to grasp an understanding of the show. Now that being said, you’re not going to listen to an album on silent unless your name is Pootie Tang (for those who didn’t get that, click here).

Mac Miller hasn’t been the rapper that I’ve exactly grown fond of – in fact, I downright vocally expressed my displeasure of his music, because of the fact that the first mixtape I listened to was Best Day Ever, which was the worst mixtape I’ve heard in my life up to that point and I never had any incentive after that to listen to his debut album or even his highly praised Macadelic mixtape. His style of rapping brings boredom to the brink of annoyance, and his feature verses never helped in making me become a fan. So you’re sitting that and you’re asking me “why am I reviewing this album?” and I’ll tell you why – because as a producer, he’s pretty damn good. Larry Fisherman is his producer name, and I’ve heard enough to recognize that he can drop some heat on the beats. Also, I found that he ‘improved’ when it came to his style, so I said “self, let’s just try this thing out again,” and here we are. The film reel is in, the lights have been dimmed, and the popcorn is ready to go. Let’s watch a movie.

Entering The Star Room, you’re engulfed by an eerie feel that immediately brings in a wave of dope that shrouds you like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. It’s cool when Mac’s voice is altered to make it appear that his voice is coming out of an old TV, but then out of nowhere, he does something that I never thought I would admit to him doing – spitting some wicked bars. Mac is known for his goofing off style and his mellowed out “white boy suburban” swagger that he approaches to the likings of his predominately white audience, but here he gets pretty personal and airs out what appears to be (not so much anymore) hidden feelings that are a bit darker. I guess the theme of the Juneighteenth albums is ‘emphasis on DARK & religious references’ (Born Sinner & Yeezus being the other highly anticipated albums coming out that day).

“But me, I’m still trapped inside my head I kinda feel like it’s a purgatory
So polite and white, but I got family who would murder for me
Think I’m living paradise, what would I have to worry ’bout?
Dealing with these demons, feel the pressure, find the perfect style”

For the most part, I’m digging the beat because it’s an eerie groove, but it’s chilled out, so I find that he’s actually complimenting the beat well with his flow. If this is what I’ll be getting used to for the duration of the album, I might just become a fan of his (sike).

It didn’t hit me until Avian that it could be possible that Mac Miller could have a ghostwriter, but it could be highly possible that he just improved himself as a rapper. Yet another cool beat to vibe out too, and the drug influence is more evident in the lyrics on this one. What I like about the pacing so far is that it’s listener engaged so it flows through from track to track (and mind you, it’s still the 2nd one). There’s a lot of features on this album, and one of them comes from ‘was -lost-but-then-found-but-waiting-on-an-album-date’ Earl Sweatshirt on the hook (who I thought was the source of the ghostwriting for Mac). This beat sounded like some Odd Future vibe (something The Super 3 or The Internet would perform over), but the complex rhyme scheme is definitely the approach that Mac evolved into – no more backpack rapping; and there’s no real definitive theme as to what the album’s about

They always tell me where my mind is on this LP
I don’t exist
Hieroglyphics, Pyrotechnics, Metaphysics, Telekinetics
Put 50k on my credit card
Looking for answers, I’m searching but I ain’t getting far

Wasting no time, S.D.S starts up and the Harlem Shaking commences. When I first heard this track, I said to myself “why is Mac Miller on this beat?!” Flying Lotus shut it down and Mac made it into pretty much a party track but at the same time he carried meaning into it. I feel like, because it’s Mac Miller and at first glance it’s like “eh, whatever” but he does in fact say some concrete stuff. Somebody Do Something is a call for people to live their lives and do what they want to do with no barriers. When it comes to himself, he knows that people (such as myself) aren’t big fans of his style, but he’s still successful because he’s doing it his way. I have no choice but to respect that.

“I don’t mind those hatin’ on my style
I tend to take the high road, get stoned and fly low
I’m no god, I don’t think that I’m a human, though cause I’m so odd
People sellin’ drugs cause they can’t find no job
Wonder if Christ made a million off selling the cross
Let bygones be bygones, my mind strong as pythons
The day that I die on will turn me to an icon”

The fact that he’s been getting outside producers, as well as contributing towards his own production has already increased my like for this album beyond whatever expectations I had for it to begin with.

I like how the album transitions are set up so that the flow through one another without loss of interest. Bird Call is straight forward and to the point; Birds are hoes (or bitches, whichever is preferred) and again, it’s the dope production that makes up for the lack of actual rapper appeal. I had thought that Matches would pick up it up a notch, but as a TDE fan, I didn’t even like Ab-Soul’s verse on this track. His guest verses aren’t the greatest (Smoke Again with Chance the Rapper is another ‘meh’ worthy verse). This track is trap influenced, but it’s Mac talking about himself and his come up since his first mixtape and all of the success that came since then. Jay-Z’s famous line from ‘Renegade’ “do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?” comes to mind, because if you’re not listening to the story being told by Mac, you’re pretty much missing the whole point of the album thus far. He’s depicting his life (on the album) as a movie that you’re watching (in this case listening) and each song is essentially a scene – makes sense. Lighting a match and igniting his career is the point of the title and the accompanying Ab-Soul adds to the theme of that with his sub-par verse.

How I felt about this album thus far, almost every song gets a little darker and a bit personal, but still follows along the complexity of it all. I Am Who I Am continues the intricate thought process of Mac and (again, it’s redundant at this point) following a dope beat, he lays down some groundwork as to just who he is (hence the title)

“You’re wasting away doing nothing, you’re fronting
Why ain’t you chasing your dreams?
We wonder ’bout life but none of us wanted to learn
The money we earn is something to burn”

Having the success independently that he has, you have to admit that he’s definitely a go-getter and has the credentials to push others to going after what they believe in – I think some people should pay attention. The conscious Mac Miller is what I think I’d appeal to more if I’m to listen to him further than this album. Objects in the Mirror is a more emotional side that Mac expresses (beat by Pharrell by the way), and of course it has to be about a girl, but not in the love-mush way that you’d expect. In a way it’s like J.Cole’s Power Trip in the sense that it’s about wanting something that you can’t have, and the thought of it is unbearable to live with – believe me, I know too much about that.

The best track on the album (as many have proclaimed, but I can understand why) is Red Dot Music. The beat, Action Bronson’s verse, and Loaded Lux (for the white kids who will have absolutely no idea who he is) with his a capela battle-rap-type-freestyle at the end of the track collectively made this a hard track all in all (who the fuck is Mac Miller? You was Easy Mac with the cheesy raps). It was definitely the drugs that got them thinking about crazy shit. This track had that 90s back-and-forth style in there a bit, and the chemistry worked well for two very different styles. “I like it, I like it a lot, and I think it’s fantastic” to quote Jerry Seinfeld. Gees featured another Black Hippy artist (one of my favourites), ScHoolboy Q, whom him and Mac are good friends and jokers on social networking (given the fact that they toured with each other in 2012 (Under The Influence Tour). More chemistry that flourished well is a collaboration that apparently we’ll hear more of in the future – how I feel about that, I’m not sure.

Watching Movies is the ‘title track’ (short formed) of the album, and the whole thing can be summed up in 1 line

“Looking at my life is like you watching movies”

It’s weird that a lot of people think that their lives are like movies and the music around them plays as the soundtrack (unless that’s just me), but culminated with his success and just how everything has been moving so rapidly for Mac Miller, his life is really like a movie, and this album is the (thanks Kid Cudi) ‘soundtrack to his life.’ I didn’t care much for this song because of the overused Ace Hood-Meek Mill style of flow, but again the production trumps all (ironically, the same producer made Mac’s Donald Trump track a few years back).

Features have been a strong point on this album, and with some good ones thus far, one feature that I felt was really random when I saw it on the tracklist was that of Mr. Jay (Ramadaan Muhammad Asalaamica RasoulAllah Subhanahu wa ta’ala through your monitor) Electronica. The mystery man (who has yet to release his album) came through and dropped some bars for Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes that pretty much made Mac Miller appear to be the feature verse to begin with, but not to sound as though I’m underplaying Mac Miller’s role on the song, but let’s be real here – Jay’s the better rapper, and the vibe of it all just fit so well (listen to Act I: Eternal Sunshine for proof). If the title of the track itself already made your head spin, just wait until you listen to it, because there’s a whole bunch of references and fantasy-themed bars that may throw you for a loop. I’m not going to lie, I had to listen to this a few times to get a grasp of it, but it’s dope regardless of that fact. I’m glad that Mac had a good blend of features and solo songs; it’s well rounded and provided a lot of balance.

REMember incorporates the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) acronym that defines the movement during sleep that pits us in a dream sequence. Reminiscing on the life that was lost, it was his best friend that is the subject of the song, and it’s pretty sad when you flip it and think about one of your own loved ones or close friends that have passed away. Even the tone of the song with the beat behind it made you feel some sorrow and misery, but at the same time it’s an ode to his friend that he’s growing up to be a better person because that’s what a friend would have wanted in the first place.

“Life is short, don’t ever question the length
It’s cool to cry, don’t ever question your strength
I recommend no limits, intricate thought,  go ahead just give it a shot
You’ll remember shit you’ve forgot”

The latter half of this album seemed as though it was the beginning of a dark and gloomy descent, but it was getting real personal. It’s all fun and games with Mac’s previous work, but after taking time to really embrace the other side of him, it’s crazy seeing him in a whole new light that actually makes him likeable, and I’m sincerely surprised as each song passes on.

Someone Like You & Aquarium continue the theme of the ‘dream’ being conveyed and it plays on him still talking about his friend who passed and also about a girl, but then again it could also play on the metaphor of music being the ‘woman in his life’ as many rappers have done since the dawn of time (okay, maybe not that long). There’s the looking back and recollecting thoughts while asking questions that have a relationship to his future. The whole album it seems is a bunch of questions that Mac Miller is asking that only he knows the answers to, although we (the listeners) will try to decipher exactly what he’s talking about throughout all of the beats & rhymes depicting his life up to this point.

I like the fact that he at least has some positive messages to go out to people who are listening to this album. Youforia is the final track (regular version), and it’s a cheesy, happy-go-lucky song that didn’t mean anything to me at all, because I felt like the album dragged on longer than it should have (personally, if it ended at REMember, that would have been perfect). What I take away from this album is that we’re witnessing a grown up Mac Miller who’s actually going through a phase which all of us 20-somethings go through : the ‘I have to question everything and anything” phase to get a sense of enlightenment of the world around us. Not only that, but Mac himself has shown a side to his fans (old & new) that’s much darker and personal, and I think he pulled it off way better than I would have ever imagined. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to buy this album simply because of the fact that it blew my expectations out of the water, and from start to finish (with a few bumps), it’s a very well constructed album that deserves whatever respect it receives (or probably won’t). Because the album shares a release date with Kanye West & J.Cole, there’s a great chance that it will get overlooked (if it hasn’t already), but I wouldn’t be surprised if this album does numbers that might open a lot of eyes. Mac sat us down and forced us to pay attention with this one, and that’s definitely what he got – my full attention. For now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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