There’s really one artist that came to be one that I looked forward to listening after spending a long time hating them, and that is Mac Miller. I had given up on him; I didn’t care for his music ever since I hear Best Day Ever. I tried to get back on the ship with Macadelic, but that didn’t work out. It really wasn’t until I heard SDS from his previous album Watching Movies With The Sound Off where I said, “alright, let’s try again.” It turned out to be a good decision because that album, and the follow up mixtape, Faces, were some of the best works to release in their respective periods. Mac Miller seemed to have found a broader approach with his music, and he got away from what I felt was Bubble Gum Rap, and got right down to strictly bars and a step up in the level of production. I think, now that it dawns on me, his production as Larry Fisherman with the likes of Earl Sweatshirt & Vince Staples drew me more into him, because the sound is dark and murky, which reflected the mood of his previous album. With this whole career being highlighted by the fact that it was primarily independent, when he signed a major deal, that was something that a lot of people saw as what could have been a tipping point. Usually the sound changes, the focus shifts, and the music’s just not the same anymore. Of what I know of Mac Miller, I was sure that there wouldn’t be a major deviation from his approach, but then again I didn’t know what to expect until I heard the loose songs he released prior to the album releasing – and they sounded great. There’s a sense that he’s in a happier space having had to combat a lot of his demons during his off time. It’s as though the last album was a bad nightmare, so he’s now waking up to a good morning.
Doors is the intro that further reiterates the appreciation of Mac Miller as a producer, because where most of the stuff (that I like) is ominous and on the darker side, he is experimental through different vibes much like how Tyler, The Creator has been doing for the entirety of his career. It’s a strength that fuels his artistry. Being that this is the first album since Watching Movies with a 2-year absence (if you don’t count Faces), Mac Miller has taken his time to get right with himself not only musically, but personally as he had his battles with drugs that seemed to put him in a state of mind that was detrimental to his health. The play on words with the title of the song would imply that this is a new door that he’s opening in his life. One that leads to a happier life, that is. The alarm clock at the end triggers the awakening of the dream state and that’s where Brand Name comes about with its heavy bass and the story of the album comes to life. Now, when it comes to the generation of the millennials, there’s a great debate as to what we find as a core value to our lives (myself being in that group, as is Mac Miller). When it comes to the brand names, the materialistic views often skew what is authentic. With bad reality TV & social media playing their parts in flaunting what’s truly love while covering the insecurities of what goes on behind the scenes, we do a good job of faking the funk and wanting to show & prove far too often when it’s really not necessary. It makes people look and feel robotic because they all want to have and look like the same things. For Mac Miller, his evolving style hasn’t exactly appealed to the white fans that came up with him because the knock has been that he’s been sounding too much like another Black rapper (I mean, there’s no coincidence that I now appeal to him more), and that’s what he’s dealing with in terms of finding himself as an artist now that he’s signed to a major. They always say that you sell out once you go away from the Independent direction, but that’s not the case for Mac, I believe. He’s just realizing that he’s worth something more – he just needs to get the people to understand that through his process.
When I first heard the beat for Rush Hour, my face was screwed and the flow that followed surely added to that initial reaction. However, the subject matter for the first two songs was centered on money. It’s understandable that the rags-to-riches story is one that many people gravitate towards for likeable purposes, but it’s one that can get lost in the shuffle quickly if you keep talking about how all you want to do is be rich and live lavishly song after song. It’s just an early observation, but I hope it doesn’t become a constant pattern throughout the album, because just straight up listening to it, the beats vibe well. Mac is a messenger of positivity for the most part, while encouraging his audience to get after what they want and to be happy, given that he’s been a hustler since he was a kid, whether it was selling drugs or making music. People like to make the excuse that he’s white that he got off easy, but he still did what he had to do (but that’s for another discussion).
If you’re new to Mac Miller, he developed a rather close relationship with members of Top Dawg Entertainment, having been on tour with ScHoolboy Q and collaborated with Ab-Soul on Watching Movies (Matches). Well, Soulo returns on Two Matches, and he did not disappoint with his feature, because the Sounwave produced track is right up his alley that would make fans anticipate some of his own great music to be in the works (LT3, Soul. L. T. 3)
“In my life time, my whole M.O. was to get this M.O.N.E.Y
Sabotage the wealthy and enrichen the poor
Long story short, that’s one of my long term goals
My anatomy is platinum, gold is old”
Well, it’s as though this whole album will be focused on the aspirations of becoming rich after all, as assessed by Soul’s feature and the Bridge itself where Mac alludes to taking some risks and encouraging people to live their lives to the fullest. Although on Mac’s verse he does get into those dark places from where he came from to prove that we just don’t know the type of personal struggle that he went through, and I think that’s the story that I was looking most forward to. The assessment of the trials and tribulations that build an individual from the ground up.
“My home run derby shit, was makin’ profit out the park
Even the brightest mind will hang around at dark sometimes
I had to fight for mine, Tyson in his prime, used to idolize
Had to write my wrongs, the day’s short, the night’s is long”
“What a fine act you got for
I don’t know why what I get so high for
I’m a problem and as hard as I try hiding from karma
You’d be traumatized seein’ what came across these eyes
There was a time”
The 2nd verse was probably one of the more impressive that I’ve heard Mac spit of what I’ve listened to in the past couple of years, because of the background storytelling that makes people just have an appreciation for just who he is and not something that sounds cliché ‘happy-go-lucky-rap.’ Respect the real.
100 Grandkids was the first song to be released before the album, and I still don’t like it all as a whole, mainly the beat before it switches over towards the end, but lyrically, it’s good, so that’s what got me to like it a little more. I especially liked how he had that little tribute to Bad Boy 4 Life in the hook. This is a two part song that shows off the two different artists that mac has personified – the past & present, but still having most of his ambitions remaining consistent throughout that journey.
“Always had a dream of stuntin’
It ain’t nothing unless we runnin’ shit
Just a young motherfucker with a plan
Thought I was the man”
I like how the album works its way through because of the subtle transitions from song to song. Time Flies was chanted towards the end of ‘100 Grand’ and then coming into the song itself, that’s was pretty neat. Lil B having a feature on here is not what you think it is. The mysterious aura that surrounds him was looked at as a joke to me for a while, until I really did my homework and he’s really always been about spreading a positive message with his music and words of wisdom through Twitter. And also, let’s not forget about the Based God Curse (he’s currently blessing my Toronto Blue Jays, so there will be no slander tolerated towards him – protect the Bitch). Time indeed does fly. Already it’s October 2015, and I still remember graduating college 5 years ago. I’ve been living on my own for almost a year, and I remember vividly sleeping on my mother’s couch the night before moving. Time moves faster than we imagine it, so it’s crucial to take advantage of the time that we do have, because you never know.
“Shit bro, would you give it all up for these nymphos?
I been broke then got rich, what’s inside your wallet?
Half man and half amazin’, but that’s just me bein’ modest
I’m an honest man, my mama told me never put it on the lotto and
I work for everything I get that is my motto, fam”
Mac works so hard because he wants to accomplish his dreams while he still has the ‘time’ to do so. Doing what you love is great, but being consistent with it and making sure that you’re constantly building yourself to leave a legacy of some sort, that’s the real aspiration. To live carefree. If you can sacrifice time to do, it’s worth it all in the end. There’s no ‘time’ for the drama that can detract you from staying the course, and I know I’m not the only person who can relate to that. Life is a process of figuring things out and knowing that you do have control over what you can create and achieve. It’s a motivational song of sorts, to tell you the truth. The words by Lil B feel necessary to carry on this message.
It’s crazy that almost any song that Miguel appears on, seems to be a hit, when he’s not making hits himself. Not in a Drake way, but he is that R&B voice that amplifies songs when necessary (look at Power Trip if you don’t believe me). Weekend is the song that has the most potential to be the biggest song, as it’s very radio friendly, although it has a strong focus within its lyrics.
“I been having trouble sleeping
Battling these demons
Wondering what’s the thing that keeps me breathing
Is it money, fame or neither”
a lot of people love the weekend because it’s their time (for most people, anyways) to unwind, and even when they get back to their regular schedule lives on Monday, they’re already looking forward to Friday. I think that’s a crazy way to live, but it’s a regular thing when you’re not in a position where you’re doing something that you love constantly. I understand it completely. This is an enjoyable song. It’s smooth, the hook is catchy, the beat is dope, and the song itself can connect to a lot of people. It should have been the first single, if you ask me, but I’m not the music genius here. Miguel is strong at his contributions on hooks, and that’s where I find that he’s not as appreciated because some of his music may just be cast to the side. They boy’s got some skills that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Clubhouse is one of my favourite songs on the album, and it’s almost strictly because of the beat that caused me to throw it on repeat for a while. This is Mac making his statement that he’s part of an ‘exclusive’ club you can say because of his rising status as one of the more respected artists in his genre (I mean, if you forgot, he was one of the rappers Kendrick named in the infamous Control verse).
“I was a nobody, now my name in they mouth
Came for a steak but I left with the cow
And they hate when you great though
Ain’t shit change but my checking account”
They always say that you changed up once you get on, but it’s the people around you who do and try to make you feel guilty about it. That’s nothing new, but it’s sad that it’s a continuing thing that is brought up because of its accuracy. When you’re self-made, that’s one thing, but when your music is good as well, that’s where the respect comes in more often.
I thought it was interesting to hear Mac go with that trap influenced sound on In The Bag, but then again I wasn’t surprised because of the crowd that he’s surrounded himself around (Domo Genesis, Juicy J, and SBQ making vocals on this one). It was hilarious that he started it out with saying that “this the music that makes white people mad,” because they love listening to trap, but it’s probably the parents of his younger audience who are the ones mad (I mean, Post Malone wears braids and rocks grills, much like Paul Wall did, so I guess a white rapper can have some trap). This track has a lot of bounce that can knock in multiple venues, but I didn’t really gravitate towards it wholeheartedly because I felt like he was trying to just throw in a trap song for the hell of it. I had mixed feelings about it, but that didn’t stop my head from bopping along.
Where ‘In The Bag’ didn’t provide a lot of those bars that I anticipated, Break The Law came about to demolish any notion that Mac couldn’t spit. Being that it was the 2nd single, it was the song that made me realize that this album was not going to be a joke in any regards. There was nothing but the braggadocio that came about and he rode it for the duration of the song. The beat knocks something fierce and is in the leading for being my favourite on the album because it’s him stepping completely out of the humble comfort zone and saying that he’s the man, challenge him if you want to. That’s the intensity that I felt, and for God knows what reason I thought he would have dropped one or two ‘niggas’ in there just because (but I’m glad he didn’t).
That dark and ominous production that I was referencing to in the beginning of this review, it comes about here in Perfect Circle that sounded similar to what Mac produced for Ab-Soul on These Days… with Ride Slow. That’s the sound that really gets to me, and the opening remarks letting his position in the game be known, it further added to the reason why I like the song so much.
“I came for whoever is in charge
I suggest you go and get yourself a weapon and a guard
They need some coffee, everybody’s sleeping on me
Going around door to door, setting off alarms
All that horse shit, you should have left it at the barn”
It’s really the darkest point of the album like he’s drowned himself in the misery that consumed him and he’s just trying to get his way back to that light in which will bring about happiness in his life. This sounds like funeral music with a lot of reckless abandonment and desperation being thrown out on the record with admissions of his behaviour. That only gets amplified when he blacks out on God Speed and has an outpour of his personal struggles that deal with him having to clean up his life because of the threat of never having to see another day.
“All the nights I’m losing sleep, it was all a dream
There was a time that I believed that
But white lines be numbing them dark times
Them pills that I’m popping, I need to man up
Admit it’s a problem, I need a wake up
Before one morning I don’t wake up”
Also, the obsession of working hard so that he can be a great artist is what separated him from the people who care about him the most, so in this extended letter form that seems to be eerily similar to a suicide note, it’s more like a send off of his past life as he embraces the new as he’s changed his life around. It’s a great song with the two parts, and it would likely be one of the first songs I’d play for someone if they wanted to know about Mac Miller.
Everything was going so well until I heard When In Rome. I absolutely hate this song. I would be lying if I said that I could stand listening to it after the initial intro. I just knew something was bad from when it came about, and I wasn’t about to stick around and listen to another generic trap sound with a flow married to it. Not today, Satan. I don’t understand how that even made the final listing, but then again, who’s the expert? Not I.
Every rap album has the inevitable song for the ladies, and this is where ROS comes in with the smoothest jazz bar type of intro you could ever imagine a rapper to come with (okay, that’s some hyperbole, but I feel like I couldn’t listen to that without a glass of wine). This is not the song for those who have just been recently cuffed up, but rather for those who have endured the ups and downs that heartbreak has to offer, and it’s a nice serenade to one that you value most from the place that matters most – the heart. It’s rather impressive when a rapper can pull off a softer song as opposed to just another rap song, because it requires more song structure and that’s what is presented here. It has that R&B vibe, but with how it was executed from the verses to the hook and the female vocals contributing, it feels whole.
“You are my drug and love to death
Feel free to fall, you are a catch
I’m in your heart, I’m in your dream
So fuck the world, it’s you and me
She is the only one that got away
If love don’t last forever then forever ain’t the same”
I find it so random with this track placement, because after such a nice & melodic song like that, Cut The Check comes in where I thought it should have been placed earlier like around ‘Break The Law’ and ‘In The Bag.’ It just felt weird, but the true thing about this song was that the Chief Keef feature was surprising beyond my expectations. I thought it was going to be his usual thing, but I actually enjoyed his verse, and was one of the best ones I’ve heard him rap (then again, I don’t listen to his music on a regular basis). It actually tripped me out to the point where I was like “this is Keef? For real? Nah.” I thought it was a completely different rapper. I mean, if he rapped like this more often, maybe I’d care? But then again, I feel like that ship has sailed for me to jump on the wagon. I wouldn’t say that this tack should have been a bonus song, because it fits into what Mac’s been talking about for the duration, but it should have just been put somewhere else, because it threw me off. That doesn’t take away from it being a dope song, because it is just that.
Ascension has one of my favourite samples of the album, because how can anyone go wrong with Curtis Mayfield? This song is what should have come right after ‘ROS’, as if ‘Cut The Check’ was some kind of “hey, I’m still here, stay with me” song as if people were falling asleep. This song is smooth as hell, as he continues from where he left off on ‘God Speed’ where he as accepting the brand new person that he aims to become. It’s like he’s been born again. The mood would initially represent it being a sad song, but because it’s showing Mac off as being at peace with himself, that’s a refreshing vibe. That same emphasis is displayed in Jump, but I didn’t care for it as much because the production felt like too many things were going on at once. It’s meant to be a party track, and it was pretty obvious the EDM influence was gearing it towards having that reaction.
17 songs for an album that’s not deluxe is very long, and I certainly felt the effects of that, as I was just waiting for it to end to some degree. There were songs I would have taken off it, so it wouldn’t have felt so long. If you can’t tell your story between 10-14 songs, most of the time, there’s just filler that really isn’t necessary, but I know people want to hear a variety of sounds to appeal to different listeners, which is understandable, but you can do it with less. That being said, The Festival is the final song on the album that features Little Dragon which is a group that makes great music and has collaborated with a bunch of rappers because of their vibrant sound from across the pond. The realization that Mac was woken up and that he’s not dreaming is something that he’s still trying to deal with as he battles the inner demons that get to him from time to time, but the point is that he’s moving in the right direction as an artist and a person so that he’s not negatively impacting his body. It’s a great send off which is completely the opposite of his previous work that pitted him in a more darker light. This is him coming to the belief that where there are still those times where he’s reminded of those tumultuous times, he has more life to look forward to.
Initially, I thought that this was one of the best Rap albums of the year. That may have gone down a little bit after more listening and consideration, but this is a great album, no argument. The hardest thing to do is to look at yourself in the mirror and reveal that you have a problem or that you need to change something about yourself in order to get better. Everyone struggles with it and Mac Miller is no different. What he brought to light on this album was focused on his goals to make a lot of money, and be a great rapper, but at the same time, the admission of his personal demons which carried on from Watching Movies was brought about in a more in-depth perspective, and also revealed the more wild side that he may not have shown as much. It’s open-ended with the clear evidence of growth in his music that people either appreciate a lot, or question as to why he went away from something that worked. I like that he stepped outside of the box to realize that he’s more than what people perceive him to be, and that’s where the music comes off as being as good as it is. With the features also putting in their efforts of being helpful contributions, it only boosted the value of the body of work Mac put a lot of time and dedication towards. It’s an album you should listen to, and I certainly hope that it sticks around for a while and doesn’t end up falling into the category of albums that live in the moment. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX