agape: mac miller
My friend Ant was the first person to tell me to “listen to this kid” when I was a senior in high school. Ant was a football player who thought Lil Wayne was the best rapper of all time. Safe to say I never took anything that Ant said about music seriously, but he knew my affinity for sneakers, and told me to listen to this song “Nikes On My Feet.” The first thing I noticed was the Nas sample and I was instantly hooked. From there, I downloaded K.I.D.S, and I fell in love with his music. That project soundtracked the end of my high-school career. In the midst of that year is when he dropped Best Day Ever. He delivered again. “Get Up,” the second song on the project, became my alarm in the morning, becoming the very first thing I would hear. Songs like “She Said”, “Play Ya Cards Right”, and “Keep Floatin” stayed in rotation. Here was this white kid from Pittsburgh and I don’t know how he did it, but he spoke to me. We lived completely different lives, but it felt like he grew up down the block. I think the reason this still hurts so much is because I felt like I knew him. Mac Miller’s death hit me in a way I never thought a person I didn’t know could.
As I did my research on Mac and listened to the interviews on YouTube at the time, I found out he was a huge Big L fan. “Big L was the first rapper that made me want to pick up a pen and write.” And also a Big L fan, but more importantly a kid from Harlem, I always felt like Big L was left out of the “best-lyricist-of-all-time” conversation. Mac was only on his first major promo run and he’s out here giving props to one of my favorite rappers. I was sold. Mac was my guy.
As I went off to college, Blue Slide Park dropped. “Frick Park Market” was the first single off the album, and was also the very first single I ever purchased on iTunes. And then after BSP there was Macadelic. The sound was changing. He was honing in on his skills as an MC. Watching Movies with the Sound Off came out and it blew my mind. Mac made an album to go along with the story of a baby sea turtle’s life, from when his egg hatched to his first swim to him trying to figure out how to be in the sea all alone. As you watch the movie, the sounds in the music are parallel to what you’re seeing on screen. There was one scene where the sea turtle is caught in a storm. As soon as the storm starts, the music turns real dark and airy. Out of nowhere, Loaded Lux starts rapping. He was featured on the album, so for fans of battle rap, this was a pleasant surprise. As Lux goes, he’s dissing Mac, the same way he would any other MC that stood before him. As his bars are landing, these massive waves are throwing around the sea turtle. Everything is dark and gloomy. And then I realized he made a concept album, based off a movie about the life of a sea turtle, but he was the sea turtle. It was genius. The level of artistry and the attention to detail was uncanny. Mac to me at that point was everything I’d want from a musical genius.
One constant in his ever-changing delivery of music was the content. He always talked extremely descriptive about his experiences with drugs, and then I realized he was speaking from experience. But all rappers talk about “the life” and all the things that come with it. I knew he did drugs but I never considered that Mac would have a problem. The first time I said that to myself was when I heard the song “Funeral on Faces.” The beat was extremely eerie and he went on to rap about some things that made me worried. “All these sins be more than shitty, I just pray the Lord forgive me. Doing drugs is just a war with boredom but they sure to get me”. That line left me stuck.
The day Mac Miller died, I was at work. It was usual. I had my headphones on at my desk. One thing about working at an agency are those stupid open concept offices that “encourage” collaboration, but they only create noise and take away your privacy. After my lunch break, I got back to my desk and searched for an album to listen to. Swimming had come out about almost 2 months before and I hadn’t listened to it that much since its first week. I had recently watched his NPR Tiny Desk concert and it made me want to dive back into the album. As I’m listening I get to the song 2009, I see my co-workers starting to gossip. I take my headphones out in curiosity. As soon as I did my co-worker looks at me to bear the bad news. I couldn’t believe it. I hopped on Twitter and saw everyone talking about it. It was real. I broke down. I didn’t know how to process this. I found out one of my favorite artists dies right as I’m listening to his album. What are the ******* odds?
He was more to me than a rapper to me. In a weird way, he was family. I saw his start, the rough patches, the fall downs. I also saw Mac get back up. I saw Mac go to rehab and try to get help. I saw Mac try to find love and change. He tried. And I was proud of him. The only thing you can ask for is effort. Seeing him finally succumb to his demons really got to me, but I was also happy he no longer had to suffer.
He was free.
When you love someone, you usually let the love you have for them get in the way of judging what’s actually best for them. I was selfish. How could I not be? I became a man listening to his music. I was a 17 year old kid the first time I heard Mac. Since then, SO much has happened in my life and Mac’s music always served as a benchmark for where I was. Each project of his represented different time in my life. I could hear a song and be brought back to the first time I heard it and what was happening in my life. The thought of not being able to that in the future is bringing tears to my eyes as I type this. But it isn’t about me. It’s about Malcolm. I wish I could thank him. I wish I could tell him all the things he taught me by just being him. The “never give up attitude” he had. The optimism that he gave off in all of his interviews was so inspiring. He gave me the hope to be a better person.