Celebrating Mac Miller

Despite his untimely death, celebrated musician Mac Miller’s catalog is full of life and energy


Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / TNS

Gabe Santos, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On Jan. 19, 1992, Malcolm McCormick — who would come to be known as Mac Miller — was born. From a young age Malcolm took interest in music, particularly hip hop. McCormick learned piano, guitar, bass, and the drums by the age of six, and, by age 15, burst into Pittsburgh’s burgeoning rap scene home to the likes of Wiz Khalifa. However, rap was not the only thing he had his sights set on, and he would later spend his career attempting to prove himself to be not a rapper, but a musician.

Mac, who went by the names of Delusional Thomas, Larry Fisherman, and Larry Lovestein (accompanied by band “The Velvet Revival”) throughout his career was a factory for art. Throughout his career, aside from studio albums, he would release 13 mixtapes under various aliases, with only a few being available on streaming platforms. Each of his mixtapes could require an article of their own, so for the purposes of this story we’ll be focusing on studio albums and mixtapes available for streaming.

Mac’s first big project was mixtape “K.I.D.S”, which would see him finding himself in the middle of the frat rap genre. While charming, by the larger community he was seen as childish, up through his first studio album “Blue Slide Park.” This label would be something Mac would spend the rest of his life trying to shake. 

His second widely released mixtape “Macedelic” would be the first instance of a darkness that would be ever present in Malcolm’s life. It’s no secret that Mac struggled with drugs, and was constantly trying to go sober, relapsing, and then attempting to go sober again. This tragedy gets put in the spotlight throughout his discography.

Fan favorite “Watching Movies With The Sound Off” would be Mac’s first real acceptance into the rap community, and he would follow it up with “GO:OD AM,” a big commercial hit for him. However, after these, Mac would release what I think is his most ambitious work.

“The Divine Feminine” is a jazz/funk fusion record which sees Mac showcasing songs that he had been writing for a long time, but never released. I think this album was Mac’s first real step into musical maturity and experimentation.

However, this showcases another point of contention in his life. His very public relationship with Ariana Grande, which is largely the credit for “The Divine Feminine”’s topics, would end abruptly. Grande would cite Mac’s problems with drugs as a key reason for their split. Mac would get a DUI following this event, although it is unknown if the two events are related.

Related or not, Malcolm’s life was becoming fraught with problems. This is why his final non-posthumous release “Swimming” is so telling. The album continues his musical evolution, and the dark topics. Mac most eerily foreshadows his own fate on the song “Self Care” where he talks on his addiction and his fear that it might be the end of him.

Unfortunately, nobody knew how right he was. On Sep. 7, 2018, just over a month after “Swimming” was released, Mac would be discovered unconscious in his Studio City home by his personal assistant, who would call 911. Malcolm was pronounced dead on the scene at 11:51 a.m. by an overdose that was determined to be accidental. He was 26.

His death would shake the hip-hop community, and music in general- particularly, past lover Ariana Grande would catch hate online, with some blaming her for his death, which is terrible. Ariana would say that Malcolm was the love of her life, and a large part of her album “Thank U, Next” is assumed to be written about him (specifically “Ghostin” and “Imagine”)

Apart from her, friends such as Thundercat, Earl Sweatshirt, and Anderson .Paak would publicly mourn him with a tribute show held on Oct. 31 of that year. Arguably his best album, “Circles” originally intended to be a companion to “Swimming” would be posthumously released on Jan. 17, 2020. Malcolm would never truly fulfill his potential, and his loss is an example for all in the music industry how dangerous addiction can be. His music remains a shining star in the larger rap catalog, and in music in general.