Thank you Mac Miller.
And I’m sorry. That’s the first thing I want to say and I’m sure it’s something a lot of us would say to Mac Miller if any fan got to see him before September 7, 2018. Because as of that day, we lost one. More specifically, I did.
There are plenty of artists I have grieved for and still do whenever I play their music; however, when it comes to Mac Miller he was different. He was someone that helped me acclimate to my new life.
In August 2011, I moved from Dallas, TX to Greenville, NC to live with my dad. It was just before the start of my sophomore year in high school. It was a time where I didn’t know anything, really, because I was still trying to understand who I was in the world. While I had been in the area before, I didn’t live there. I had no friends. All I had was my dad and music.
I was nervous to talk to other kids but the music was my entry point to other people. I could speak about it and my presence was known.
I was on every new release but it wasn’t until Blue Slide Park came out that I couldn’t join the conversation. The discussion had shifted to someone who I had no clue about. I had to ask my classmate, Kelsey Holder, who he was. Come to find out, he’s a rapper from Pittsburgh who was only 4 years my senior. I had to find out what all the talk was about so I downloaded the project, listened, and found something and someone special.
I was on a bit of a high horse when I was 15 and didn’t listen to rap like that. What did some white kid from Pittsburgh have to teach some fifteen-year-old black kid trying to figure it all out…? He helped me find a part of myself I had lost in trying to find other things. From there, I went back and download K.I.D.S. and Best Day Ever with the latter being one of the projects that really shot me over the moon. “Wake Up” was the morning jam I played on the back of the bus.
As the years went by and I got older, so did Mac. Growth that I don’t think anyone expected him to show emerged; he gave us steady, progressive change that was reflective in other people’s lives. It’s part of the reason he resonated with so many younger fans and opened doors for older fans to appreciate him. Before most, he was one of the first real, relatable guys of the new school. He was unabashedly human.
But of course, like anyone who ages in hip-hop and isn’t on top, jokes were thrown his way. A lot of them too. Not reflective of his character but any white rapper that appeared on any preppy frat boy’s playlist was ridiculed. Ask Asher Roth. Even if they have shed that persona ages ago, it’s an easy point to pick at for any “hip-hop head”. It was unfair but life doesn’t care about unfair.
Stating himself that fame had been one of the reasons, Mac struggled with depression and substance abuse. He never strayed away or hid it from his fans. It was a fact he made clear on 2014’s Faces. It was my last year of high school and by then I wasn’t listening to Mac as much as I used to but I still respected him a lot. It was the year I finally tried to get help for my depression. Mac was open for anyone to look and see him. He also advocated for bettering one’s self even when he was done. It was another part of himself that he didn’t have to share but he did. And I wanted to do the same. So I gave part of myself to others to find love.
Now it’s 2018, I have graduated from college. Mac Miller has long graduated from the young class to a young vet with almost 10 years into the game. We had both made strides in our life. Still struggling but working through demons. It’s August 3rd and Mac releases Swimming. His fifth studio album. It so happens to be on a day that also has the major releases from Travis Scott and YG.
It’s a hectic hip-hop day but instead of listening to the others, I want to listen to his project first. For the simple reason, that I might find something in it that’ll help me again. Why? Because it’s the Friday before I made another big transition of my life by moving from Greenville, NC with my dad to Decatur, GA that Sunday. I thought more so than those other projects, that I would find some solace in his because I was in a rut. I didn’t have a job yet and I only had enough money to last me a month. Like that album in high school, I needed something. So I went to Spotify and pressed play. While it didn’t make me feel the same way Blue Slide Park did in high school, it did something else for me instead. It made me feel okay and that was all I needed.
Fast forward to a little over a month later, I’m at work. It’s a slow day and I decide to check my phone just because I was bored. So I go to Twitter and I’m scrolling and I see Mac’s name. Thinking it’s a new song, I scroll back up. But instead, the news brings tears to my eyes: “Mac Miller has passed away at 26”.
I keep checking my timeline to see if it’s true and I was unfortunately right. It was real. My throat was dry. I couldn’t speak. I was in a daze. My co-worker asks me if I’m okay. I said, “I don’t know but did you know Mac Miller?” She says no and I start to describe him and the tears well up some more and I have to go to the restroom for a sec. Just to wipe my eyes.
Mac had helped at two pivotal moments in my life. I never went to a concert and I wasn’t the biggest die-hard fan but his death hit me. More than I honestly thought it would. I didn’t expect someone four years my senior to suddenly pass. It made me think about death and the brevity of living but then I listened to his album again. Like I am now. Even with water welling up my eyes, I know it’s going to be okay. He gave too much and changed too many lives for me to wallow in sadness. It wasn’t what his music was about. He was more than that. It’s obvious to see when no one has anything bad to say. Hip-hop and fans alike collectively mourned for a soul that made them feel better without trying.
I salute to Mac Miller because he didn’t know it, but he helped me grow and find parts of myself. If there is a heaven, I hope you’re finally at peace.
Tyler Jones is a freelance writer based out in the ATL area.