I held out on posting this for a number of reasons. Mainly because I wasn’t in the place to articulate what had happened to Mac.
I never really fit in at high school in the sense of what I enjoyed. In fact on my final day of school, two teachers decided to do a sport like interview consisting of an analysis of each member of the class in front of the whole school on a projector. Mine was “stuck on the other side of the pond”. That hurt me to start with, I was never understood and I didn’t really want to be. Earls lyric “too black for the white kids and too white for the black” fit me quite well. I knew what I liked, I liked rap and fashion.
The Internet was for me then, an escape from the normality, it was my library, a place I would learn. I would scroll latest releases on DatPiff and HotNewHipHop endlessly, illegally downloading anything that I liked the sound of. Mac Miller had just released Koolaid and Frozen Pizza, with it too a visual. I knew I had found gold. Here was this white goofy guy rapping about rap, clothes, money and hoes. The things my 15 year old mind thought were important.
KIDS dropped soon after, a mixtape named after Larry Clarke’s notorious film based on a skate rat group, growing up in the AIDS epidemic of New York. Its a fucked up film, especially to watch at 15. Watching that film I found Supreme. The brand that changed my life many years later. Summer of that year came, my GCSE year when we had become fond of drinking at the park and local fields. I had stolen my parents EBAY account and bought some sort of mini speaker and the tape became the sound of that Summer. In fact still whenever I hear the tape I’m taken back to the little shit of a kid I was back then.
“I was a minor chasing after vagina none of my friends were fake but none of my clothes were designer”. I did wear some designer tho, Mumsie had the Littlewoods discount and kept me looking fresh at all times. Love you mom.
Best Day Ever dropped during the care free, pure fun period of time of my life again. We had some sort of motive every weekend, whether that was down the park or house parties if someones parents were out. I believe it was after the tape dropped I went to see him perform back at the institute in Brum. Me and one of my closest mates Scott went, it was both our first ever concert alone. We drank beers around the back by the snooker hall. Naughty. This was the infamous Chinos, Checkered shirt, Snapback backwards and Vans time. Tumblr days.
I then started to grow up, I had jobs, I had responsibilities but I always had my iPod. I was working for a local printing firm doing footie kits for the lowest league teams. After a few months the boss left on a holiday and I had the back section to myself. I brought in a speaker and that kept me happy throughout the day. Just me and mac and two vinyl heat presses. I was so good I could run two machine’s at a time.
Mac announced his first album after various side projects. Blue Slide Park. I thought what the fuck kind of name is that. This was a time when youtube was golden, for me anyways. Mac’s team always made sure he was filmed and uploaded on youtube regularly. He dropped a video for the album announcement and then through various interviews he explained BSP was named after Frick Park, a place he spent a lot of time growing up in. I would watch the tour videos everyday and I saw this guy with a talent doing what he loved and putting on all his best friends, traveling the world together. That shit looked so fun to me. I wanted that.
He was still making frat rap music, but it had developed. It was the first time I heard him address his issues in his music. Some songs were centred around struggles with women and me being me I had fallen for some girls over the years and it helped me understand and get over certain situations. That and Drake “Take Care”, Jesus wept what an album that was.
As I got older I started doing stupid teenager shit, drinking excessively, dabbling in drugs and trying to find myself. This was the same time Macadelic dropped. An album released at the height of his drug use phase, it was dark but again it seemed to fit. This was the tape that had mad features like Cam, Wayne and Juicy J. It was the first time you could see he was getting recognition and becoming part of the industry. But he didn’t look healthy, he put on weight and his voice was fucked. He admitted in an interview that he had become addicted to lean, so bad that his friends couldn’t look at him the same. He wasn’t the same happy young kid I used to see in videos. He looked bad. He would wear the maddest outfits and was always covered in ridiculous jewellery, he’d got caught up in the lives of people around him, I assume he thought this is how he should be but no, that was never him.
He then went quiet, putting bits out here and there and it was this time he moved to LA and had real money. He then announced Watching Movies. It was fate that it released the day before I went on a family holiday to Turkey for a week. I torrented it obviously and then loaded it on the iPod. It was the first time I had flown abroad alone, I met my family out there due to having work before. I get on the train in the morning and realise I’ve deleted everything off my iPod touch and the only album is macs. It didn’t really matter because it would have been the only thing I listened to anyways. It was incredible. It was at this time I’d become a writer for an online magazine that I don’t even remember the name for now, doing music reviews, so I was actually listening to this album, every bit of detail trying to understand what he was really saying. I can’t remember who the guy was but thank you for allowing me to write, but it used to piss me off he would edit the fuck out of the stuff, it didn’t sound like I had written it. I wasn’t a writer I just loved music. My guy tho.
Mac wasn’t the teenager he once was anymore, rapping about weed and party’s and coming of age. He had grown up. And I was growing up too. The features on this were golden, it was within the era of what I would say was the best of rap in the past ten years, when Black Hippy and OF were all together and making music. I remember reading he had recorded over 400 songs for this record. 400. Notable favourites on this album are firstly Youforia. It describes that feeling of finally letting out your feelings for someone. That feeling of euphoria we feel when you finally have that special someone in your life. Someone who makes you better. When you feel real love. I’ve felt it once. Then there’s objects in the mirror. The live version on YouTube is one of the best performances I have ever witnessed. People will agree with me on that. He talks about his troubles with success, wanting to leave it all in the rear view and just leave everything for this one girl who has trust issues from being hurt before. I think it’s the first time you hear him talk about hurting somebody he loves, probably his ex. But telling her he wants to start again because he loves her.
After the success of this album he started putting music out under pseudonyms like Larry Lovenstien, his jazz loving alter ego. A 5 song project about romance. A dedication to his lady. Delusional Thomas, another alter ego, was his dark twisted side. He had contorted his face on the artwork and the pitch of his voice was switched up. I’m sure this was recorded entirely with Earl Sweatshirt who is also featured. It’s very Earl influenced. Let’s leave it at that. It was his way of escaping the life that had appeared as a result of his talent. He had become rich and famous over night, that is not good for anyone’s well being. You can do whatever you want but you can’t. You are stuck in that life. It was the first time I could see he was really lost but I brushed it off that this is his way of dealing with his problems and that from interviews and videos he was happy.
Faces was his next record. It was dark, druggy and unhealthy. I have fav songs from him depending on what mood I am in or how my week has gone. Colors and shapes is up there with his best songs created. A song about losing himself and sinking but finding the captain or god or whoever was there to send him back up to earth on that trip. It was beautiful but scary at the same time. I think this was recorded soon after WMWTSO, probably a mindset that a project was finished but nothing’s changed for him personally, lead him to dabble in this darker stuff. I don’t like to analyse but I understand and know the feeling also. At this stage Mac was really struggling. He went quiet again. I think at this point he was helping a lot of rappers as he had become a full time producer. Probably working on the projects that never released.
Out of nowhere, GOOD a.m. was teased, he was back. Lots of interviews appeared on Youtube even one with Larry King. He delved into the past year and openly admitting he had a drug problem and was suffering from depression. Fader did a really good mini documentary with him called “Stopped Making Excuses” and is probably the best thing they have ever done. Mac explains what had happened. He had moved to New York to escape LA and the lifestyle that went alongside living in Studio City. It covers his realisation of who he was and what had happened in such a short amount of time, including a drug problem. Its haunting that he talks about overdosing, “its just not cool, theres no legendary romance, you don’t go down in history because you overdosed, you just die”.
He sounded refreshed. He sounded healthy. But it was very emotional. He explores the hurt he feels for his surrounding team and family seeing him fucked up all the time. That he should man up and accept his problems. One thing that was always clear is that he and his team were super close. The reality show he did on MTV was hit and miss by a lot of those who watched it. But one thing no one can deny is the love that he had for the people that had been there from day one for him. Ive met pretty much all of them outside shows and all of them were fucking nice people, every time they gave me time out of there day to quickly talk. The second half of this album I really did enjoy. That combo of Ascension and Jump are so well put together. Then theres ROS, again, one of my all time favourites. The battle of seeing the woman you loved move on with there life.
I was in a good relationship when Divine Feminine dropped. His love album directed towards Ariana his new girl, but I knew that a lot of the album was also talking about his ex. I enjoyed it but I never really got in depth with it like his previous projects.
It wasn’t until I had a major split with my ex that I tried this album again. And fuck me I listened to it everyday. I had just lost the first real love in my life. You will all understand when I say break ups fucking suck, especially ones that didn’t end because of something bad. Those days when you just lay in your room and it’s all your mind thinks about, those late nights when your lay alone going over and over again what has happened, why and how. This album made me have a new outlook on the female in my life and more importantly the importance of love. I felt love. I cried to this album. I cried at the impact it had on my situation and opened my eyes to reworking a broken relationship. It worked for a period of time, I was genuinely happy again, but sadly we couldn’t fix things properly and we walked away. I hope your good Jas and thanks for everything.
I then went into the first real depressive state I think I ever really experienced in my life. I distanced myself from everything. Things I loved doing I didn’t like any more. I was stuck inside alone. I stopped working, I stopped eating healthily and running. After the weeks in the dark I finally left the safety of my room. But I didn’t get back on my feet, I didn’t find the mindset “right back to work”. Instead I found myself drinking everyday at the pub. I’d go there at 1 and leave about 8/9 having drank all day. Sometimes I wouldn’t even remember getting home. Sometimes I didn’t get home. Id wake up and do it all again. Because it masked my problems. Id wake up and want to go to the Pub. Thats an addiction.
I relied on Drink to get me through that period. I don’t advise it, masking a problem with another problem always ends up with a further problem. But I didn’t know what else to do. It was what I was used too, I deal with my shit in the sense that if im in a bad place, I usually have a binge on the booze, wake up and then I start again.
Things always get better with time. Get busy again, do what you love again. Go broke. That helps to kickstart the wheel again. We are not destined to be happy naturally. Its what you do with your life that brings happiness. You gotta go through dark shit to find the light. I was back on my feet. I was mentally stronger than ever.
Swimming was then announced shortly after it was announced Ariana and Mac had spilt. I thought yes here we go, a break up album. It was at this time that I received an email from Warner asking if I would be interested in doing some content with Mac during his UK press tour. I’m in an industry where many opportunities present themselves that most likely never come to fruition. But this I wasn’t allowing that to happen. I always had this idea of playing Golf with Mac and having a chat after, with a drink, and if he allowed me to break through the barrier, an honest chat on life.
The album dropped. I played it all day on repeat. Certain songs I had heard already like Self Care, his first single that he filmed a video for. A testament to breaking out of the darkness and erupting into oblivion. It was his way of telling the people he had found strength again. Since the release day, its been pretty much the only thing I have had in my headphones for the past month and a bit. Knowing I was going to meet Mac, I needed to really know what I was talking about. I needed to know what he was really saying and what this project meant.
This was Macs greatest work. I hand on heart say that with ease. Anthony Fantano can go fuck himself too. This wasn’t a break up album. Swimming is product of Mac finally understanding a part of himself. He has found clarity in the realisation that he will never have everything. And also that healing is a long and tedious process. He has gotten older and is accepting himself for who he is rather than what he wants to be. A process that everyone has to go through at some point, if you don’t, you aren’t truly living. Money can provide access to situations, it can help others, it can allow you to experience the world. But it’s you directly and what you do/who you are that money cannot change. It can’t buy love or friendships. I feel like it is only this year that I have truly began to understand myself and accept me for who I am. I know my flaws. I also know what it is that makes people around me happy. I know how to light up a room. I know how to comfort. That is me.
There isn’t a song on this album that I do not enjoy. I don’t think I have found myself skipping any part of this album. And I listen to it daily. Even better that my commute is exactly the same length as the album. The beats, production and singing on the album are all perfect. Mac was unique in the sense that he could go in hard when he wanted to but also sing, and sing well. Having gone through the catalogue of music since his passing, there wasn’t a style of music that he wasn’t good at. This guy could play every instrument, produce entire albums and I can only imagine for every song released he had 100 stashed away. The album only solidified my mental state. We seek for assurance. We seek for people to understand, even if they dont but they say they do. We want other people to know what we are going through. This was Mac talking to me. Telling me that I am good. Im alone, but im good.
Do you want it all if it’s all mediocre
I’m only 5’7 but I’m feeling like I’m 75
I know I probably need to do better fuck whoever keep my shit together you never told me being rich was so lonely
When I told select people I was going to meet him and film, everyones response was smiles and also “bet your nervous”. I don’t think I was. I was more nervous at the fact I went and hit some balls last month and was shite. Imagine giving it the biggun then on camera buckle and miss a ball. If anyone plays golf regularly, I seem to hit a lot of balls to the left, is that my shoulders? please dm me.
I spent a LOT of time thinking what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to get deep but I also didn’t want to. Everything you need to know is in the music. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable cause it would kill the vibe.
What was his favourite Sopranos series? What were his favourite films? Who did he listen too? Whats Earl Sweatshirt doing? How does he switch off? How does it feel to go home to Pittsburgh? Best food spots in London? His best show? His opinion on modern rap? Fashion? I won’t post all but you get the gist. Stuff that really interested me.
The day that the project was signed off unfortunately he passed away. I had got the email at two and went to the pub to have some drinks to celebrate. I was riding a high. I got home about 8 and went to Nisa to get some snacks when I got the text. I just stood there in the shop for like 5 minutes and left empty handed. I hadn’t really ever felt like I did then before. I couldn’t stop shaking. I sat in my garden and drank whisky listening to his music in my pants and hoodie till midnight. My phone blew up, I got so many messages it was mad. My childhood friends sent over videos of me rapping songs, on where I’m stood in a public swimming pool clothed but no socks or shoes singing best day ever. I reflected on my entire life because of all the memories associated with this guy. I dunno, its fucked. He wasn’t family, I never even met the guy but there I was distraught.
He was only 26. He had his whole life ahead of him. Knowing I won’t be able to continue making memories with his music really punches me in the gut. He would have gone on to do incredible things. Today would have been the film day. I was days away from meeting my hero. It fucking sucks. I didn’t get the chance to tell this man face to face how much he helped me.
His death opened my eyes on what I am meant to be doing with my life. I have a platform to help people who suffer. If I’m thinking of people, I will text to check up on them. Yeah I struggle time to time as everyone does. But I need to be there for more people. Im working on it.
Mental Health wasn’t a thing when I grew up. I grew up in an old industrial town in the midlands, deprived, but hard workers who endure struggle everyday. My environment denounced it as a problem. The men around me were not ones to talk about emotions, if you did you were weak and told to man up. Its not until the past few years that I experienced my own issues with my mental health and witnessed people around me that I loved suffer too, that it really hit home that this was a serious problem.
Life is a fucking blessing. You are free to do whatever you want. Opening up when it comes to closed doors inside your brain is the best thing you can do. Don’t hide your pain. Find positives and go from there. My biggest advice for the younger generation if you are reading this is do not pay attention to the lifestyles portrayed on social media. Its all bollocks. All of it. People only show the best parts of there lives. I see it everyday. Keep off your phone as much as you can and spend time with older people, read books, play sports, do what you love whatever that is.
Please check up on your peoples. Especially the strong ones.
Thank you to everyone who helped me in my darker times over the past year, there are simply to many to name. A special thank you to Synamatix and Alice for organising the Mac meeting. Thanks to Will and Ed for having the same enthusiasm to the project as I did. Thank you to my Mom and Sister for being my best friends. Thank you to my people at home, coming back to visit you guys may seem normal, but to me it is everything, you guys really hold me down. Thanks to my Uni girls I love you to bits. Brick, Lew, Rose, love ya. Thank you to my brother Alex for keeping me in line and motivated. Thank you to Paolo for believing in a random kid. Thanks to all the Basement team who help day in and day out. Thank you Jagger for being my pub buddy. Thanks to everyone who reached out on the night of his death. I find peace knowing that he has impacted so many lives.
Thanks Mac. Your legacy will always live on.