Mac Miller expertly fuses disparate styles

Malcolm McCormick—better known by his stage name Mac Miller—may not be the most-liked rapper in Geneseo. His spring 2014 performance here left much to be desired, but Miller has changed as an artist since then. He moved his independent label—REMember Music—over to Warner Bros. Records for a reported $10 million in October 2014. He released his first album under the label—GO:OD AM—on Friday Sept. 18.The album opens with “Doors,” a short intro song similar to his opening track on his debut album Blue Slide Park. The song evokes feelings of waking up in the morning after a good night’s sleep—which makes sense considering the album’s title. Starting with a slow piano riff, the song has just one verse and a chorus, ending in a whispery female voice saying, “Good morning, baby.” The album’s second track “Brand Name” has strong connections to Miller’s previous work. The track name itself eludes to Miller’s song “1 Threw 8” from his mix tape Macadelic—the 20th most downloaded mix tape ever on DatPiff.com. In “1 Threw 8,” Miller raps, “Designer brands cover up my insecurities/Personally I ain’t nothing but an average Joe.” Three and a half years later, Miller has accepted that brand name items don’t define an individual: “Everything we think we love/It ain’t nothing but a brand name.” The first single released from GO:OD AM was “100 Grandkids.” The song is a welcome throwback to an upbeat, positive Miller that we didn’t really see on his last album Watching Movies with the Sound Off. Lyrically, the song is far from complex, but is nonetheless fun. With lyrics like “Getting faded, I been stoned all week/But what’s a God without a little OD? Just a G” and “Fools worried about a wave/ I’m a Navy SEAL,” it’s clear that Miller wants the audience to enjoy the music without trying find a hidden meaning. Conversely, in “Ascension,” Miller deals with his old demons—specifically, drug addiction: “I don’t know how the fuck I’m supposed/To look into my parents’ eyes when I’m scared to die/My eyes same color as a cherry pie.” Miller had a problem with codeine—an opiate used most commonly as a cough syrup—and he has stated that he smokes copious amounts of marijuana. He wonders how his parents would react to this, something he wrestled with before in “The Star Room” on Watching Movies. The album closes with “The Festival.” The song is a conversation between Miller and God—portrayed by Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon. The song starts with Miller saying, “Ask God if She believe in me and will She accept me.” Miller questions the traditional image of God as a male in Christianity, Judaism and Islam and asks Her, “I left You out to die, but will You take me back?” He also says he’s “going to the festival”––likely a metaphor for heaven. As a whole, GO:OD AM is a mix of Miller’s many different styles. On some tracks, he sounds like he did on Blue Slide Park; but on others, he reverts to the dark tones from Watching Movies. Miller put out a very solid major label debut by staying true to his own styles.