MENTAL health is something completely personal to the individual suffering their own downfall, and Mac was ultimately an example of residing consequences of ongoing struggles.
It cannot have been easy; his debut studio album Blue Slide Park was rated 1/10 by Pitchfork yet managed to reach #1 on the Billboard – imagine yourself in his Nike’s, how would you comprehend negative press, yet raging success?
“Fame is tricky because you read what is said about you and you know what you know to be true but the lines begin to blur. (Interview with Larry King, 2015.)
Miller’s death came a mere three days before a day devoted entirely to Mental Health Awareness. In a 2015 interview with Billboard, he addressed music as “great therapy” for depression and emotional turmoil which was deeply apparent throughout his music, recovery in particular was a key point of reflection throughout Swimming. Lyrically, perhaps we missed signs that all pointed towards the artist being at his lowest?
On the album cover of 2013’s Watching Movies with the Sound Off, Mac was sat undressed, at a table, with “Parental Advisory. Explicit Content,” preventing adulterated exposure of his nether-regions – comedy-value means it sat in your mind. However, no matter to what lengths Mac would go to make us laugh, track number 13 “Remember” gave us an early look at this perception of death as recalled the passing of a friend; we won’t analysis this, we won’t break it down word-for-word in a fashion not dissimilar to a Secondary School English class.
“It’s a dark science, when your friends start dying
Like how could he go? He was part lion
Life goes on, tears all dried in
Couple years are gone by by then
Can you please help me find my friend
I’ll give you anything you need multiplied by ten
I heard he moved to a place where the time don’t end
You don’t need money, all you got is time to spend
Life is short, don’t ever question the lengths
It’s cool to cry, don’t ever question your strength
I recommend no limits, intricate thought, go ‘head just give it a shot
You’ll remember shit you’ve forgot.”
Looking past mental-health, Mac was firmly in touch with his emotional side and became a key player in appropriating softer lyrics over heavy rap within and otherwise aggressively-orientated industry. It was hard to ignore a jazz, or even R’n’B influence within his music; Devine Feminine was a sensually-fueled ride that introduced many fans and casual listeners to a phrase that positively expressed the feminine side that actively exists within both genders alike. In 2016, this album broke a barrier between what we thought was once masculinity, and new-age male pride.
2017, as dubbed by astrologers was the year of Divine Feminine Uprising which subconsciously as a concept represents a responsibility for empathy, maternal or paternal instincts and sensuality – our late artist tapped into all of these within our veins.
It is thought that Miller used this album as an exploration of love, an essential exposé on his own self-confessed toxicity and becoming utterly besotted. We could say this album sits nicely in the middle-ground between funk-soul and hip-hop whilst heavily dabbling in R’n’b too — which is a slight switch-up from 2015 and third studio album, G0:0D AM, where a with maintaining sobriety was apparent.
In an interview with Billboard, Mac explained this was his first album that ended on a positive note – delving into the conceptual idea and relevance of a modern love in the everyday. Half way through the interview, John Norris ask whether Mr Miller had met his soul-mate (track 7 on the album is of course, Soul-mate, and involved a Robin Williams sample); his response exemplified and ultimately encapsulated the underlying emotional journey he wanted his fans to share:
“I’ve found one but I do wholeheartedly believe in that. I also wholeheartedly believe in the idea of love, and I think it’s interesting that in the year 2016, there’s all these different ways of what love and relationships are supposed to be. Like “What is monogamy? Who cares? It’s 2016.” But I don’t know. I still want to have the kind of story that my grandparents had.”
Every set of ears will interpret the album and Mac as a whole, differently; but personally, an attempt to articulate my thoughts and opinions into readable copy is difficult. This album highlights that being human is fine, having emotions is fine, being in love is fine because ultimately that is what comprises human-life. Feelings.
Illustration courtesy of Joshua Ganley.
End of part two.