Mac Miller, ‘GO:OD AM’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
Mac Miller has reinvented himself better than many other rappers out there. Listeners were introduced to the Pittsburgh native by his poppy, stoner-friendly K.I.D.S. and Best Day Ever mixtapes. He boasted lush production but little in the way of subject matter, and he was often labeled as "frat rap." Miller was the white Wiz Khalifa and an Asher Roth with a more sustainable fan base. The "Donald Trump" rhymer independently built himself a nice audience, but struggled to be accepted by critics and his 2011 debut Blue Slide Park was generally lambasted, but his core fans still championed him.
Then something incredible happened. Miller began making more experimental music, starting with his Macadelic mixtape. Those who missed out on Macadelic were blindsided by the release of Watching Movies with the Sound Off, Miller's mesmerizing sophomore effort. Miller's more poppy sensibilities remained, but the tone was darker. The lyrics were more focused on depression and drug addiction than having a good time. Lyrically, the rapper was closer to the likes of Odd Future and Black Hippy (with whom Miller began collaborating at this time) as opposed to Wiz and Asher Roth. Miller began producing more of his own music, even making the beats for an entire Vince Staples tape (Stolen Youth) and showing his growth more on his Faces mixtape. The Delusional Thomas tape was Miller at his most experimental, making his voice high-pitched and sounding more like an experimental Stones Throw rapper than someone with a big name.
On GO:OD AM, Miller's third album and first major-label project for Warner Bros., he reinvents himself once again. Miller still admits to using drugs, but he's at least sobered up considerably since the past few albums. He's off the harder stuff, at least. On "Brand Name," he raps, "To everyone who sells me drugs / Don't mix it with that bulls---, I'm hoping not to join the 27 Club." Larry Fisherman is going to enjoy life but he doesn't want to end up overdosing like so many young musicians before him. He also addresses his problems with drugs further on the otherwise party-oriented "Weekend": "I been battling trouble sleeping / Battling these demons/Wondering what's the thing that keeps me breathing / Is it the money, fame or neither."
The sentiment of going out and living life combats the way Miller previously dealt with his problems. When his depression and addiction were at its worst, he stayed in his house making music and doing drugs alone. Now, on this album, he goes out more and tries to keep a more positive outlook. Miller looks beyond his problems from his earlier projects: "The world don't give a f--- about your loneliness / I'm just tryna grow up old and rich." This is a new Mac Miller, once again.
Watch Mac Miller's "Brand Name" Video
If Mac Miller's subject matter going to a more upbeat, "life is good" tone sets off alarms that the rapper has gone back to the same material he had back on K.I.D.S., you need not worry. He's a more positive man on GO:OD AM than he was on his last few projects, but his subject matter isn't vapid. There's drug talk and boasts about his cash, but there's still an honesty about his faults that wasn't there in the early days. Miller's a funny guy, and he's just as sharp when his humor is self-deprecating as it is when he's self-aggrandizing.
Even if Mac Miller was back to his old ways, it's not like his old stuff was lacking. The lyrics might have been bland, but he had a solid flow and he always had a sort of goofball charm that at least made him endearing. His humor and likable personality haven't changed much and it's not the darker subject matter that made Watching Movies, Delusional Thomas and Faces great projects. What made those projects successful was that Miller focused on making himself a better rapper. His technical ability improved, as did his ability to make his personality come out of the music.
GO:OD AM takes a step back from the technical showcases from those last few projects, but that doesn't mean he's lost his ability. "Perfect Circle/God Speed" is a nearly eight-minute track that serves as the centerpiece for the album and its themes of self-realization.
Like all Mac Miller projects before it, GO:OD AM boasts killer production. Although his Larry Fisherman producer alias has gotten better with every release, Miller leaves the production up to others. ID Labs has been with the rhymer since the very beginning, and he produces the most tracks on the album. His lush pianos and horns have meshed well with Miller in every period of his career. He even goes into a more trap-influenced beat on "When in Rome." DJ Dahi, Christian Rich, Tyler, the Creator and more show up as well and create a nice vibe throughout the effort.
Even with improvements throughout his career, Mac Miller still has flaws. His humor can borderline on juvenile and misogynist at points. Some of his punchlines fall flat (who still references Charlie Sheen's tiger blood in 2015?). Listeners might not be able to vibe with his voice, particularly when Miller decides that he's going to sing. Nevertheless, GO:OD AM is a solid effort from the young MC that falls somewhere between the carefree youth of his early tapes and the brutal honesty of his most recent material.
Watch Mac Miller's "100 Grandkids" Video
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