A Reflection on Mac Miller


Image courtesy of Genius

Anthony Millan, Staff Writer

On the day I’m writing this, January 19, 2021, it’s Mac Miller’s birthday, and the third one celebrated without him. Throughout his career, I was never much of a Mac Miller fan; I really just knew the basics, like the Weekend and That Way, two of his biggest collaborations. When he died, although I felt a sadness that a bright young talent had passed away, it hadn’t hit me on a personal level. In fact, when I listened to Swimming (his final album before his passing), I liked a few songs, but overall did not see myself enjoying the project. 

My true introduction into Mac’s music that I had genuinely enjoyed came on November 20, 2019, when “Good News,” the lead single for his posthumous album, Circles, had released. I listened to it the day it released, and it hit me, way more than I expected, and I almost started crying. The song, beginning to end is an emotional struggle clearly shown through its lyrics. The first listen was gut-wrenching because you could hear it in the music that Mac Miller wasn’t in a good place writing this album. It almost sounds like a beautiful call for help, the darkness masked in the lush, airy instrumental. Needless to say, this song stayed on rotation until the album finally released, on January 17, 2020. 

Although I had never checked out his earlier catalog, and thought little of Swimming, “Good News” was all I needed to be very excited for Circles. At midnight that night, I listened to the first half of the album, and again, started crying. Hearing this album in the context of his death was already hard enough, but it added to it, knowing that Mac Miller intended this album to be a light in the tunnel for many. It’s about how although life may not always be good, it’s a circle. You go through this loop, and that it’s always worth it to go through the bad because the good always comes back too. It’s a deeply personal record, speaking on his mental health and his struggles to help himself while encouraging others to try to find help as well. As someone who’s dealt with depression for the past few years, this album hit me more personally than anyone could imagine. I spent sleepless nights with Circles on repeat, I spent practically all my time with Circles playing, regardless of the mood I was in. This album encouraged me to re-listen to Swimming, which finally clicked for me, too. 

Swimming is the first part of the Swimming in Circles series Miller intended to create with these two albums. Swimming is the much less optimistic counterpart to this album, the main theme being that, at least, if you keep swimming, no matter how hard it is, you can’t drown. Swimming hit me on the same level as Circles, which made me realize the impact Mac had on millions, and how much more his death meant to many, rather than just another rapper dying. 

While I don’t have much more to say, Mac Miller’s past two efforts, Swimming and Circles, have helped me through so much in my life, in addition to millions of other fans. These showed that Mac strived to be an artist, not just a rapper, and wanted to create change with his music. He wanted to have the listener be able to relate to him and realize the light at the end of the tunnel. He knew that he might not make it there, but he wants others to make it and thrive from there on out. If Mac Miller left us with any message, it’s that he wants us to make it, not for him, but so that we can be the best version of ourselves, and I think that’s beautiful.