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ATTEY: Mac Miller transforming before our very eyes

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ATTEY: Mac Miller transforming before our very eyes

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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I, like many others, may have waited too long to fully appreciate Mac Miller. As a major fan of rap music since high school, I’ve known his name for some time, and was familiar with a lot of his work. However, he always lived just outside the realm of guys who I could say were my favorite rappers. He was always there — a smiling, goofy figure within the genre, but never someone who I considered to be at the pinnacle of hip-hop artistry.

But something had started to feel different. Whenever I would tune into a new Mac Miller project, I was hearing less and less of the immature frat rap from his younger years. Instead, I was hearing a crooning, soulful man, speaking with the beyond-his-years wisdom that can only come from achieving major fame before even turning twenty. Mac Miller was growing.

In the flood of Miller pieces since his death, I saw one random tweet explaining that although Miller was never one of their top personal favorites, he was someone they could trust to continue doing good things for rap music, constantly pushing himself and the genre, all while respecting the art form. Reading it, I realized that might be what I appreciated the most about Miller while he was still alive: He was always going to be around, in the best way possible.

He was hip-hop’s most likable background figure, a self-aware kid with a kind sense of humor. It’s why not a single person yet has had a bad thing to say about him, and why his death seems to have taken an even larger-than-usual toll on his peers within the industry.

What’s even more frustrating is that he wasn’t likely to stay in the background much longer. Any of his recent discography shows an artist stretching his bounds, but also a rapper with the potential to evolve much more than we’ll ever get the chance to see. What was striking about hearing Miller’s jazzy, emotive music for the first time was not the massive departure from his old style, but rather that it seemed like this was where Miller was destined to end up all along.

One of my favorite rap lyrics in recent years is in Logic’s song 44 Bars, where he states, “People don’t buy music in this day and age, they buy the brand.” It’s completely true. As much as we fall in love with an artist’s work, we can usually fully support their content only if we can support the person as well. Mac Miller, regardless of where you stood on his music, was immediately charming. The agreeable stoner kid, standing only 5-foot-7, if that, who always had a smile on his face.

I had the pleasure of attending a Childish Gambino concert a week ago in Chicago, mere days after Miller’s passing. It was Gambino’s first performance since the news broke, and he paused mid-show to speak about his friend. During their ascensions, they had actually faced much of the same criticism. Miller was viewed as some corny, little white boy, while Gambino was framed as the corny, nerdy black kid. They had spoken often, and Gambino’s main message explained it was impossible to talk to Miller without picking up on his undying love for music.

It’s the same passion that caused Miller to shape shift before our eyes, taking creative leaps that would have seemed unthinkable to anybody listening to his critically panned “Blue Slide Park” album. A recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert showed a gleeful Miller performing tracks off his new album “Swimming.”

Mac Miller was far wiser than his 26-year-old charm would have you think. It’s a shame we’ll never see how wild his final evolutions could be. Mac Miller was just getting started.

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About the Writer
Brendan Attey, Opinions Columnist

Brendan Attey is a senior from Portland, OR. He is an opinions columnist. He is majoring in digital media and minoring in marketing. In his free time he...

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