By Nathaniel Hamlett and Samuel Johnston
I was absently scrolling through Twitter in precisely the way teachers fear when they allow the use of laptops when I saw that Malcolm James McCormick, more commonly known by his stage name Mac Miller, had died of an apparent drug overdose in the early afternoon of Sept. 7, 2018. I immediately turned to the closest person I could find and told them that Mac Miller had died. Although we live in a world in which we are constantly faced with bad news, I still found the fact that I had to tell people Mac Miller had died really struck me. I thought they might even tell me I was wrong.
I didn’t so much as stumble onto Mac Miller as I was beat over the head by him. In the age of Asher Roth’s “I Love College,” and less than five years into Youtube’s foundling existence, Miller carved out a niche with his effervescent 2010 mixtape “K.I.D.S.” with a slew of singles that would ‘go viral’ before the colloquialism even existed (“Nikes on My Feet,” “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza”), Miller captured the important intersection of white kids and backpack rap. Miller’s popularity culminated in his first studio album, “Blue Slide Park,” debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 music chart. Despite his occasionally vapid brand of “frat-rap,” there was always something different about Mac — he was having fun. Mac was one of those artists whose love for his music was unquestionable, and that was contagious.
When a person dies, we tend to glamorize their existence, and engage our selective memory, but with Mac, this wasn’t necessary. His development, his entirety, is what made him so captivating. Though his career began with the braggadocio of “K.I.D.S.” it ended with the introspective and melancholy of “Swimming.” Along with the love he had for his craft, and hip-hop as a whole, was a sense of self-awareness that allowed many iterations of Mac Miller to exist over the course of his career.
The near-ubiquitous overflowing of kindness in reference to Mac in the days since his death have confirmed two things in my mind. Firstly, the vastness of his endearing qualities as a human being. Miller, of course, had his issues, and rapped frequently about his drug use and depression. From Kendrick Lamar to John Mayer, the sheer amount of people he gave his time to is awe-inspiring, and it is duly reflected by the scores of people affected by his absence. Secondly, it showed that he holds a definitive place in hip-hop’s canon.
So thank you Mac. For letting us watch you grow, and grow alongside you. For teaching white people the difference between appreciation and appropriation. For putting it all out there. From rapping in high school hallways and soliciting mixtapes on Datpiff, to releasing his fifth studio album to critical acclaim, Mac Miller’s love for music and people will not be forgotten.