Pittsburgh son Mac Miller has had an interesting career trajectory as a rapper in a very short amount of time. The 23-year old might only have three studio albums, but with almost a dozen mixtapes to his name, he is one of the most prolific emcees of the 21st century. With some of the biggest hip-hop names on the planet guest starring on his records, Miller has placed himself in a rarified air where his albums not only can't be ignored, but are events in their own right.
At the tender age of 15, Miller already knew he wanted to be a rapper.
"Once I hit 15, I got real serious about it and it changed my life completely," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2011. "I used to be into sports, play all the sports, go to all the high school parties. But once I found out hip-hop is almost like a job, that's all I did."
Right around that time he released his first mixtape under the name Easy Mac, and before his 20th birthday he was signed with Rostrum Records, the Pittsburgh indie label that was well known for being the home of Wiz Khalifa.
Obviously, since he was just a kid (and pretty much still is), these early mixtapes were immature and base, but they showed a definite spark, which led to him become an internet sensation almost overnight. All of this helped him becoming one of the first independent artists to top the Billboard charts with a debut album.
Blue Slide Park started the trend of Miller maintaining a very loyal and vocal fan base in love with his nasal, mush-mouthed flow and surprisingly catchy beats, while being maligned critically with outfits like AllHipHop.com writing "it's as if he hasn't found his sound yet."
In 2013, he released Watching Movies With the Sound Off, easily one of the best hip-hop albums of the year, and a marked departure from his normal sound. With more abstract production, fearlessly autobiographical lyrics, and a definite improvement in his flow, the album did well commercially as well as critically.
The album has a cohesion to it (production this time by Larry Fisherman, a pseudonym for Miller) that makes the entire record greater than the sum of its parts. Bouncing between styles, rhyme schemes, and lyrical content, the album is a dark look into Miller's growing depression, isolation, and addiction to purple drank. While there is still some immaturity (one of my favorite lyrics on the record is "I don't act hard, I still read Babar...tripping out looking at a bunch of Google maps stars"), the beats are truly complex and make the album a fascinating must-own for hip-hop heads.
Miller left Rostrum in 2014 and released his major label debut this September with Warner Bros. GO:OD AM sees Miller not necessarily free of his demons, but with his eyes and mind on the daylight around them. The opening stunner "Doors" (produced by Tyler, The Creator) has the line "Ain't sayin' that I'm sober, I'm just in a better place," letting his fans know not to worry anymore, but that Mac is still gonna be Mac.
AM is a much more balanced record that still manages to be playful while also respecting the dark days he made it though. The record goes down very smoothly, as easy listening as Miller can get, and while it doesn't have the complexity of other 2015 hip-hop releases like Kendrick's To Pimp a Butterfly, Earl Sweatshirt's I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, or Vince Staples' Summertime '06, GO:OD AM isn't after that. It wants clarity after a long time spent in the darkness. Miller has earned that much.
7 pm, Thursday, Nov. 5
Midtown Ballroom, 51 NW Greenwood Ave.