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Mac Miller has accomplished every goal he ever set for himself. At least that's what the magazines say about the Pittsburgh kid, and they're right enough. With his first album he became a grassroots rap megastar. With his second he bared his weird soul and was praised for it. His 11 mixtapes boast a couple bucket lists' worth of collaborators, from Bun B and Kendrick Lamar to Rick Ross and Juicy J. And in the same year that he toured the U.S. backed by a psychedelic soul band, he rapped all over Europe with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. He did indie. He's doing major. He even bought himself a ridiculous house in the Los Angeles hills and made a TV show about it. Hell, he made a jazz record.
But it's only now that Mac is stepping into the light. If the work he released surrounding 2013's acclaimed Watching Movies With the Sound Off seems dark, that's because he's been exorcising demons — literally if you consider the tape devoted to his horrorcore alter-ego, Delusional Thomas. As Mac's profile rose, his outlook sunk. While the picture he painted of himself through 2014's bleak-banging Faces tape is real as can be, it caught him in a surreal state: questioning everything, depressed. In 2015, at 23, we meet Mac all over again. The Mac who's got some answers, who sold the mansion, climbed out of the rabbit hole, and went back home to make his most confident and clear-headed album yet.
Home is Pennsylvania. Malcolm McCormick was born there to an architect dad and a photographer mom (she shot the cover of Watching), and raised Jewish in Pittsburg's Point Breeze neighborhood. He taught himself piano, bass, guitar and drums as a kid, and made rap his job at 14. He stole stuff and sold things to pay for studio time, and cut class to record. The first mixtape came within a year (under the name "EZ Mac"), and he was signed by graduation — to Rostrum Records, home of fellow Taylor Allderdice High alum Wiz Khalifa. Mac was 18 when he dropped K.I.D.S., and watched as the tape's six videos racked up an astronomical number of views (over 165 million to date). His first tour sold out everywhere.
In 2011, Mac's album arrived hard. Blue Slide Park — a record quaintly named after a local landmark — landed at No. 1, and it was the first time an independent rap debut had done so since Tha Dogg Pound in '95. That's when things got heavy. A relationship ended. A friend died. Fans were rabid, but the road grind was endless. Mac became addicted to lean, and though he cleaned up before filming Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family for MTV2, the syrup's effects followed him to L.A. The drugs were gone but the darkness persisted, and his home became a hub for other MCs exploring equally heady musical terrain. 2013's Watching earned Mac praise for its grim honesty and hallucinatory mood.
There was a sliver of light in there. Mac kept showing new sides of himself (see also: his Larry Lovestein & the Velvet Revival lounge EP, and 2013's tour document Live From Space with the Internet as his band), and in doing so began to realize the future was his to screw up or own. On tour abroad, he drunk-dialed Rick Rubin one night and the bearded guru answered his call. Mac spent most of the next summer at the super-producer's fabled Malibu complex, eschewing music for meditation, ice baths, and conversation. He left a few bad habits behind and moved on to his third proper album, which finds Mac reuniting with his Pittsburg production crew — I.D. Labs — for a raw and soulful set of new songs.
As you learn more about his latest album GO:OD AM — released September 18th on Warner Bros. Records in partnership with the artist's own Remember Music — you too will discover things: A title that speaks to this moment in Mac's life. A well-curated set of guests (ranging from Miguel, Little Dragon, Chief Keef, frequent collaborator Ab-Soul and a Lil B at his most sage) who embolden the message. Echoes of past forays into piano music and crate-digger beats. Fresh collisions of astral soundscapes and trap drums. You'll find a lot of humor and a lot of swagger. Heart and insight, too. Most of all, you'll find Mac Miller standing on his mountain of accomplishments — those we witnessed and those we didn't — rapping his ass off (as evidenced on lead track “100 Grandkids”) with a crooked grin and enough wisdom to know that the only way is up.