In Memoriam: Mac Miller

Today hip-hop lost an unsung hero. Mac Miller was a pioneer in a generation of rap artists that have molded the landscape of the genre today. He was supremely gifted, deeply complicated, and one of the most genuine, thoughtful, and reverent personalities of his era. He will be deeply, sincerely missed.

As an artist, Mac Miller was a singular figure. Innately pigeonholed into the tragic archetype that is the white rapper, he transcended that which he could not change, and reoriented hip-hop’s volatile relationship with whiteness. He was authentic, never presenting himself as other than what he was, a young white kid that loved rap music. He did not partake in the minstrel shows white artists often do; rapping in audible blackface or putting on some form of rap theatre, a voyeuristic exploration of what they think we do and how we act. He rapped about himself, his city, and the Nikes on his feet. And he did it exceptionally.

Mac came up in a class of artists that birthed the rap internet, a peer of Odd Future, ASAP Mob, Raider Klan and the other forebears of rap’s digital age. He had bars with the best of them, the most memorable for me being his many collaborations with Earl Sweatshirt, trading some of the most dense bars of their time with seamless cohesion. His artistry, his honesty, and his devotion showed through with every project he completed, as did his flaws.

Like each and every one of us, Mac Miller was a deeply flawed man. His very public struggles with addiction and relationships threatened to define his career. However, he fought valiantly and tirelessly to better himself. It is important to remember that the work we put in does not always result in our desires. But what is important is that Miller put in the work, pushed himself, and continued to explore his soul and his demons. It is unfair and unkind to his legacy to reduce him to the demons we have all succumb to.

As Hip-Hop has become the world’s preeminent music genre, Mac Miller’s character becomes the gold standard for newcomers to the culture. Hip-Hop is so much bigger than what it was when Mac came out, let alone at its inception. And yet, as long as Mac Miller has been a part of the culture, he treated it with the respect that a gracious guest treats another’s home. While Hip-Hop will always be black culture, we can no longer say it belongs to us. For those that are coming now and will come in the future, look to Mac Miller as an inspiration. Look for him for guidance on how to handle something precious, how to handle the heart and soul of an entire diaspora cast aside and kept away from popular culture for generations. Let Mac Miller’s legacy not just be his masterful art, but his incredible spirit, and let us never lose sight of the value of reverence and respect, the two characteristics that best encapsulate the wonderful soul that was Mac Miller.

Today I’m listening to Faces, a subtle gem in a fantastic catalog. I recommend the cut New Faces, featuring Earl Sweatshirt, Da$h, and Retch. You can find it on Datpiff, or wherever you get your mixtapes.

We love you. Thank you.

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