Mac Miller Never Wanted To Be Part Of The 27 Club

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images.
On his 2015 album, GO:OD AM, Mac Miller dropped a verse that, now, is quite tragic. In “Brand Name” he raps: "To everyone who sell me drugs / Don't mix it with that bullshit / I'm hoping not to join the 27 Club / Just want the coke dealer house with the velvet rug.” It’s one of many mentions of his drug use across his body of work, but it’s that comment about the 27 Club, a group of artists including Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Janis Joplin, that is agonising. Miller passed away at 26 of a drug overdose, not quite making the tragically infamous benchmark.
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His untimely death leaves behind a slew of albums and mixtapes, messages buried in them. What they tell us about Miller, his mindset, and his talent, is that his death is the loss of a creative in his prime.
Miller started out making mixtapes at 15 years old. He landed a record deal and released his first album while he was still a teenager. His star rose when he landed a reality show on MTV2 that tracked his ascent, Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family. Miller’s early work fit into the sound of backpack hip-hop that dominated the underground in the early 2010s, including a ballsy sample on his debut album, Blue Slide Park, of “Let Me Clear My Throat” — a song whose infamous trumpets played as the Ed Lover dance for years on Yo! MTV Raps. But Miller lapped his peers, like Asher Roth and Sam Adams, sidestepping his sometimes goofy early lyrics about partying and Eminem-style delivery in the first half of the decade as he transitioned into a different, more mature and experimental vibe with his 2013 LP Watching Movies with the Sound Off. His sound evolution was marked by collaborations with Flying Lotus, the DJ darlings of downtown L.A., and underground hip-hop stars like Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt.

His untimely death leaves behind a slew of albums and mixtapes, messages buried in them. What they tell us about Miller, his mindset, and his talent, is that his death is the loss of a creative in his prime.

Miller was always on the cusp of what was new, ever-evolving musically. On GOOD:AM, his third album, his delivery got slower and a syzurp-ish vibe kicked in. He rolled in trap with a guest verse from Chief Keef and dipped into Kendrick Lamar’s crew with a verse from Schoolboy Q. And he delved into talking about his struggle with depression, contemplating taking his own life while high on “Jump.” He rapped: "Know I'm supposed to hold the throne, be honest / One more drank, I'mma be an alcoholic / I don't wanna think like better unconscious / Need fresh air that thing so toxic / I open coffin doors with a .38 when it's time for war / Told my mama you ain't need no drama / You ain't gotta cry no more now."
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His next album, The Divine Feminine, came in 2016 after his relationship with Ariana Grande began. The duo collaborated a few years earlier on her track “The Way,” and Grande returned the favour by opening this album. Lyrically it is an exploration of relationships, paying tribute to feminine beauty, the difficult patches couples face, and, most importantly, sex. Grande says “Cinderella” is the only song directly about her. Many fans read the album as a story inspired by their coupling, despite several songs predating their connection.
With his final album, Swimming, Miller dived further into his sadness without seeming to drown in it. He managed to slow his beats and delivery even more, crafting a fascinating sound with producer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West). According to a Vulture profile published the day before he died, Brion reportedly made fun of Miller for constantly asking for water sounds to be added to the album, prompting Miller to conceive of the title. It’s an apt metaphor for Miller, who was always submerged in his work and, for a time, in his addiction.
Though it’s not necessarily where he was when the album dropped — he started working on several tracks as far back as two years ago — the lyrics from Miller’s final work reveal a man treading water while he tried to figure out his life.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600.
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