The creation of a posthumous album cannot be an easy task. Add in the fact it is a Mac Miller posthumous album in question and it becomes an even harder feat to accomplish. The artist was one of the most unique and hard to grasp hip-hop performers and his tragic loss left a scar on the music world and his millions of fans for eternity.
Mac Miller was taken from us in the midst of a project with a bigger scale than we initially imagined. He had just begun showing us his soul and unveiling his true potential. Today I want to invite you to talk about the sixth album of hip-hop’s brightest star – Circles by Mac Miller.
Listen to Circles by Mac Miller
…sometimes I try to numb the pain in different ways. But that’s not how it works, the way it works is you face the pain and you go through it.
We have the pleasure to experience Circles thanks to Mac’s close collaborator and producing partner Jon Brion (as well the collective effort of Mac’s family, label, and production team). The work on the album had been in progress when Swimming was released and there was a grand idea behind both records.
The whole concept was supposed to represent Mac’s vision of swimming in circles – an inescapable cycle of struggle and triumph, highs and lows, failure and success. Unfortunately, the artist himself did not live to execute the splendid idea himself. However, much of the material was already near completion and the rest was left in the capable hands of the person closest to the process.
Jon Brion shares some touching and fascinating snippets of the process behind some of Circles’ songs in an interview with Zane Lowe. Instead of spamming the many great quotes and stories I will link the interview right here so you can enjoy it in full and take a peek behind the scenes of the album yourselves.
Listening to Circles you will find out it is extremely well-executed despite the fact Mac could not supervise the entire process. Nonetheless, his presence is as vivid as ever – the whole record has the classic, unmistakable Mac Miller vibe.
I find this beyond astonishing and I honestly think Jon Brion did a fantastic job. What is more, Brion’s presence is also tangible – in case you are familiar with his work you will definitely feel the jazz-rap influence and the emotional eruption of piano and cello instrumentals. A truly wonderful end-result when combined with Mac’s hard-hitting lyrics delivered with acceptance and calmness.
Arguably his best work, Swimming is the album where Mac Miller certainly found his ground. It presented the naked mind of the artist and transmitted his mental state, worries and troubles, as well as his attempts to cope with the pain while achieving a true self-discovery to haunting perfection.
There was an overflowing amount of self-love, personal healing, and growth included in the 13 tracks. But that had to come the hard way – to reach those freeing feelings and self-development progress, Mac Miller took us to the bottom of depression, anxiety, and unhealthy mind space.
Swimming is one of the most real and touching albums I personally know of. I didn’t dare to imagine it was only the setting of the stage for the real flood of pondering and contemplation about life’s highs and lows.
Circles starts strong with the title track that picks up exactly where Swimming left things.
My god, it go on and on
Just like a circle, I go back to where I’m from
The very first track of the second part of the exploration of Mac Miller’s troubled mind and realizations about the world depicts the essence of life. Uncertainties, rising and falling, stepping blindly forward to appear where you first started – the inescapable circle is accurately described with agonizing detail.
Complicated, I Can See, That’s On Me, and Once A Day all delve into the circular nature of life and takes us through the contemplations Mac has been through. All of the mentioned songs are united under the same idea and represent the concept of swimming in circles very successfully. Nevertheless, each of them takes a different spin and shows a separate aspect of life’s joys and pains.
The whole point of Circles (and Swimming, for me at least) is to expose the reality of life. It gives examples from Mac’s personal story and despite having a saddening feel the album is by no means a pity party.
It is simply honest and transparent – like all of Mac’s art. The rapper hides absolutely nothing and allows us to peek in his thoughts. He also takes full accountability of any situation he has been in (That’s On Me) and once again proves how grounded and aware of his imperfections he was.
The album pays attention to the positives as well. Truth be told, after playing it all you will most likely be left feeling optimistic and hopeful. And this feeling is so powerful because we were taken through the negative aspects first – appreciation of the positivity is way easier this way.
Despite taking us on a ride exposing some not so pleasant truths Mac has the uplifting and positive attitude fully preserved. He knew life is a constant journey of self-development and even though it got rough sometimes there were a lot of great things to pay attention to.
Yeah, why don’t you wake up from your bad dreams?
When’s the last time you took a little time for yourself?
There’s no reason to be so down
Rather fly around like there’s no ground
The concept is complete and Mac did it justice – he reminded us life is not one-sided and growth comes with pain, struggle, and constant effort.
When it comes to musical arrangement, instrumentals, beats, and feel of the song there is not much to say. Except that everything fits suspiciously well. The instrumentals and beats showcase the diversity of Mac’s skills and interests and create a different atmosphere than the typical “rap song” formula. Interesting touches are added to enhance the effects of the songs and the mood is created according to the message of each track – the effect speaks for itself.
Circles is a strange album in a sense that it is extremely easy to listen to and at the same time painfully hard to take in.
The smooth and mellow voice of Mac, his nonchalant way of explaining how much your mind can work against you sometimes, the incredible beats and arrangement make it an utter pleasure to get lost into.
At the same time, knowing that this was an unintentional “last goodbye”, getting to better understand the troubles this usually cheerful and positive soul had to live with, and knowing the album is just the surface scratch of a forever lost potential is devastating.
Regardless, we are lucky to be able to hear the final act of Mac’s odyssey. His legacy and kind-hearted, funny persona will most likely never fade and the musical treasures he left behind will keep his spirit alive in many people’s hearts.
Don’t you put any more stress on yourself, it’s one day at a time
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