Talking about Mac Miller has always been a challenge for me. I never managed to deliver a proper look at Swimming – one of the albums taking a top spot in my personal list, because I didn’t know how to approach it. Writing about Circles was also a huge challenge. The complexity and depth of Mac’s music, as well as the uneasy way of finding the right words that will do justice to his art, are the main reasons.
I finally got to talking about this incredible artist. And I am doing it in a long awaited (for me at least) collaboration with a fellow music lover and great blogger – The Indian Music Nerd and I joined forces to discuss which are Mac Miller’s most important tracks.
I have discussed Mac’s legacy and the void he left in the hearts of his fans and the world of hip-hop with a good friend and fellow music blogger TheIndianMusicNerd. During those discussions, we both agree that talking about Mac is a task that needs to be approached with respect. We also agree that the hardest thing to do is ranking his songs or albums – each record/mixtape/single plays a crucial role in the artist’s journey and has noteworthy elements that make it unique.
Mac Miller has an overwhelming amount of music released and probably even more unpublished or unfinished projects we might or might not be eventually blessed to hear. His diverse repertoire makes it incredibly hard for anyone to pick “favourites”.
TheIndianMusicNerd and I wanted to challenge each other. We agreed to each pick the five songs we believe are Mac Miller’s hardest-hitting, most important pieces (of course, personal choice and bias apply very much so no offence if your favourite is not on our lists) and provide our reasoining.
Ever since I discovered Mac Miller, his music has been a go-to during different periods. I play his music when I feel good and want to vibe with someone on the same high – I turn up Blue Slide Park or K.I.D.S classics like PA Nights, Party On Fifth Ave, or go to the Best Day Ever mixtape and have a party like no other.
When I feel overwhelmed or devastated, I find comfort and understanding by spinning Swimming and Circles back to back. Love and romance, heartbreak, or longing for the love of my life – The Divine Feminine and Larry Lovestein and The Velvet Revival’s You express my various feelings and emotions better than I ever could.
Mac is the friend I never got to know or even meet, he understood emotions and the complexity of life like no other and his music is a loyal companion I know will never go away. No matter what he always knows what to say.
The deluxe version of K.I.D.S recently came out with some tasty bonus tracks adding up to its glory
Mac Miller’s Five Most Important Tracks According To Me
I have to point out that the choice for the best and most impactful Mac Miller songs is highly subjective. In my case, it will probably change depending on my mood and what new elements and details I spotted on a song I am replaying for the 100th time.
I think that different people perceive Mac’s music in different ways – depending on their situation, understanding, and circumstances, they would have different opinions of what hits them the hardest and means most to them. And I think this is the case with any other artist – the beauty of art is that it has a different meaning for each person.
Those are the tracks that have left the strongest impression on me since the first time I heard them – the ones I go back to most often and still feel the same emotions as the first time I heard them.
I am starting my list with what I consider a song not talked about enough. It deserves credit for its many incredible elements working in unison to deliver the story Mac wants to tell.
The song just hits the mark in all possible aspects. Not a single element to criticize.
REMember is dedicated to Mac’s long-time friend Rubin Eli Mitrani who passed away in September 2012. The impact of this event on Mac’s life and psyche is clearly expressed not only by this song but by the independent record label established in the name of Rubin – REMember Music.
Even the first few seconds of the track clearly indicate that this is a different type of Mac Miller song. You can quickly feel the overwhelming grief that is going to be expressed – you might get some goosebumps during the emotion-soaked intro instrumental.
A combination of heartfelt and honest lyricism, bone-chilling instrumentals, as well as a slow and steady beat allowing the lyrics to pop out is used to transmit the pain and haunting thoughts of the artist regarding the devastating event he had to face. Losing a friend you shared the majority of your life with cannot be easy to overcome and Mac makes this extremely clear by pointing out details and emphasizing on the different stages of dealing with it.
Every element plays a crucial role in the end result but it is quite worthwhile getting into the lyrics of the song.
During its course Mac goes throw grieving (I swear I’ll let you know when the pain stop / For now, I need to run to any place that a train stops), nostalgic look back at memories shared with his friend (I remember / When we were just kids / We knew nothing at all / And we would talk about the life we lived in / West Virginia), disbelief of his passing (It’s a / Dark sign when your friends start dyin’ / Like, “How could he go? He was part-lion”), absolute devastation (Can you please help me find my friend? / I give you anything you need multiplied by 10), self-reflection (I know I been the shit, all these people full of me / I admit, I guess I’m full of myself, too), and even extracted life lessons shared with listeners (Yeah, life’s short, don’t ever question the length / It’s cool to cry, don’t ever question your strength).
The song was made immediately following the funeral. It was a very life-changing experience for me. It captures the emotion I went through upon that realization of what happened. I never thought that was an actual possibility, even when he was in the hospital. I still can’t believe it, but that song was a form of therapy for me. It’s not easy to talk to somebody, about something like that. Writing a song is how I get my emotion out.Mac via The Catalyst
REMember has a tear-jerking confession-like structure filled with devastation and regrets. The high emotional value and the importance it has for the artist make it one of his hardest-hitting pieces.
You can feel what he is going through, you can relate to the story, you can extract important learnings from it, and you will most likely look back at your own life with the flashing warning sign of “Memento Mori” piercing your heart. This makes it one of the Mac’s most important tracks in my list.
Everybody is an inspired cover of Arthur Lee’s Everybody’s Gotta Live in a very minimalistic but highly effective manner. It delivers tragedy in an approachable, comforting way.
One thing that has always attracted me towards Mac Miller is his way of presenting truly sad facts and experiences. Everybody is a good example of how he does it – the relaxed, accepting, and soothingly comforting voice delivering devastating facts as if he is just starting a casual conversation about the weather is really stunning.
Mac was an artist who fully accepted things as they were. He predicted his own early death and what would cause it long before it happened – he knew what was waiting for him, but he was not scared, sad, or worried, instead, he embraced it and lived with it.
Everybody sayin’ I need rehab, ‘Cause I’m speedin’ with a blindfold onPerfect Circle/God Speed
It won’t be long until they watchin’ me crash
And they don’t wanna see that
They don’t want me to OD and have to talk to my mother
Tell her they coulda done more to help me
And she’d just be cryin’
Sayin’ that she’d do anything to have me back
This song strikes exceptionally hard since when we heard it, Mac was no longer among us. It feels like he is sending us a message from the world beyond ours – “Everybody’s gotta live/and everybody’s gonna die” feels like he is telling us “I had my time on this earth, I did what I thought is best with it, I might be gone but this is that natural cycle of life and you should accept it”. The calm manner of delivery and minimal lyrics combined with simple piano, drums, and bass as the only elements make it a true masterpiece.
Everybody is a universal truth about life delivered in the trademark Mac Miller style as part of his last words for his fans – if this is not essential, I don’t know what is.
Ladders is one of my absolute favourite songs to listen to when I am feeling down. It has tremendous power and contains Mac’s unique charm and energy full-power.
The whole song is a beautiful metaphor explaining the essence of life very well. Fitting as a mid-point of one of Mac’s most powerful records – Swimming, the song once again takes us into the depth of his mind.
As with many other tracks, Mac’s accepting and comforting tone makes the song work so well. He dissects life’s ups and downs, emphasizing how the good view from the top has its price and how everything is temporary or just an illusion. But despite this slightly upsetting and dark overall message, the song manages to leave listeners in a positive mood achieved by the artist’s embrace of those facts and determination to continue living his best life anyway.
The uplifting instrumentals and incorporation of soothing jazz motives contribute to an overall comforting tone of the song. I consider this track one of his best because it encompasses the essence of Mac Miller as an artist and unites wonderfully executed elements to present something hard to accept in a very accessible and comforting way.
I found it slightly strange and amusing that the song hitting me the hardest when it comes to Mac’s romantic, love-inspired tracks is not on the album constructed specifically around that feeling (The Divine Feminine).
Regardless, I believe that the story behind ROS, the sweet, touching lyrics, symbolism, and metaphors, together with the simplistic but well-built instrumental structure make the song one of the artist’s best pieces.
The song starts with a touching introduction asking listeners if they have ever been in love and introducing the amount of intoxicating romanticism that is going to follow next.
Inspired and dedicated to Mac’s then-girlfriend Naomi Leasure, ROS depicts an outpour of the artist’s love and also visits some of the struggles and challenges the couple faced.
The song has the recognizable charm of Mac Miller – filled with his outspoken praise of the female, sensual remarks, expression of true love and dedication, as well as acceptance of the impermanent. Starting with a slow but steady pace and gradually building up to a faster tempo, the song explores the artist’s feelings with illustrative comparisons and metaphors.
Love is power, swear there’s somethin’ ’bout her that make me nervous
Mother Earth done gave us all a gift, she made you perfect
Complemented by the beautiful voice of Elle Varner the song tells a whole story of love and passion ending with a vow which will unavoidably strike a chord in your heart and make you think of the person you love most.
Buttons is one of Mac’s songs that never gets old for me. I always manage to glimpse something new each time I hear it.
The song has the old-school Mac Miller vibe with an interesting, lively beat, several switches, and versatile delivery during its course. It starts with a classic introduction consisting of a lovely instrumental and beat featuring the iconic “yeah” typical for the artist.
The rest of the song goes on to remind of a very well-done freestyle. Mac uses his steady and consistent flow to talk about things on his mind – his busy routine, the changes he has gone through at that time, his past, and the balance between the internal chaos and keeping a cool face which he always managed to do so well.
The song feels cosy and features highest-quality hip-hop which is the main reason I think it belongs as one of his best. As something like a mid-point of his career it drastically differs from his easy-going, party-oriented early work or his late life-accepting, melancholic masterpieces. Buttons is Mac Miller in the middle delivering good music and talking about his life – it can’t get better than that.
The Indian Music Nerd’s Picks
Mac Miller is not just a musician for me, he’s a person that I’ve admired and considered a friend for a long time. Losing him was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life and I’m thankful for the music that he’s left behind.
Mac has one of the strongest discographies in the rap game. He’s been experimenting with his sound from the beginning and no two albums of his sound the same. Each Mac Miller project has its unique and distinctive quality that sets it apart. Whether it was the “Frat boy charm” from K.I.D.S or the sensible side he showed on Swimming, Mac evolved throughout the years.
Picking up five songs that are my favourites was the most difficult task and I’m sure that if I think more I would come with another list. However, right now, these are the ones that resonate the most with me. A lot of these are influenced by the time and headspace in which I heard the song and I’m in right now because his music has a sentimental value for me.
Hand Me Downs
This was the moment when I couldn’t control my tears during my first listen of Circles. Mac Miller the Frat Boy has finally grown up and sees himself settling down. The whole album felt like Mac’s conversation with his fans from beyond and this one was just special. His delivery and the gorgeous production add to the message he wants to put forth and makes for a gorgeous track that puts a smile on your face.
Self Care always hits different from what it did the first time I heard it. A story about overcoming his demons, Mac divided this song into two parts. The first half a chill laid-back cut and the other one a trap heavy percussion-driven cut. Mac was alone and fighting a battle with himself and that’s what Self Care is all about.
Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza
The first song that I heard by Mac Miller was Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza. This young brat had a boyish charm in his music. He was careless, fun-loving and never cared about what others were thinking. The old school hip-hop beat, coupled with Mac’s carefree delivery makes this one a proper chill banger.
The fattest groove that you will ever come across, this one’s just the perfect song to let your hair loose and swing to the beat. Mac has the ability to cheer me up when I’m feeling the lowest and this is my go-to song for that moment. Anderson .Paak and Mac Miller make a strong duo and give a melodious performance together. Mac’s sing-song delivery has a sense of calmness that elevates this song to another level.
If there is a song that encapsulates my present frame of mind, then it’s this one. Mac calls out the people around him, stating that no one really cares about his well-being along with the struggles of life. Miller was alone and perhaps not surrounded by the right people. Even though it has just come out, this song is one of my favourites already.
I am glad I finally got to collaborate with The Indian Music Nerd and we chose this particular topic for our first collective effort. His choices certainly compete mine – choosing just five songs was a tough task but knowing that a fellow Machead is going to pick five more reassured me for a reason.
As expected from a music lover who knows his stuff well my friend made some excellent remarks on his picks.
Do not forget to follow The Indian Music Nerd – he has some of the best reviews I follow eagerly and does justice to albums I never managed to talk about (f.x Joji’s Nectar and Taylor Swift’s Folklore). Follow his Instagram as well and stay tuned for more content from both of us!
You can buy me a coffee if you like my content