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The Foreword

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The Foreword

Remembering Mac Miller: A Discography Ranked

Photo of Mac Miller courtesy of Clarke Tolton
Photo of Mac Miller courtesy of Clarke Tolton

As we arrive at the birthday of one of the greatest Pittsburgh artists of all time, we must stop and appreciate the Allderdice alum and his discography. Malcolm “Mac Miller” McCormick was born on January 19, 1992, in our very own Pittsburgh, and lived to age 26. Growing up in Point Breeze, Mac had been creating music his entire life but started to focus on his career during his years as a student at Allderdice. At the beginning of his career, he made albums such as K.I.D.S. and Blue Slide Park, more in the style dubbed as “frat rap.” As time went on, his style of music heavily changed to become more meaningful, sophisticated, and introspective. The evolution of his style culminated in projects like Circles and Swimming which were vastly different from what he started with.

After long discussion and debate (and trust us, we had some heated debates), we ranked all of Mac’s projects available on streaming from worst to best. We found notable songs from each of them, detailing the highs and lows of his music.

  1. Blue Slide Park (2011)

Coming in last place, Blue Slide Park isn’t much of a surprise. While it was Mac’s first full studio album and one of his more recognizable ones, it does not compare with the other projects he has released. Coming out in 2011, Mac had graduated from Allderdice only a year prior. While his musical style ended up being more meaningful and deep in later albums like Circles, Blue Slide Park falls more into the category of “frat rap” where the songs don’t mean much and it’s more of the type of music you play loudly in the background at parties and events. And even though there are a few good songs, the majority of the album is boring filler. A redeemable quality it does have is its references to local places in Squirrel Hill. The songs “English Lane,” “Frick Park Market,” and the name of the album are clear examples of this. It also still includes a few high-quality tracks like “Man in the Hat” and “Party on Fifth Ave.” These songs go above and beyond the rest, giving a preview of Mac’s ability to put out quality music for years to come. However, the album was and still is disappointing to this day. Mac was riding off the success of K.I.D.S. but ended up dropping the ball. After a fully painstaking listen, we decided to put Blue Slide Park in its deserved spot, last place.

 

  1. I Love Life, Thank You (2011)

I Love Life, Thank You is exactly what it sounds like, a wholesome mixtape where Mac raps about everything he loves and is grateful for. Released only a month before his first real album, Blue Slide Park, the project is filled to the brim with old-school rapping over classic production. Both “The Scoop On Heaven” and “Love Lost” are standout tracks, with an overall positive vibe and lyrics about love, passion, and the beauty of life. Besides those tracks though, the rest of the record mostly sounds the same and can get very repetitive, even during a first-time listen. The project’s popularity compared to other early projects from Mac can mainly be attributed to its release on streaming in the summer of 2022, as it had never been distributed to the widespread masses in the same way before. It currently stands as the most recent Mac Miller release onto streaming, and will probably hold onto that title for a while. Honestly, there’s not too much to this record, it’s purely him having a good time rapping with his friends in the studio. If that is the level of expectations you have going into it, you’ll have a great time with this mixtape, but overall the lack of depth and repetition in his songs prevent I Love Life, Thank You from being higher on the rankings.

 

  1. Best Day Ever (2011)

As the title Best Day Ever suggests, listening to this record sounds like a constant, never-ending party. Mac is having a ton of fun here, and it shines through in his lyrics and production, which is jumpy and positive. Where the mixtape falls short however is in the same category as the last record on the list: repetitiveness. That constant and never-ending party in question can get very monotonous even on a first-time listen. This combined with the overall length of the project and the amount of throwaway songs on the tracklist (in which there are quite a few) makes Best Day Ever subpar compared to Mac’s other work. Even with all of its faults though, it still has a few standout tracks. The titular track “Best Day Ever” is an amazing intro for the record and might be the best song on the entire project. Following right after is “Get Up,” a positive and motivating track just as the name implies that sets the tone for the entire mixtape. To finish out the project Mac collaborates with fellow Pittsburgh rapper and Dice alumni Wiz Khalifa in “Keep Floating,” an almost psychedelic song with bars on bars about smoking marijuana. In Best Day Ever, Mac achieves his goal of creating a perfect party mixtape. However, when an almost hour-long project is looked at through a critical lens, and not just as a collection of random tracks to throw at a Pitt party, it is clear it lacks the substance of Mac’s other releases farther up on the list.

 

  1. Macadelic (2012)

Macadelic is an important milestone in Mac’s musical journey, with large signs of him finally finding his groove in the rap industry. He obviously had a big chip on his shoulder after the bad critical reception of Blue Slide Park, and it’s very apparent here. Macadelic is without a doubt the most mature his music had sounded in his career thus far. His bars sound better and are wittier than ever before, a noticeable increase in quality from previous releases. However, the lyrics still are considerably shallow, with him sticking to his classic topics of sex, partying, and drugs. Some standout tracks from Macadelic are “Desperado,” where he spits fast rhymes over an exhilarating electric guitar beat, and “Fight the Feeling,” probably his most well-known track from the mixtape, featuring a verse from big-time lyricist Kendrick Lamar. Speaking of Kendrick, the record is a huge jump for Mac regarding features: boasting big names in the rap world such as Lil Wayne and Joey Bada$$. While Macadelic is all-in-all a good listener and clearly shows growth and more maturity in his music, he still failed to rid himself of the frat-boy rapper label that he’d dealt with for the past few years.

 

  1. Watching Movies with the Sound Off (2013)

To be fully transparent, Watching Movies with the Sound Off is by far the Mac album we were least familiar with going into this list. Neither of us had listened to it the whole way through before writing our review. While one could easily chalk it up to our unfamiliarity with the record, listening to Movies brought us sounds we would never imagine hearing from Mac. It is fair to say that this was his most experimental album, potentially even to this day. His lyricism and excellent rapping ability are without a doubt present but are almost secondary to the abstract production featured from top to bottom of the record. It holds the same feeling of him maturing that came with Macadelic, but adds an extra layer with the sophisticated beats and musical understanding present. Additionally, for the first time, Mac displays not only his rapping but his singing ability as well. This is especially relevant in the tracks “Objects in the Mirror” and “Youforia,” where his dreamy vocals over two beautiful beats, establish them as the best of the record. While his previous works are something to put on at a frat party, Movies is the type of album made to be listened to after a long day: chill and laid back, like nothing he had released before. It feels like a scratchy blanket on a cold day, off-putting at times, but comforting nonetheless.

 

  1. K.I.D.S (2010)

August 13, 2010. The date that turned Mac Miller from an average high schooler to one of the greatest Pittsburgh musicians ever. Released by Rostrum Records, K.I.D.S. was the 4th and most-known mixtape by Mac so far in his career with notable songs like “The Spins” and “Nikes on My Feet.” Mac dropped K.I.D.S when he was 19, although he was known to have worked on it during his years at Allderdice, especially his senior year. The mixtape consists mainly of rap and demonstrates how Mac had not fully found his style and that he was experimenting with different types of music. While the album has many quality songs, it also includes many below-average tracks that would not be normally listened to by the common Mac Miller fan. On the other hand, K.I.D.S. possibly holds some of his most famous and most popular songs, such as “The Spins” the 6th song on the mixtape that samples its hook from Empire of The Sun’s “Half Mast.” “The Spins” is that one Mac song that when played, everyone knows the lyrics and sings along. It has that perfect mix of quick rapping and a fun atmosphere. Overall, despite the many positives and significance it had in the young Mac Miller’s career, a hefty portion of the mixtape is boring and unneeded filler that ends up bringing K.I.D.S to its deserved sixth place in the rankings. 

 

  1. Faces (2014)

While at first glance Faces might appear like an upbeat, positive hip-hop record, don’t let the fun, colorful album cover deceive you. Standing as the longest project Mac has ever released, it might also be his darkest. Faces dives deep into Mac’s struggles with drug addiction and depression, two things he was heavily struggling with during the album’s creation. The dark times he was going through, however, don’t affect the quality of the music, as many people consider Faces as Mac’s magnum opus. With tracks like “Diablo,” “Therapy,” and “Insomniac (feat Rick Ross),” he raps fun but introspective bars over some of the best production of his entire career. The project features many different styles of song, a prime example being “Colors and Shapes,” the lead single of the record. It was nothing like Mac had ever put out before–a dreamy, atmospheric track about LSD and how those who take it perceive life. It shows how the drugs Mac was on at the time had a clear influence on the mixtape, with all its psychedelic-like qualities. In fact, Mac said, “I was not on planet Earth while making Faces. Nothing close.” The record also includes many exciting features at this point for Mac’s career: Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples, and Rick Ross just to name a few. Faces is nothing short of a modern masterpiece, however, Mac has put out four more albums that simply go above and beyond.

 

  1. GOOD AM (2015)

After releasing the raw and slightly depressing Faces, Mac took another huge turn in direction. While many of his recent projects seemed to be focused on his partying and struggles with addiction, in GOOD AM he finally seems to climb out of the hole of depression he’d been dealing with for so long. While the same style is still there, the entire album is more upbeat than ever before, and he’s finally grown into the fun and experimental production style that he continued to use for years to come. Tracks like “100 Grandkids” and “Weekend (Feat. Miguel)” contain catchy melodies that will stay in your head for weeks, while songs like “Brand Name” are a pure display of his rapping ability. A standout moment of the album is the second half of “Perfect Circle/God Speed.” After a heavenly beat switch following a voicemail left by Mac’s brother wishing him happy holidays, Mac delivers the best verse of his career, diving into the struggles with drugs throughout his life and how they have defined him. He realizes he needs to change, saying “Them pills that I’m popping, I need to man up – It’s a problem, I need a wake up – Before one morning I don’t wake up – You make your mistakes your mistakes never make ya.” The verse is even more impactful in hindsight, as he predicted exactly how he would end up passing. In conclusion, GOOD AM is refreshing and innovative, setting the standard for Mac’s final years of making music.

 

  1. The Divine Feminine (2016)

In The Divine Feminine, Mac takes a deep dive into one of the most complex human emotions, love. The album, as implied in his title, is centered around relationships with the women in his life, both romantic and platonic. He was dating pop superstar Ariana Grande at the time the album was released, and many people theorized the album was about her. Ariana later denied the claims, but confirmed the track “Cinderella” is about their relationship. More than ever before in his discography, he shows his maturity and growth through the years, praising women and recognizing their inner beauty just as much as their outer. It comes as a stark contrast to his earlier work, where his lyrics and overall style seemed both shallow and boastful. Additionally, the album’s sound is nothing like he’d put out before, with a much softer feel. He embraces piano, violins, and more orchestral sounds over the traditional synth beats he’s rapped over since he was a teenager. The album starts with arguably his best song of all time, “Congratulations,” where he raps about one of his past lovers over a beautiful piano melody. It then transitions into the upbeat “Dang!” and “Stay,” two tracks about trying to keep his relationship together, the former of which features Anderson Paak which is one of Mac’s best features of all time. He ends the record with “God is Fair, Sexy Nasty,” a slow, lyric-heavy track featuring Kendrick. He dives into some of his deepest personal struggles and how he expresses his love. The Divine Feminine is without a doubt one of Mac’s most meaningful albums and one of the most expressive forms of love we’ve ever seen from the rap industry.

 

  1. Swimming (2018)

Coming in at the number two spot is one of Mac’s all-time best projects, with almost every song being a hit. Swimming was Mac’s 5th studio album and has over 2.7 billion cumulative streams to date. Released on August 3, 2018, Swimming was unfortunately not the primary discussion of the week. On that same day, fellow rapper Travis Scott dropped his highly awaited Astroworld, outselling Swimming in a landslide and overshadowing it heavily. While Swimming may not have reached as many listeners as it should have in its first week, it is certainly not because of the quality of the record. Swimming’s unique style is upbeat, dreamy, and wholesome, and the opening song “Come Back to Earth” perfectly sets the tone for the entire record. The song is both emotionally and artistically meaningful: Mac expresses his feelings about his struggles with depression and his future, while also fully singing for one of the first times in his discography. Most songs on the album are very positive, like the upbeat “Self-Care,” “Small Worlds,” and “What’s the use?”. The last of which features a very jazzy, funky beat that expands Mac’s sound into whole new genres. At the 2019 Grammys, both Swimming and Astroworld were nominated for the Album of the Year, but were both beaten out by Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy. Many deem it as an infamous snub in the Grammys’ history. It left a lasting impression in the rap community, especially since it came just after Mac’s passing. Overall Swimming is an amazing album, where Mac seemed the happiest he had ever been in his career. The pure quality from top to bottom and the different genres he experiments with make it a no-brainer to put Swimming at the number two spot.

 

  1. Circles (2020)

Over the years Mac Miller has released some of the most emotional, creative, and meaningful music in the entire industry. However, nothing in his discography compares to the masterpiece that we got only after he tragically passed away. Circles was started by Mac as a companion album to Swimming planned as the more laid-back record of the pair. The two different styles of the records were meant to perfectly complement each other, completing the “Swimming in Circles” concept. While Mac never fully finished Circles, legendary film composer and producer Jon Brion was recruited to finish the project by Mac’s family. Brion had worked with Mac previously worked with Mac on Swimming, brought on because of his work on the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. What Brion was able to create, riding off of Mac’s recordings and vocals is nothing short of incredible. The production style feels like a film score, with every individual song sounding like its own world that the listener is being enveloped in. It experiments with different genres, and heavily deviates from Mac’s past work, although keeping his same spirit and intention throughout all the music. While its precursor Swimming features almost exclusively rap, Circles switches it up with “Blue World” and “Hands” being the only two songs that sound anything remotely similar to what is traditionally thought of as Hip-Hop. Instead, it highlights Mac’s singing and songwriting ability, which finally seems to have fully blossomed in this record. The beautiful, somber opener “Circles” and introspective track “I Can See” truly highlight this. The latter of which is one of our favorites and transports the listener to a whole new world. While we could go on listing every song from the project and explaining why it is special, that is exactly the reason why it is Mac’s best-ever album. Every single song is unique and extraordinary, and there’s not a single skip in the entire record. It can convey every emotion throughout Mac’s life, whether that be an upbeat wholesome song or one sadly reminiscing about growing up. The one caveat here is that Mac wasn’t here to receive all the praise he got for this record. Circles is some of the best and most unique music released this century, and although listening to the album is an amazing experience, it leaves the listener with somber thoughts of what could have been. What could have been if Mac had not overdosed that night and went on to make new music for many years? That thought, maybe more than anything, is what makes Circles his best album.

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About the Contributors
Sam Stavchansky, Staff Writer
Sam Stavchansky is a sophomore at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School. He comes from Austin, Texas, and has lived in Pittsburgh for a year. He runs for the Allderdice Cross Country and Track teams and plays basketball outside of school. He enjoys playing video games, reading, and playing chess in his free time.
Samuel Tobias, Staff Writer
Sam Tobias is a sophomore at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School. He enjoys playing sports and is a member of the Cross Country and Swim Team. In his free time he likes to play video games, hang with friends, and go biking.

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    Max AJan 19, 2024 at 9:38 am

    Shout out this. Y’all doing good work. Crazy list tho. Yinz defly off but appreciate the work young ones

    Reply