Mac Miller Has the Worst Timing
Poor Mac Miller.
I know, I know, it seems a little ridiculous to feel bad for someone who, in about five years, has gone from a local Pittsburgh rapper pushing mixtapes on the internet to an internationally-renowned and critically-celebrated MC who signed on the dotted line for a reported $10 million to launch his own REMember Music record label with Warner Bros. last December. Especially when, along the way, Mac has earned the key to the city of Pittsburgh, starred in his own MTV2 show Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family for two seasons, earned the first No. 1 album by an independently-distributed artist since 1995 with his debut LP Blue Slide Park and publicly beefed with Donald Trump not once, but twice. His tours sell out around the world, he's worked with the likes of Pharrell, Lil Wayne, Jay Electronica and DJ Premier, he got name-checked by Kendrick Lamar on K.Dot's infamous "Control" verse and he just put out his third studio album, GO:OD AM, to high praise.
For most people, that's a pretty successful half-decade. But the problem is, for the past three years, Mac Miller's timing has sucked.
It's not really Mac's fault. For the second time in a row, he's putting out an album at a time when the entirety of the hip-hop world's attention is completely focused somewhere else. His second album, 2013's Watching Movies With The Sound Off, had been in the works for months by the time of its release on June 18, coming out the same day as J. Cole's sophomore LP Born Sinner and Kanye West's semi-surprise album Yeezus, announced just weeks prior. Fans and the media had hyped the day as a showdown between 'Ye and Cole on the scale of the infamous sales battle between 50 Cent's Curtis and Kanye West's Graduation back in September 2007, leaving Mac behind to sell the quietest 100,000 copies you'll see in the current music industry. His album debuted at No. 3 as a result, a success by any metric but not exactly what he may have been hoping for when he announced the release date months before.
So he must be feeling something like deja vu this time around; with his third album officially going on sale last Friday, Mac was looking at a No. 1 rap album and a probable No. 2 start on the Billboard charts behind Lana Del Ray. Then came the tour-de-force of Future and Drake's What A Time To Be Alive, their surprise collaborative album that Billboard is predicting to move somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 copies in its first week. That will well outstrip everyone else and push Mac, again, down to No. 3, despite the fact that, in XXL's opinion, GO:OD AM is far and away the best and most fully-realized work of his career.
Not that sales figures or chart positions are things that Mac Miller really cares about at the end of the day. He handled the Born Sinner-Yeezus-Watching Movies triumvirate in the most diplomatic way possible two years ago and, from knowing him and interviewing him multiple times over the years, he's more the type of person to lament the situation and keep it moving than to go all scorched earth over how nothing is ever fair. But the bad luck probably smarts in the way that Kendrick presumably felt when Taylor Swift's Red blocked his debut good kid, m.A.A.d city from a deserved No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200, or YG when he got stuck at No. 2 behind the Frozen soundtrack last March. In this age of surprise releases and unannounced albums, timing has become more important than ever. And sometimes there's nothing worse than having bad timing.
Like everything in the music industry, Mac's misfortune has a precedent. Obie Trice, signed to Shady Records in 2000, released his debut album Cheers in 2003 in the wake of the massive success of 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Tryin', selling a respectable number of copies but ultimately wilting under the shine of Shady's newer, fresher top-flight MC. His sophomore album, Second Round's On Me, was similarly undermined by the shooting death of his cousin and fellow D12 member Proof three months prior.
Soulja Slim, too, who finally broke into the mainstream after his death with Juvenile's "Slow Motion" in 2004 (Slim had been murdered the previous November), was held back by release date drama. His No Limit Records debut, Give It 2 'Em Raw, was released while he was in jail and unable to promote the album; his followup, 2001's The Streets Made Me, came out under the same conditions.
Mac's situation is different, of course; his initial success with Blue Slide Park meant that he was already a bonafide star by the time WMWTSO and GO:OD AM were getting shafted by unfortunate release date scheduling. And he'll be fine in the future; GO:OD AM is yet another creative step forward, a marked change in tone and dynamic from his previous albums and one that shows that he's still evolving as an artist with plenty more to come. But if his sales live up to the 75,000 copies he's predicted to move, that would have been good enough for a No. 1 album in four of the 41 weeks of 2015 so far.
But hey, maybe this is all part of Mac Miller's master plan, to fly, if not under, then just at the bottom of the radar, allowing him the creative freedom to do what he wants without the steely-eyed scrutiny of being a Page Six superstar. They say that timing is everything. Maybe Mac Miller's timing is perfect after all.