If Mac Miller’s ascent into stardom has faced its share of music industry woes, it’s certainly been hidden well. The 19-year-old Pittsburgh MC has been sporting a shit-eating grin ever since breaking through with his 2010 mixtape K.I.D.S.—and with good reason. It’s a peculiar time in music when artists are able to cultivate such a colossal following (check his million-plus Twitter followers and sold-out shows) without the backing of a major label, radio, or even a debut album. But with such hype, come corresponding expectations, and on Blue Slide Park, the XXL Freshman looks to meet them.
In ID Labs, Mac found a production team whose vibrant sonic landscapes provide the ideal backdrop for his soft, smooth flow. It’s a pairing that works great, and the fact that Big Jerm and E. Dan are on duty behind the boards for the majority of the album creates a singular feel throughout, helping to continue to craft a Mac Miller sound that’s been evolving throughout his mixtapes.
Inputs from the other contributing producers such as the buzzing Clams Casino, and Ritz Reynolds result in some of the most experimental moments of the album. The spacey intro (“English Lane”), a curious 36-second long instrumental piece (“Hole in The Pocket”) and the introspective closer (“One Last Thing”), all illustrate an inclination to go outside the box.
Lyrically, the album has its conflicting moments. On “Party on 5th Avenue,” Mac shows an appreciation for hip-hop well beyond his years, rhyming over a clever revamping of DJ Kool’s 1996 “Let Me Clear My Throat” (originally by way of the 45 King’s 1987 “The 900 number”). But then there are songs like “Up All Night,” an anthem for underage high school drinkers everywhere. Catchy, sure, but anyone of legal age can’t help but cringe as Mac brags about taking shots with no chaser.
Mac Miller’s image is one so closely tied to the idea of being a regular, fun loving, kid. With this, there was opportunity on Blue Slide Park to genuinely capture some real elements of youth, and the album doesn’t capitalize on the opportunity. While “Diamonds and Gold,” is a creative look into struggles of female adolescence, “Missed Calls,” a story of a relationship gone sour, ends up an all too familiar and cliché.
On “Loitering,” Mac raps “I’m way too old to be chillin’ at the playground, never be too old to be chillin’ at the playground.” In many respects, the line embodies the dichotomy of Mac Miller. On one hand, his appeal has grown out of his silly, carefree enthusiasm. On the other, there’s room to evolve. The talent is there for him to outlast the generally precarious shelf life of the latest buzzing White rapper, but the jury is still out whether he’ll pursue an artistic vision, or ride out the Jonas Brothers-esque commercial appeal. Luckily, Blue Slide Park is impressive enough that listeners should want to find out. —Neil Martinez-Belkin (@Neil_MB)