“Hundred thousand haters writin’ bout my jams/Want a number one independent album? I’m your man,” Mac Miller raps on his new mixtape’s first proper song, “Desperado.” Both clauses are true, and both are crucial to the makeup of Macadelic. In just the last year, the Pittsburgh rapper has propelled himself from buzzed about upstart to the first indie rapper to hit No. 1 on Billboard in over a decade and a half; from a wide-eyed teenager to one of the most marketable brands in the game.
With all his success, Mac Miller still can’t even legally buy a drink at the bar. On one hand, the accomplishments have made the youth easy to overlook; on the other, intentionally or not, he’s kept that youth in the forefront, with music that’s often viewed as overly bubbly or elementary. Though commercially impactful, Mac’s debut, Blue Slide Park, was chopped down by many critics, slighted for representing the very same youthful exuberance that positioned him with a devoted enough fanbase to top the charts. But he’s still a kid, and some of the negative words seemed to have hit home. Macadelic, in many ways, is a response to them.
The mixtape’s finest moments come when Mac isn’t in the upbeat mood that most are used to, but instead becomes contemplative and even unsure. “The Question,” featuring Lil Wayne, may be the tape’s best song—and it’s not because of Weezy (who, granted, does shine during the free-flowing final verse). The track sets the listener into a trance, with its repetition and tempo, as the 2011 XXL Freshman kicks cliches but allows them to come across with authenticity and relatability. He admits, “Sometimes I wonder who the fuck I am,” and then questions “What am I doing here?” and “Do we ever get to know the truth?”
“Clarity,” too, is a bit more dark and uncertain than the Rostrum Records rapper typically comes off, but it shows maturation as an artist and person. The vulnerability continues on “America,” where he says, “Pain a funny thing when you can’t figure out the source.”
“Thoughts From A Balcony,” produced by “Donald Trump”-creator Sap, is a clear deviation from Mac’s biggest hit. “Said I’ll make it big when everybody know me/Well, I made it big and everybody phony,” he laments on the bluesy jam, with its hook wondering, “All we got is memories, so what the fuck is time?” But he’s able to weave in some underlying positivity, as just a few lines later, he raps, “Go ’head, judge me, hate cost money, but this love free.”
There are fun moments here, too. “Loud” should be recognized as Mac’s best party song to date, while “Ignorant,” featuring Cam’ron, again displays the unlikely chemistry of the two Big L disciples, and the Juicy J collaboration “Lucky Ass Bitch” is addictive.
The other friends that come along also add to the experience, as Kendrick Lamar (“Fight The Feeling”) and Casey Veggies (“America”) display their lyrical firepower, and Sir Michael Rocks (“Aliens Fighting Robots”) is as smooth as ever. The production is lush, airy, and ethereal, as ID Labs, Clams Casino and Ritz Reynolds, among others, offer the proper sonic set to parallel Mac’s moods.
There’s an element of irony with Macadelic: By making a tape rooted in saying, ‘Forget what people think, I’m gonna continue to do me,’ Mac Miller is managing to buck some of the criticisms that have been leveled in his direction. He’s becoming more three-dimensional, revealing depth while not abandoning what got him here. The honeymoon with fame and riches is already over, it seems (though be sure, he’s still enjoying himself). That may not be great for Mac, but it’s a already helped his music. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)