Two years on from his unfortunate passing, the tragedy of Mac Miller has only revealed itself to a far greater extent. Artistically, he was on a skyward trajectory and approaching something greater. Something that has become painfully apparent with the posthumous release of Circles and every subsequent listen of both The Divine Feminine and Swimming. This was an artist who was just getting started.
I remember that first time I heard ‘Donald Trump’ in high school. In sonics and ethos, it was a distinctly potent mix of that signature hip-hop bravado, carefree nihilism, and playful irreverence. As time went on, from a fan’s point of view, Mac Miller appeared to grow more and more comfortable with himself in the realm of creative output. At the risk of delving into cliches, he was really coming into his own.
It’s certainly open for debate, but it is to my belief that The Divine Feminine represented the renaissance of Mac Miller. Because this was right around when the world experienced genuine vulnerability – not from a curated public persona moaning about tired champagne problems like dealing with fame or figuring out who was “real”, but from a genuinely human place. Coloured by the context of his personal relationships (particularly with Ariana Grande), The Divine Feminine – as well as each subsequent release – has since gained an added layer of emotional texture. One that simultaneously makes listening that much more of a joy and that much more heartbreaking.
Of course, this only continued with the companion albums Swimming and Circles. In the present day, the former can be interpreted as a love letter to every person who enjoyed his music; while the latter now serves as a melancholic – yet somehow life-affirming – bid farewell. Somber beyond its individual context.
This is where it certainly isn’t open for debate – Mac Miller has never soared higher than he has with Circles. Graceful, well-considered, self-aware, authentic. The production is dreamy, comparable to that moment you wake up from a weekend nap in the sun, stretched across almost fifty minutes (though you wouldn’t mind if it stretched across infinity). It gently lures you in and you find yourself falling in headfirst. The lyricism speaks for itself… introspection has never been more palatable. In an alternate universe, perhaps he would have found catharsis and comfort in Circles, just as the rest of us had.
The bleak reality, however, offers little catharsis and even less comfort. We’ll never know who or indeed what he could have become with the luxury of time. But in the hearts and minds of fans around the world, he will forever be Mac Miller: the man who would be king.