Rapper Mac Miller reportedly died of an apparent overdose at the age of 26.
If there’s one thing that has emerged in the days since Mac Miller’s tragically untimely death at 26, it’s the glowing reputation he had among his peers, who described the rapper as one of the gentlest, most talented figures in hip-hop.
A playlist of Miller’s essential tracks could encompass hours of music, but for an introduction to his best works and a look at his career trajectory, start with these eight songs.
“Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza” (2010)
It’s hard to listen to an 18-year-old Miller rap “I got a hundred billion flows to come” on “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza” and not feel sad. The standout track from his 2010 mixtape “K.I.D.S.” introduced Miller to his young fans as their peer, enjoying a simple teenaged existence while working toward something more meaningful: “Yeah, I live a life pretty similar to yours / Used to go to school, hang with friends and play sports / Every single summer taking trips to the shore / And that was all gravy, but I knew I wanted more.”
“Nikes on my Feet” (2010)
Built around a brilliant sample from Nas’ “The World Is Yours,” “Nikes On My Feet” was one of the examples from “K.I.D.S” that proved something that longtime Miller fans always knew to be true – that his work was more sophisticated than the other “frat rappers” with whom he was often grouped. Like Kid Cudi – another rapper whose career was shaped by his personal struggles – Miller’s music eventually would shake off the sneering term, and he would earn most, but perhaps not all, of the critical respect he deserved.
“Donald Trump” (2011)
Miller chose a prescient inspiration for his started-from-the-bottom anthem with the chorus “Take over the world when I’m on my Donald Trump (expletive).” Bonus points go to Miller’s interpolation of Sufjan Stevens’ song “Vesuvius” for the track’s sample, proof of the rapper’s boundless musical curiosity that many admirers have spoken about in the days after his death.
By the time his 2013 album “Watching Movies with the Sound Off” was released, Miller had experienced enough pain to give his release a newfound depth, dedicating “REMember” to a friend who had died and rapping with the full weight of the world on his shoulders. In a sad twist of fate, Miller is now a figure who will be mourned in the lyrics of his peers.
“The Way,” Ariana Grande feat. Miller (2013)
Of all Miller’s hits that make for painful listening today, “The Way” is uniquely tough, considering the messiness that was his and Ariana Grande’s story in the months before his death; their breakup, her quick engagement, a public statement alluding to their “toxic” relationship and his reserved acceptance of their situation in interviews after their split. And yet, way back in 2013, Miller and Grande were just collaborators, brought together to make a single that ranks among both their best.
“Weekend” feat. Miguel (2015)
“Weekend” shows Miller still rapping about weekends spent partying, but unlike his more carefree tracks of his earlier years, he spent his weeknights fretting over his increased fame, and with it, his growing anxiety. Still, he doesn’t sound consumed by his demons, his gaze still fixed on happier nights ahead.
“Dang!” feat. Anderson .Paak (2016)
Mac Miller was a rapper’s rapper, with voices around the industry emerging to remember his kind demeanor and his prodigious talents over the past few days. Miller always had excellent taste in collaborators, and his Anderson .Paak-assisted “Dang!” is a highlight from Miller’s “Divine Feminine” album, a cheery-sounding chronicle of a less-than-rosy relationship. If there’s a trend in Miller’s discography, it’s the rapper’s optimism in the face of personal dramas, which he carried to the end in his standout follow up to “Divine Feminine,” 2018’s “Swimming.”
“Self Care” (2018)
After weathering the storm of public speculation following his breakup with Grande and a rumored DUI, Miller returned with his “Self Care” single, reclaiming one of 2018’s trendiest terms to explain the struggles he has overcome, and the heights he has reached. Listening to the song in the wake of his death is an important reminder that sobriety is a journey, not a fixed status, and that recovery is a fight and not a victory. “Self Care” is a heartbreaking look at Miller in one of his bright spots and a reminder that we’re lucky to have had him with us as long as we did in the first place.
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