ROUNDBALL DAILY

Mac Miller’s last two albums were so incredibly relatable, it’s genius

shows Mac Miller, subject of the article

Photo: Clarke Tolton for RollingStone.com

There isn’t an album I’ve heard that more perfectly mirrors my life over the past two years than either of Mac Miller’s most recent outputs, GOOD:AM or Swimming.

This isn’t a revelatory statement– I know there are millions of devoted Mac fans out there, still mourning his ridiculously premature and tragic death, which still feels surreal even now.

But for fans like me, who knew him for his upbeat, idealistic joints like “Best Day Ever” and “Senior Skip Day,” and who connected with him back then but only more recently took a deep dive into his newer stuff, his loss sucks even more.

He just became my favorite artist. But of course, he’s gone.

Now, I’m a single guy in my early 30s, living, somewhat sadly, in an apartment with my cousin, in a fairly small town on the Connecticut shoreline. I didn’t grow up here, and it’s a place that I have no real connection to. I work nights and weekends, on a somewhat cool job but one that severely limits my social life. I often feel depressed, disconnected and alone.

But every morning– ok, check that– every morning that I feel like it, I get up and go running down this five-mile stretch that leads from my apartment to the beach, which is unjustifiably beautiful, and something I feel grateful to live near. I always feel better when I’m on those runs, and I always listen to Mac Miller along the way.

There’s something about those two albums that just get me — my situation, my hopes, my dreams, my fears, and even, truly, my dissatisfaction and angst.

Take the song “Weekend” for example, from GOOD:AM. That was literally the soundtrack to my winter.

The yawn-like “uhhh uhh uhh…” sounds at the beginning, accompanied by the trumpets playing alongside them, gives a beat that feels something like, “Yup, this is the way life is, and it’s dull and it’s dreary and boring and anxiety-producing.”

It reflects the helplessness that some of us feel on a daily basis–stuck at our jobs and therefore locked into our living situations, powerless to make that swift, sweeping change that our guts are screaming at us about from inside our stomachs.

That’s how I felt each morning, waking up and putting on my Jordan hoodie, and my black Nike sweatpants, and pounding three cups of coffee while playing FIFA before I worked up enough ATP energy to walk outside into the cold and take those first few steps that turned into an endorphin-producing run.

The beat below the groaning tinges with optimism, even as Mac throws out the lines: “I got a system filled up with toxins/broken heart and I was (expletive) that (expletive).”

The next verse hit home with me even more so:

“Go long days, longer nights, talk too much, the wrong advice, all the lights and call my life, doctor, doctor, will you help me, get me healthy, keep it low, this where hell be”

I work nights, often times until 3:30 a.m., and you can imagine how those days feel. Long, lonely days before work; longer nights indeed.

The chorus reassures you–kind of. “But I’ll be good by the weekend,” Mac sings, with the trumpet still following its forlorn path, albeit at a faster pace and accompanied by bells like the ones Macklemore used in “Can’t Hold Us.”

I used to think, “This song is like my life, except… I don’t get weekends off.”

But it’s not just that song that’s hit me in recent months. “Ladders,” particularly the live version that he performed with Jon Batiste & Stay Human, randomly on the Stephen Colbert show, hit me like an uppercut from Pernell Whitaker (RIP), only, because of its relentless positivity.

“Somehow we gotta find a way/ No matter how many miles it takes,” Mac declares in the beginning, the use of the word “miles” definitely syncretic with me on those long runs.

This song was a staple while on my way to awkward first dates with girls from Match.com. The line:

“I wouldn’t wait forever, just shoot yo’ shot. We don’t need no more, no extras. We all we got, we all we got…” That was all I needed to hear.

Then the trumpets start going and it takes you to another level, and Mac goes on:

“Well all the lights flicker, I’m hittin’ the right switches, I’m living this life different, missing the flight bullshittin’… I had a plan, it changed, you can’t stand the rain, little delay but I came and you cool with it. I don’t flip, trip, or lose my grip, and I don’t know it all but I do know this, yeah. Before you know me, better know self…”

I mean, how do you listen to him absolutely pinpoint those verses and not gain a little confidence?

I also loved the cheekier “Dang!” featuring Anderson .Paak, and “Self Care,” which is a great anthem to reassure yourself with as you think about working out and eating healthy, and staying away from alcohol.

Even “That’s Life,” which features Mac but is from 88-Keys with Sia, is another one that hits you right in the soul.

Of course, as a basketball fan, the line: “Everything is Jazz and I’m Stockton,” elicits a smile, but the chorus: “I know it seems a little bit strange sometimes/ everybody live a little, everybody die/ But that’s life… what you gonna do?”

Man, that hits harder than a Stockton screen.

Two other songs– “Wings,” which has just a terrific beat and which I fittingly had stuck in my head for an entire day while in the airport, and “2009,” are especially worth mentioning.

In “Wings,” Mac goes:

“I don’t know what it’s all about/ running through too many thoughts to count/ still ain’t adding up/ I’ll let you know when I’ve had enough”

I found the line “still ain’t adding up” perfectly symmetrical with my lack of fulfillment and my utter bewilderment at the way the world works: what with 40-hour work weeks, a feeling of, “Why am I doing this, really?” and a mystified attempt at calculating the necessity of spending so many hours chasing paychecks and simultaneously failing miserably at making the world a better place.

It wasn’t adding up, to me.

And I was letting some people know that I’d had enough. (Shoutout to you, mom and dad).

But again, there’s hope, like in “2009,” where I found a credo that could help me beat down past demons and to remind myself that I’ve grown, that I’m better now than in past days when I worried myself sick. It’s a welcome reminder that things change, and that you can take what you’ve learned and truly move on to better days.

“It ain’t 2009 no more…” man, that’s enough to give you goosebumps and bring out tears.

One last anecdote– and bear with me on this one.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Buddha in recent weeks, and how his realization that dissatisfaction and emptiness can be a large part of life actually led him to question the true nature of reality and the tricks our mind play on us on a daily basis.

Part of realizing the way your mind works is to meditate, to focus on the breath. In doing so, you start to recognize that thoughts will come and go without your control, because that’s just what your brain does. You can watch them form and float by from a distance, and you don’t have to buy into your thoughts like a prisoner. Instead, you can sit back, detatched, and just marvel at the fact that your brain is doing its thing, thinking just as naturally as your heart pumps and your lungs breathe. It’s just an organ, doing its job.

All of that angst I talked about can have a pretty harsh effect on you, but when you realize that it doesn’t have to work this way, it helps.

And so when Mac goes:

“Every day I wake up and breathe. I don’t have it all but that’s alright with me,” it hits home too.

A few lines later, he says:

“My whole team about to figure it out,” and I can’t help but think, yeah, me too.

He was figuring it out. He was on the right track.

It sucks to know that Mac Miller passed before he could find his true peace. But if there’s some solace to be taken, it’s that, at least during those morning runs, he’s helping me find mine.

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