The Pittsburgh-born rapper Mac Miller has established much attention in his career, but it seems he has become more famous since his premature death at 26 in 2018. He quickly evolved into a indie-rap sensation when he was co-signed with Wiz Khalifa for 5 albums and gained a lot of attention in the underground community for his mixtape KIDS in 2010 and his debut album Blue Slide Park in 2011.
The following year, Miller collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Juicy J, and Lil Wayne on Macadelic. Watching Movies with the Sound Off was later released in 2013 and subsequently he signed with Warner Bros. In 2015 Miller’s song “Weekend” was certified gold from his album GO:OD AM, work that is considered to showcase some of his best rapping. His fourth album The Devine Feminine saw much success, featuring musicians such as girlfriend Ariana Grande, Cee Lo Green, and longtime friend Anderson. Paak with the tune “Dang!” Following his break up with Grande, Swimming, debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart; however, Miller died only three months after its release. Miller’s career had only just begun, causing endless grief from fans, hungry for more of his talent and charisma.
Luckily, his posthumous album Circles, released January 17, 2020, gives Miller fans a sort of epilogue from beyond the grave. The record is intended as a continuation from Swimming. Knowing Miller’s goals, producer Jon Brion devoted himself to finishing Circles, making it a very important one for people to listen to because it gives us a look into Miller’s life during a serious time in his life and relays messages he had planned for us to hear.
The album opens with the song of the same name, where he eerily says, “well this is what it looks like before you fall.” The opening track focuses on his acknowledgment that he blames no one for how he feels directionless. The next tune, “Complicated” continues on about the complicated nature of life and how he struggles with getting through a day without complications. “Blue World” opens with an amazing beat, is more upbeat than the previous two on the record and showcases more of Miller’s rap skills. He talks about his life being blue with the absence of someone in his life, presumed to be Grande.
We’ve all been where Miller has been in the song “Good News” when he says, “that’s all they want to hear.” The first track released since his death is incredibly relatable in that people around him ask him how he is doing, but they get uncomfortable with hearing the truth if it’s not good news. This song re addresses some of the more somber themes from Swimming. The beat and rhythm in the track are relatively simple while the depth lies in his lyrics.
“I Can See” has some people wondering if Grande is heard singing on the track. It is still unconfirmed, but nonetheless it is a dreamy, sleepy time sounding track that is one of the more hopeful ones featured on the record. Another love song is “Surf” where he expresses adoration for someone – any chance to see some of Miller’s honest emotions is satisfying. “Everybody” follows, a cover of an Arthur Lee tune called “Everybody’s Gotta Live.” We see more of Miller’s self-introspection and theme of doubt throughout this album in the songs “Woods” and “Hand Me Downs,” both which take on a more R&B style.
Another theme in the album is blame, which stands out most in the song “That’s on Me,” where he selflessly takes the blame off another to himself. “Hands” explores Miller’s self-deprecating thoughts and behaviors and allows us to hear how he tries to convince himself of saying “there’s no reason to be down, rather fly around like there’s no ground.” There is most definitely drug influence in this song allowing us to realize what he was actually dealing with. The track is also one of the best ones who appreciate Miller’s traditional rap style. The album concludes with “Once a Day,” a track that was heard at Miller’s “Celebration of Life” tribute concert that followed his death. The song is an appropriate ending as Miller’s sings “everybody keep rushin’, why aren’t we taking our time?” a sort of reminder to those in toxic situations that things will be fine, take time for yourself to clear your mind at least once a day.
The album overall contributes more to the image that is ingrained in every fans mind of Mac Miller – a legendary rapper who uses music to explore his feelings with a contagious authenticity that speaks and relates to many people. Circles is an opportunity for fans to gain more insight on his untimely death during the height of his career. Many were left with a multitude of unanswered questions; however, this final album offers closure and the greatest gift of all – more of his music when we thought there would never be again.