Foreign Gists

The life and times of Mac Miller


In celebration of Mac Miller, we’re going to look through all the remarkable things he achieved during his time as a recording artist. Miller was undeniably one of hip-hop’s most innovative and exciting caucasian rappers and was the first after Eminem to achieve mainstream success on a global scale.

With humble beginnings, the late musician rose to fame at a similar time to the likes of Tyler The Creator, A$AP Rocky and Yung Lean during the early 2010s. While this era saw an influx of young black and Latino creatives rise out of Harlem in New York, a strange surge in talent came out of Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh. This saw artists such as Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa and Chevy Woods coming into the spotlight with quality rap. However, Mac Miller would outlast Khalifa in the long run as a rapper producing music with longevity.

Miller, from the outside, had a lot going for him and was even happily dating pop star Ariana Grande for a period. However, behind closed doors, the young artist struggled with substance abuse and chronic depression. The two, in conjunction, would ultimately lead to his death in 2018.

Speaking to the music media outlet Complex in 2013, the rapper explained that he once took promethazine to manage stress but unintentionally became addicted to the drug. He also disclosed that he heavily relied on lean to provide him with happiness, stating, “I loved lean, it was great, but I was not happy, and I was on lean very heavy. I was so fucked up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.”

Unfortunately, like so many rappers nowadays, Miller ended up not being able to escape the cycle of substance abuse and, in September 2018, died of an accidental overdose. However, akin to other late rappers such as 2pac and Biggie, Miller’s legacy lives on in his music and achievements. This article will look back at some of those critical accomplishments that led him to be the star he was.

A timeline of Mac miller’s accomplishments:

2010 – Signing to Rostrum Records

Miller (real name Malcolm McCormick) had an organic come-up right in his hometown, and with a flourishing rap scene in the city, he did not need to relocate to see success. With his career commencing around 2008, Miller got stuck into the local hip-hop scene. Through playing open mic nights, creating demos and networking around Pittsburgh, by 2010, aged 18, Miller was signing with Pittsburgh-based independent record label Rostrum Records. Rostrum Records had already successfully broken Wiz Khalifa as an artist, and Miller was their next prodigy.

On Rostrum Records, Miller released his breakthrough mixtapes K.I.D.S and Best Day Ever. Prior to his two mixtapes on the label, Miller had already recorded and released three independently.  But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, The Jukebox: Prelude to Class Clown and The High Life all performed exceptionally well on the mixtape-sharing platform DatPiff, and accumulated a lot of downloads individually. As a result of these five mixtapes, Miller had droves of fans, and now they were waiting for an album.

2011 – Blue Side Park and breakthrough into the mainstream

In 2011, Miller released his debut album Blue Side Park. Named after Pittsburgh’s Frick Park (known locally as “Blue Slide Park”), the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making it the first independently-distributed album to top the chart since 1995.

However, even though Miller had had a good run on Rostrum Records, with a number-one album under his belt, he became the centre of attention. Needing to take things to the next level, three years after Blue Side Park, in 2014, Miller’s contract with Rostrum came to an end. Not wanting to renew the contract, Miller formed his own label REMember Music. This would mark a new chapter for the rapper.

2011 – XXL Freshman feature

In 2011 Miller was featured in XXL’s ‘Freshman Class of 2011’ list, which included the likes of Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T and others. This led to him getting a lot of exposure as with a limited amount of placements, the ‘Freshman’ series is meant to certify the best up-and-coming rappers in the world.

2013 – ‘Mac Miller Day’ in the city of Pittsburgh

In September 2013, the former mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl, presented Miller with a key to the city and declared the date, September 20th, as ‘Mac Miller Day’ in the city. This tradition still exists in the city of Pittsburgh, although it is not an official holiday or widely recognised day.

2014 – Major label deal with Warner Music Group

In 2014, REMember Music became an imprint of Warner Bros and Miller entered his first major label deal. Already established with a solid fanbase at Warner Bros, Miller would release GO:OD AM in 2015, The Divine Feminine in 2016, and Swimming in 2018.

However, it was while at Warner Bros, with the pressures of touring constantly and having to sell units for the label to recoup, that McCormick began using drugs. GO:OD AM debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and The Divine Feminine at number two. Both albums surpassed platinum certifications selling over one million units.

2018 – Swimming and death

In 2018 Miller released his final album, Swimming. Released while he was still alive on August 3rd, 2018, the album was well-received and charted within the top five at number three on the Billboard 200. The project was nominated for ‘Best Rap Album’ at the following Grammy Awards but did not win.

Miller achieved a lot within eight years and, in that short amount of time, squeezed in 13 mixtapes, six albums, two EPs, and two live albums. Below you can listen to ‘Donald Trump,’ the song that really signifies the start of his career as his first-ever chart entry landing at number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100.