It seems that few things can be accurately predicted in Hip-Hop this year; We’ve had Dr. Dre drop an all-new album upon us, we’ve had a huge departure in style from Tyler, The Creator, and a sensationalist beef between Drake and Meek Mill. One thing anyone could have easily predicted however is the continuation of Mac Miller’s transformation from teenage rap hullabaloo to critically-acclaimed lyrical oddity through his latest album, GO:OD AM.
It’s been over two years since Miller’s previous album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, a record that characterizes what the man himself calls a darker period in his life. With the release of 2011’s chart-topping debut album Blue Slide Park, Mac set himself on a career path inextricably bound to his “frat-rap” fraternization (Easy Mac with the cheesy raps anyone?). Always one to have deep respect for great music and artistry, Mac found himself ill-equipped up until 2012 to translate his passion into genre-defining Hip-Hop. Turning to promethazine and codeine in the wake of atrocious album reviews (including that famous 1.0 from Pitchfork) during his 2012 Macadelic tour, Mac was beset with threats of litigation from Lord Finesse and yes, seriously, Donald Trump. Speaking to Complex in 2013, Mac professed:
“I love lean; it’s great,” says Mac. But during the Macadelic tour things got out of hand. “I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy,” he admits. “I was so fucked up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.”
After abusing lean for months, Mac frequently reverted into spiraling drug binges. It was only in the November of that year that, in the face of a worsening addiction, he quit for good. This set the context for Watching Movies With The Sound Off, with morbid, self-deprecating druggy raps permeating its bars. The result was a much better received album than its preppy predecessor, if less commercial.
In May 2014, Mac divorced from the indie label that made him(Rostrum Records), and he descended into a depression, citing cocaine, codeine, and angel dust, which culminated in the hard-hitting mixtape Faces. Faces proved to be a turning point in both Mac’s production and his lyricism. It also pushed the young mc into what seems to be a sobriety that’s here to stay. Speaking to Billboard in August, Mac stated that he had sobered up, and as a result, was in a better place. Given Mac’s past use of using albums as cathartic release from depression and addiction, one would expect more of the same from GO:OD AM.
GO:OD AM is decidedly brighter and cheerier than its predecessor, with Mac chanting “The world don’t give a fuck about your loneliness” on “Rush Hour.” This will come as no surprise to those who have closely followed Miller’s life recently, but to others, it is nonetheless a pleasant surprise. Steered entirely by production duo ID Labs, GO:OD AM is sonically stellar throughout while simultaneously experimenting with many different sounds. A good example of this could be found if you compared the sound of the tracks “When In Rome” and “Festival” for a taste of this diversity. Nearly every single song is a production highlight, from the choppiness of “Two Matches” to the beat switches on “100 Grandkids” to the wobbly bass of “Time Flies,” and that’s just three tracks in succession. From that, “Weekend” segues seamlessly into “Clubhouse.” Tracks like “Break The Law” and “ROS” are truly godly, smooth and luxurious in their production.
Of course, there are a couple of songs that bloat the album, as was the case with Watching Movies With The Sound Off, interestingly. “In The Bag,” “Perfect Circle/God Speed,” and “Jump” aren’t particularly interesting sonically, the former smacking of a strip club banger and cutting a strange figure around the upbeat, rich songs that precede it. “When In Rome” will likely be a production highlight for most, taking into account its aggressive nature. Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. The instrumental feels generic, the percussion its only real highlight. “Festival,” however, is an excellent track to round off this album, its ethereal synths reminiscent of ascension in a greater sense than “Ascension” itself. All in all though, GO:OD AM is impeccably produced, ID Labs taking us to soaring heights.
As far as Mac’s vocal/lyrical performance is, GO:OD AM represents a small step back lyrically from his previous release, but is offset by his vivacity over these beats. The lyrics on this album are certainly less complex and intricate than previous releases Faces and Watching Movies With The Sound Off, but just because they’re simpler doesn’t mean they’re less worthy of acclaim. On “Doors,” the Tyler, The Creator-produced opener, Mac sets a brilliant tone for the album, plainly and calmly showing an astute understanding of life and addressing his drug issues with just one short verse and a bridge.
Of course, there are classically-vulgar rhymes, but Mac keeps them clever, such as “Your mouth runnin’ like a prostitutes/Keep your head to yourself.” Easter eggs are pervasive in the lyrical content of this album as well, with Mac referencing the titles of other songs in different songs, such as referencing “Cut The Check” during “In The Bag” and referencing “Time Flies” on “100 Grandkids.” The tone on many of these songs is one of pride and braggadocio, evidenced by the rodomontading on “100 Grandkids,” “Brand Name” and “When In Rome.” However, there are also moments when Mac lets his guard down with softer lyrics, such as in “ROS,” which follows “When In Rome” to push this contrast even further.
The most surprising highlight of this album, however, are its skits. You’d probably have to go way back to 2012 to find the last skits that were actually funny, with Kendrick Lamar’s infamous “bring me my muthafuckin’ Dominos” in good kid, m.A.A.d city, but the skits in GO:OD AM definitely don’t take anything away from it. ScHoolboy Q and Domo Genesis make entertaining appearances on their respective tracks, and of course, there’s the quotable “Would you vote for a woman president?” In a plush and luxurious collection of songs, its moments like these that help break the monotony.
Mac also brings the best out of his features without letting them overshadow his own performances, à la Travi$ Scott‘s Rodeo. TDE’s Ab-Soul delivers on ‘Two Matches’ with a a swaggering, intelligent verse worthy of the track’s excellent Sounwave production, before contributing to the bridge on ‘Perfect Circle/God Speed’. R&B artist Miguel absolutely crushes his feature on ‘Weekend’, crooning a smooth chorus with Mac before extending his full vocal range over the song’s outro. Juicy J is utilised well on ‘Break The Law’, as is Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano on the albums graceful closing track, ‘Festival’. By far the album’s most intriguing feature, surprisingly, is Chief Keef’s verse on ‘Cut The Check’. I’d forgive you if you couldn’t recognise him laying vocals on this, because I certainly couldn’t. His lyrics are, as usual, shit, (“Walked up the stairs look at my shoes like them cleaner/But I should’ve worn the other ones cause them better”) but Keef’s voice sounds much cleaner, and more sober dare one say it? The album’s only mediocre feature happens on ‘Time Flies’, with religious leader/NBA star Lil B cutting in with three monologic teachings in which he encourages meditation on one’s success. Philosophical? Perhaps. Gimmicky? Well, a little bit.
Mac’s great sense of humour is as present as ever, with all of his braggadocio backed by the line of the year: “You want war? N64 Blitz champion (sucker).” As for his singing, it’s passable, although I’m really not a fan of the vocalising going on in the background of “Ascension” (woawoaugoahou!) and it creeps in on too many tracks on this album, but then again “Do As Drake Does.” Mac takes that maxim to more than just his singing however, as this album is one in a long line of releases this year mysteriously bereft of a poppy lead single. Along with Drake, Vince Staples, Jay Rock, Travi$ Scott and even Kendrick Lamar, GO:OD AM is yet another focused release that doesn’t betray its own sonic coherence. While it’s refreshing to hear an album from Mac Miller in this state of mind, it’s also pleasurable. GO:OD AM is replete with lushness, reflection and positivity, and while it could be a couple of tracks shorter, one cannot detract from Mac in his attempts to convey this mental state fully. GO:OD AM looks poised for success, and, on the back of a $10m deal with Warner Bros., artists should Do As Mac Does.
Support Mac by buying his album on iTunes here or by streaming it below on Spotify.