Tragedy brings new strength toward new ‘Circles’ album

by Cameron Smith

Staff writer

The accidental drug overdose of rapper Mac Miller in September 2018 sent tears and shock into not only the rap community, but also the entire music industry.

A month prior to his death, he released his fifth studio album “Swimming”  – which the public believed would be his last album. However, on Jan. 9, 2020, a surprise single, “Good News,” was released followed by the posthumous album entitled “Circles,” which was released Jan. 17, 2020. 

“Circles” is a 12-track album with a runtime of 48 minutes. Although this is a posthumous album, most of the tracks seemed to be completed already. Miller and Jon Brion had nearly finished the entire album before the rapper’s untimely death. Brion, one of the main composers and producers, was determined to complete the album in the artistic style of Miller himself.

Miller suffered from depression and anxiety – and you can see it more vividly and clearly in this album. The tracks bounce back and forth from lo-fi subtle beats to a full-blown acoustic set with a folk narrator.

Rap as an idea is meant to be loud and vulgar; however, Miller took that idea and flipped it upside down. Tracks such as “Complicated” focus on the struggles and hardships of overcoming mental illnesses – which affects one out of four people in their lifespan.

“Inside my head is getting pretty cluttered (Cluttered, cluttered) / I try, but can’t clean up this mess I made / ‘Fore I start to think about the future / First, can I please get through a day?”

Tracks such as “I Can See” – with uncredited vocal assistance from ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande – show how Miller was able to see the situation he was in and analyze it from an outside perspective. In the first verse, his hopefulness of trying to change tugs at heartstrings as the rapper intended to better his life.
“Guess, nothin’ compare to the feeling / The feeling amazing / Now I’m switchin’ location / ‘Cause Heaven too far when you live in the basement.”

In the second verse, he acknowledges and reflects on his fall from not only the top of the rap community, but as an individual himself. The intention of rediscovering himself was apparent and planned out perfectly.
Yeah, don’t tell me to stop / Let me keep goin’ until I cannot / Life is a fantasy until you wake up in shock / Hittin’ the ground, I’m hittin’ the ground, I fell from the top.”

Miller isn’t afraid to branch off from his original sound. What used to be hard hitting raps with hidden double entendre is traded in for synth-like vocals and angelic harmonies. The lyrical content goes from active drug use to finding inner peace.

Tracks such as “Woods” demonstrates Miller’s longing for a fleeing relationship.

I make this planet feel like home / Miss us, first time the door is closing / So far beyond all our control / You say it’s all so close to broken.

Although this isn’t Miller’s most lyrically gifted album, you can definitely see the growth and direction he was intending to achieve prior to his death. “Circles” is a closing for the era that is Mac Miller. He somehow managed to fill it with his mental process and wisdom from during the course of a decade full of his work. It’s the staple that keeps all the papers from his previous mixtapes and albums together.

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