Do you remember Easy Mac? He’s like if the Beastie Boys wanted to be Lil Wayne, but instead got trapped in a Pittsburgh bedroom. Do you remember how raspy you made your voice on But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy? Listening to the 37-minute tape, I always worry you’re just not taking care of yourself. You sound like you need a cup of tea and a cough drop.
I don’t mean to be patronizing, Mac, because beneath all that—the laughably juvenile content and dated flows—you sound fucking good. You can really rap, man. We immortalize 2009, but 2007 could have been your year, too, with a touch of polish.
I love the way you open the project with a declarative growl. You’re in here. You mean business. You’re a young spitter with something to fucking say—albeit, that part you’ve yet to work out—and you’re going to rap. It was the force and confidence of it all that sold me on this now-relic. You believed in yourself on Mackin’, and because of that, we believed in you, too. We believed in you to Swimming—if we were lucky enough to take that ride with you from your inception as an artist.
It’s impossible to listen to Easy Mac without nodding your head and smirking. Your wordplay and punchlines were heavy-handed and, in that way, sweet. Again, I don’t mean to sound patronizing, but it was just so evident you had a gift, but also so apparent that you had so far to go before you could be a fully formed artist. Your potential was endearing, and despite the dated soundscapes that keep Mackin’ from being a beloved earworm, once you tune into the raps, it’s equally impossible to tune out.
All of the great highs and offenses of Mackin’ live on “Bars For Days.” From the title to quips about spitting venom in that coarse vocal affect, we get it. We see your vision. You want to punchline your way to the top, and considering your immense growth from 2007 to 2018, there’s a fresh reverence for your humble beginnings. And the samples on “Cruise!” You have such an ear for music, even in your most undeveloped form. You were onto something special with this debut tape, even if you buried it beneath jockish posturing, a quick “faggot” drop, and oddly hard persona.
I can’t decide which track is my favorite, but “J’s On My Feet” is quite the contender when you realize that you may have out A$AP Rocky’d A$AP Rocky, from your chopped and screwed opening to the syrupy chord you dunk the whole track in. I’m not sure if this is a song “for the ladies” or what was going through your head when you made this twitching sex jam, but for some reason it makes me smile to know you were down with Houston sensibilities way back when. The musicality and reverence for the culture were always there. And, hey, having a “different girl for every day of the week” sounds very impressive as is rhyming in MapQuest with mattress. Stunt on ‘em, Mac.
Then we have “My Biography,” which is the closest Mac Miller song on the tape. Maybe out of necessity or a moment of artistic genius, your voice is smoother, and the beat is more downtempo and contemplative. The song is more focused on wordplay and making money than the standard Easy Mac fare of women and weed. You’re almost singing, six years before Watching Movies when you discover singing can set you free. In retrospect, six years doesn’t seem all that long. Six is such a small number. Boy, did you know how to grow up.
You must have known your natural voice had its own appeal because we get even more of it on “Smoke Signals.” I love that one, Mac, because you’re so focused on being the most creative rapper you can be. We finally get some punchy content and a verse packed with allusions, your other forte. You do some figuring out on this tape, Mac. That’s what everyone admired about you: you grew in real-time, all the time. You never wasted a moment if you could help it.
I won’t kid anyone. Easy Mac is not perfect. There’s a reason you dropped the moniker and took only a few tracks from your debut tape with you onto The Jukebox. There’s a reason we snicker when we press play; there’s a reason to cringe, too. But who cares about all of that when we know you get it right soon enough? What matters, now, is that we have this memory of you. We have your genesis sprouting from our fingertips. We can come to know you from start to finish without so much as a second thought.
So, thank you for giving us Easy Mac. Thank you for giving us yourself at all times, even the ugly times and the unformed times. Thank you for growing into Mac Miller, a rapper so beloved, we can excuse him for saying he had “Bars For Days.”