“They passed me on the way to my own funeral” -Kenneth Koch, “When The Sun Tries To Go On”
In all my time spent writing Year of Mac, I have spent double the time personally contending with Mac’s passing, to mixed results. Releases “Time” and “That’s Life” both struck me down, but my duty to Mac’s music built me back up. To this day, I struggle to believe he is gone, which might be useful considering I’ve tasked myself with keeping his legacy alive. There’s so much life to Mac Miller, and yet when I read the above passage in Kenneth Koch’s long poem, “When The Sun Tries To Go On,” my mind went immediately to the deathly prophetic quality of Mac Miller’s music.
How harrowing, how somber, how impressive, too, is Mac’s work as it relates to his life pre-and-postmortem. How could it be that one man so alive could be so enrapt in death? And furthermore, how could it be that in 2015, with the release of GO:OD AM, we passed Malcolm on the way to his funeral? How could we not have stopped? How could we not have appreciated him with more vigor? Why didn’t we foresee the end and make the most of the present?
When I listen to GO:OD AM, I have questions, and I have regrets. Sometimes, I believe that GO:OD AM is Mac’s most emotional album. After all, it houses “Perfect Circle / God Speed,” the most difficult Mac song to listen to following his passing. For all the melancholy I could pack into this piece, there is too much life to Mac’s music. To case his work through the lens of death and death alone would be a disservice to the man Mac was, and to his legacy.
You see, GO:OD AM was Mac Miller's everlasting rap album. Made to feel like a classic, the record was about not only his endurance as an artist but also his ability to transcend death as a man. Though death ultimately took him, on the album, Mac eschewed the very type of death that he would face. At the height of his pain, he duped us. He lived; he woke up; he showed us an overexposed portrait of fight and recovery. Mac used GO:OD AM to give us his heart.
More importantly, Mac Miller was an everlasting musician. He mused on death, but he always made it to the next moment. Paired together, his obsession with death and his lust for life made GO:OD AM a confounding and complex listen. Like I wrote, questions and regrets. We wade into this album, to the sleepy sound of Mac singing "It’s been a minute since I’d been awake," and we exit the album on a different astral plane. There is so much living that takes place in that space. There is money, drugs, love, and near-death. There is family, and there is Mac’s regret. There is also his salvation.
At first, I wanted this piece to be the story of GO:OD AM. Some hardy lyrical analysis, some connections made, some points drawn, and then we’d be out of here. But that piece did not come to me. What came to me is this: Mac Miller loved being alive. In every corner of his music, of this album, all I can find is the thrill of the coming day. Maybe Mac knew his days were numbered, by the proximity of his vocation, or perhaps his lust for life was inborn. Regardless, all I can find in Mac’s music now is the excess of the lithe and fertile.
Mac Miller’s music, now, is like the first day of summer. It is splendid and long-awaited. It balloons out with heat and knowing that we spend the first half of the year lusting after. It is a memory, and it is the space where we make memories. That is the story of GO:OD AM. On GO:OD AM, Mac lives. He scares us; he comes close to the edge; there’s a fade-to-almost-black. He lives. The album becomes a vehicle of memories. Mac can bask in his summertime. Whether he’s breaking the law, fucking your bitch, or laying up with the love of his life, Mac is thriving in his own life story.
The first time I heard GO:OD AM, I was being driven in the car by my Bad Bunny-loving father. The fall sun was high in the sky and bearing down on my eyes. I had to squint to see each song title on my iPod—yes, I use an iPod. I looked fondly at my father, and he asked why I was smiling. I told him the music was just perfect. The anniversary of GO:OD AM and my birthday are just days apart. I always felt like Mac gifted me this album. I always felt like he heard me say to myself I feel so stuck, and he came with an album that showed me how to live.
GO:OD AM is an album unlike any other album in Malcolm’s discography. It is not his love album, his survival album, his depression album, but is his life album. He finally made life music, and he made it so well. GO:OD AM beams. GO:OD AM soars. There’s a celestial quality to the music that cannot be adequately named or overstated.
I could spend several thousand words telling you how and why GO:OD AM is a strong body of work. But you’re here, on the page with me, you already know that. You’ve felt Mac’s life and felt your own life in his. You’ve melted into his words and reformed as a stronger person. You know the power of Mac Miller. Far be it from me to waste a second reminding you. The point of Year of Mac has always been to inspire a community; to help a sea of people grieve an immeasurable loss. Just play GO:OD AM, you know how the story goes.
If we passed Malcolm on the way to his funeral—I’m sure—he would be laughing in the casket. None of us would be crying. The moment would be radiant. The truth is, Mac Miller loved life. Loved it with all he had. And he gave us that love with every song. GO:OD AM is a triumph because Mac Miller wakes up because he wanted us to wake up because he knew there was so much life still to live.
He’s finally awake. Good morning.