Most of Mac Miller’s professional career has been a 50/50 split of self-improvement and self-destruction. His 2015 album GO:OD AM marked a monumental shift towards self-improvement. The release of The Divine Feminine is a direct result of his new found love for the world and himself.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Miller has been one of the most intriguing stories to follow in hip hop. He burst onto the scene in 2010 as a goofy, frat-rap star who inspired an unimaginative period in hip hop, overrun with white, college-aged rappers like Mike Stud and Hoodie Allen. In 2011, he released his debut album Blue Slide Park through local label, Rostrum Records. The album was met with mixed reviews and left critics and fans alike questioning whether or not he had “found his sound.” Two years later, the same question shrouded the release of his album Watching Movies with the Sound Off, which found the Pittsburgh native toying with a darker sonic palette, questioning existence and embracing a more meditative approach to drugs.
In 2014 his career finally began to take its shape. He signed a deal with Universal Records, severing ties with Rostrum Records, and dropped his 10th mixtape Faces. In 2015 he made his major label debut with the album GO:OD AM which focused on his emergence as the victor in his battle with substance abuse. Since GO:OD AM he has cleaned himself up, moved back to Los Angeles, fallen in love and created an album celebrating life, love, the earth and women.
The Divine Feminine unabashedly shrugs off the rap archetype and replaces dabbing with waltzing. A minute and a half into the album a flurry of keys and a cinematic assortment of strings swoon and swell while Miller raps about the feelings he once had for his now ex-girlfriend. The mood shifts immediately with an Anderson .Paak feature on the radiant track “Dang!” A few songs later CeeLo Green joins Miller on the quietly groovy “We.” From front to back the album flows in part due to Miller’s neo-soul approach and his nonchalant presence on the microphone.
Similar to all of Miller’s projects, the features on the album are meticulous. On “Congratulations,” Bilal sings a heartfelt outro as a sample of what to expect on the rest of the project. The CeeLo Green and Anderson .Paak features add a certain funk that Miller couldn’t have achieved otherwise. Ty Dolla $ign’s slightly distorted hook on “Cinderella” flourishes with the clapping bass and electric guitar that is looped throughout the background. Finally, the surprise feature of the album is Kendrick Lamar on “God is Far, Sexy Nasty.” On the first verse and hook of the song they trade verses sporadically before Miller lays down a complete verse. Kendrick then knifes through the last hook in a sing song fashion that wouldn’t sound out of place on his 2011 mixtape Section.80.
Mac Miller is in love, with himself and the world and Ariana Grande. He’s never been one to stay within the confines of a genre as evidenced on The Divine Feminine. With the combination of his inner demons behind him, an emerging confidence in his sound, and a clearer vision for his career vision for his career, the best is yet to come from Mac Miller.
by Jesse Wiles