“Programs,” “Small Worlds,” and “Buttons” are a series of calculated vignettes from an artist in turmoil.
Mac Miller is dealing with the aftermath of break-up. Ariana Grande is going through it too (albeit, more quickly), while being accused of being dismissive of Miller’s noted history of drug abuse. Last week, Mac was arrested for a DUI. This week, Ariana and her new boo, SNL’s Pete Davidson, posted some innocent pictures of themselves engaging in Harry Potter cosplay. The optics are already super messy and the real story behind their break up has yet to be aired out. Amidst all this drama, it only makes sense for Mac to be drawn back to his art, his first love, in an attempt to reconnect his fanbase.
Looking back, his hiatus of sorts after 2016’s The Divine Feminine may not have been by choice - personal strife and romantic turmoil could have definitely been a key factor in his decision to stop pulling back the curtains every few months for a new music video, or single, or mixtape. After the cultish following Mac Miller received for his psychedelic-driven run of projects in 2013 - Watching Movies With the Sound Off; Faces; Delusional Thomas - the increasingly shy rapper started to draw back from the public eye. 2015’s GO:OD AM, which was filled with features from the likes of Miguel to Little Dragon, and sought to position him as an industry staple, had a muted impact upon reception. Still, it teased the artistic progression that was going to be fully expressed on The Divine Feminine, making it an understated entry into in his discography.
At the time, his relationship and pop status alongside someone of Ariana Grande’s stature had started to overshadow his own work. However, Mac did not allow this to prevent his self-expression. Instead, he even took this period of wavering focus from the public eye in order to truly experiment with his style. Since the start of his career, no matter what Mac Miller has set his mind to, he has pursued it with vigor and precision, much to his credit. And for the left-field fusion of The Divine Feminine, he rightfully branched out and recruited the likes of Robert Glasper and Thundercat to help add the necessary flourishes to his art.
Mac’s last project leaned heavily into jazz and funk influences, sounding more like Anderson .Paak’s Malibu than the MF Doom fanfiction he was writing just a few years prior. And, as of now, he doesn’t seem sure of what direction he wants to take his next full-length. But there is an assured cool about these three new tracks that’s exciting. With these songs, Mac seems to be crawling back into himself, and his humble grassroot origins, while still toeing the line between his old flavor of rapping and fresher, more enticing ingredients.
A wounded soul at the moment, Mac Miller’s next album will undeniably have to play the role of therapy, if not for him, then for his fans. The following songs each highlight a distinct facet of his growing artistry as he tries his hardest to entice new fans in the wake of increased press, similar to Young Thug's own efforts with his Hear No Evil EP earlier this year. Both offer three neatly packaged appetizers to satiate longtime fans, while going out of their way to emphasize the artist's own versatility.
Read on as we review each record.