An artist is often analyzed on the basis of their collected works. As we rarely have a chance to encounter those we appreciate from afar, the music helps bridge an otherwise uncrossable gap. Though it, we can share laughs, insight, and even go so far as to build a psychological profile. We can track one’s evolution, both artistic and personal, by watching their discography unfold in real-time. And when they’re gone, the music serves as a reminder of their story, be it one of triumph, tragedy or both. For Mac Miller, one of the formative chapters was his beloved mixtape K.I.D.S, which was released on this very day, nine years ago.

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Given the more serious tone entrenched within his last three major releases, it’s interesting to look back at Mac at his most carefree. Where Swimming found him wading in serene waters, and Watching Movies found him surrendering to the pros and cons of hedonism, K.I.D.S. retains an endearing sense of innocence throughout. We’ve often heard his peers praise Mac’s selfless character and giving nature. Nowhere are those qualities more evident than here. From the minute Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit kicks off, the production aesthetic is both warm and welcoming, the perfect backdrop for Mac to deliver the polar antithesis to “struggle bars.” Though some were quick to pigeonhole the young lyricist as a subsect of the dreaded “frat bro rap” subgenre, Mac’s designs were hardly nefarious enough to merit such labels. With desires of smoking weed, kicking back, and one day seeing his music in stores, Mac’s approach to song-crafting was undeniably wholesome.

Curiously, K.I.D.S also provides an anchoring point, encapsulating Mac at his most low-stakes. As his career progressed, his music became far darker in nature, both musically and lyrically. His battle with substance abuse was no secret, and some of his most critically acclaimed projects arose during the height of his personal maelstrom. To call K.I.D.S a reminder of simpler times is an understatement; not unlike revisiting Eminem’s Infinite after listening to The Marshall Mathers LP, or Kanye West’s College Dropout after a Dark Twisted Fantasy session. It may not be Mac at his most artistically fulfilling, but the callback to an age of innocence gives Mac’s cult classic a bittersweet quality it didn’t always have. Now, on the day K.I.D.S turns nine, why not take a listen to one of the new mixtape era’s star-making projects? Given everything that has transpired since its release, perhaps you’ll find it sitting comfortably beneath a new light.