The posthumous studio album ‘Circles’ by the late Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller, produced and completed by Jon Brion, is a beautiful symphony with which to bid farewell to one hip-hop ‘s sweetest voices.
It plays hand in hand with the late artist’s 2018 studio album ‘Swimming’, and can be seen as a ‘Part Two’ in a sense, each album showing Miller’s full, true self. Through these final projects, his true talent shines along with an impressive vocal range, creative dexterity and emotional highs and lows.
This project plays less as a hip-hop album and more of a mixed-genre compilation, each song telling a tale of how Miller felt before his passing. On opener ‘Circles’, Mac kicks off with, “Well, this is what it look like right before you fall” – a line that reveals a self-awareness that then runs through the entire project. It also pairs perfectly with the closing song of previous LP ‘Swimming’ – ‘So It Goes’ – which describes a spiritual passing into a new realm, the use of a low-fi melody and a Kanye-inspired 808 beat exploding with the feeling of ascension and re-discovery.
‘Good News’ is the breakout song of this project, with a playfulness to its beat that’s achieved through the use of an upright bass and the beloved 808. Mac explores profound themes here, in stark contrast to the feeling of relief and peace projected by its lighthearted melody. “There's a whole lot more for me waitin' on the other side,” echoes out from the third verse – words that are lent a tragic poignancy given the path that Mac’s life ultimately followed – and a reminder that we can never truly know what goes on behind closed doors, or the true hardships of fame.
Despite the sadness that clearly surrounds this project there is plenty of positivity: the production of the album is impeccable, and the overwhelming message that shines through is of hope for the future. That hopefulness seems an apt final legacy for an artist like Mac Miller, who in spite of life’s challenges always strived for improvement and progression.
Even in parting, he’s powering forward.
Words: Ramy Abou-Setta
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