What You Should Be Listening To: Mac Miller

What should you be listening to? Well, right now I’d say Mac Miller’s final album, Swimming. I am a long-time rap listener, going all the way back to when The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” was being played on my local radio’s “Top Ten at Ten” segment. My all-time favorite rap albums are largely classics (see: Paid in Full), but now they include Mac Miller’s Swimming. I simply cannot stop listening to this album after being introduced to three of its tracks on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series. (Definitely watch that episode on YouTube.)

The album is introspective and philosophical, all while being laid back in the groove. Instead of the usual braggadocio, itemized lists of riches, and references to beef and gats, Swimming’s opening lyric is “My regrets look like texts I shouldn’t send.” This sets the tone for the rest of the album, with Miller thinking deeply about his work, success, addiction, and maintaining balance in a tempting and tumultuous world. My favorite track is “2009,” which opens with a string section and the bar “I don’t need to lie no more,” and then moves into probing lyrics like “Sometimes, sometimes…I wish I took a simpler route / instead of having demons that’s as big as my house.” Other standout tracks include “Small Worlds,” “Hurt Feelings,” and “Dunno.” But to be real, every track on Swimming is beyond hot. 

As many might know, Mac Miller passed away 3 months after Swimming’s release, which makes the lyric “I was drowning, but now I’m swimming” painful, given what was to come. When I listen to Swimming (as I am as I write this), I’m reminded of how anyone, no matter how troubled or fragile in other areas of their life, still have dazzling moments and can bring beautiful things into the world.

This album gets 5 out of 5 chicken wings.

By Dr. Chuck Rybak

Chuck Rybak is the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he teaches literature and creative writing. He is the cohost of the Canonball podcast.

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