Mac Miller – Swimming
Mac Miller September 27, 2018
By: Logan Flesch
Mac Miller, born Malcolm James McCormick, first entered the hip-hop scene with his debut mixtape, But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, in 2007 under the alias Easy Mac. His 2010 release, K.I.D.S, garnered attention from various hip-hop blogs and landed Mac a record deal with Rostrum Records. Rostrum released Mac’s debut EP, On and On and Beyond, and debut album, Blue Slide Park, in 2011. Blue Slide Park gave Mac his first number one album on the Billboard 200. Mac continued to release mixtapes while under the Rostrum deal, with his standout tape, Macadelic. His second studio album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, came in 2013 and featured artists such as, Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson, Ab-Soul, and ScHoolboy Q. After signing to Warner Bros and launching his own imprint, REMember Music, Mac released his third studio album, GO:OD AM, in 2015. Mac decided to make a huge shift in his music with his 2016 R&B release, The Divine Feminine, which focused on romance and lust. Mac Miller chose to stay on the R&B/Soul pathway with Swimming. Mac Miller’s latest album arrived on August 3, 2018, just weeks before his untimely passing on September 7, 2018.
Swimming clocks in at 58 minutes and is thirteen tracks long. The album was the after product of a rough stretch for Mac Miller. He went through a tough breakup with Ariana Grande and got arrested for a DUI in May 2018. Swimming was a reflection of Mac attempting to sober up and move on with his life. The entire album has sad undertones and gives off the vibe that Mac was trying to convince himself that he would be okay. Fans expecting a sonic return to the likes of GO:OD AM and Watching Movies With The Sound Off will be disappointed. To be honest, I was underwhelmed during my first listen. I never got into the soft, lovy-dovy tracks from The Divine Feminine and I thought that I wouldn’t be able to get into Swimming either. I found myself wanting “the old Mac.” Once I stopped living in the past, I realized that Swimming is an absolute gem that shows just how versatile Mac Miller could be.
Two of the album’s songs were released as singles before the August 3 release date, “Small Worlds” and “Self Care”. “Small Worlds,” like most of the album, is a somber song in which Mac discusses his personal flaws and how he can better himself. “Self Care” is a two-part song that sounds like Mac is trying to convince himself that he’ll be alright, even though he knows that he won’t be. J.I.D provides additional vocals on the hook singing, “we gon’ be alright.” The most interesting part of the song occurs when Mac says, “That Mercedes drove me crazy, I was speeding. Somebody save me from myself.” I assumed that this was a direct reference to his D.U.I. in May, when he crashed his Mercedes G-Wagon, but the song was written before the incident ever occurred. Either way, “Self Care” is a fantastic song that elevates the album.
This album is best enjoyed as an entire body of work. Personally, I wouldn’t add “Come Back to Earth”, “Dunno”, or “So It Goes” to any playlists, but they flow with the album’s theme perfectly. Since its release, I have listened to the album at least 5 times from front-to-back, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. Still, there are some standouts that I’ve enjoyed more than the rest. “What’s the Use?” is one of these standout tracks. It’s groovy. Thundercat comes in on bass guitar, and Snoop Dogg and Syd provide background vocals. For a few minutes, there is no indication that Mac has endured any hardship or heartbreak.
However, Mac’s demons are present in, literally, every other song. He best presents his battles on “Jet Fuel” and “2009”. The former title is representative of the drugs and alcohol that plagued Mac’s life. He says, “now I’m in the clouds, come down when I run out of jet fuel; but I’ll never run out of jet fuel.” The entire song is about his struggle with recovery and how hard it is to be sober when he always has drugs available. Much of this battle comes from his inability to accept himself, “I don’t need nobody, I don’t need to be nobody.” Mac’s singing fits the song perfectly and Steve Lacy on the guitar makes the song even better.
“2009” follows immediately after “Jet Fuel” and begins with a one-minute orchestra intro. This is absolutely my favorite song on the album. After the intro, Mac takes four minutes to reflect on his journey and growth as an artist. Once again, he talks about his battle with drugs throughout his career. One thing is different about this song though. It actually feels like Mac is in a safe place. He talks about how he knows that overdosing is a possibility if he doesn’t take care of himself. This realization is what makes his death so much sadder. He knew that he was on a dangerous path and wanted to get clean, he just couldn’t get past his demons.
Mac Miller gave us another fantastic album before his passing. Over the years, he helped a ton of people through their own issues and left a lasting impact on the music community. Even though I did not enjoy Swimming as much as Watching Movies With The Sound Off or GO:OD AM, it is Mac’s most sophisticated and fundamentally sound album. Mac lives on through his art. I highly recommend putting this album on when you are having a chill night or a long car ride.
Favorite songs: “2009”, “Jet Fuel”, “Conversation Pt. 1”, “What’s the Use?”