Remembering Mac Miller, a selfless rapper

The late musician used all he had to create a loving future

Mac Miller.
Mac Miller.

On his song "Small Worlds,” the late Mac Miller summed up his most-prized possessions: "A little space and time." 

Those words came from an artist whose entire catalogue debuted within the top five of the Billboard charts. The humble lyrics are even more impressive when you consider how his albums found space in a genre dominated by men excessively bragging about money, cars and women.

Miller's words typify his inner character, which the world only started to get to know when he passed away last week.

The artist used what he had to ensure those around him could affect positive change in the world.

Since his passing, stories of his bashful kindness and generosity spread across social media. He was someone who quietly paid the bill for a dinner party of 20 and snuck off before his good deeds could be revealed. In another case, he saw the pure intentions behind a young reporter's fake press pass and granted an interview that spanned hours.

These small acts of goodwill paint the picture of a man willing to help others. However, the most selfless move Miller ever made was the space he provided others within the music industry.

These small acts of goodwill paint the picture of a man willing to help others. However, the most selfless move Miller ever made was the space he provided others within the music industry.

Hip-hop is full of artists using their platform to call out their competitors. Rap blogs today are overrun by coverage of Nicki Minaj's conspiracy claims against Travis Scott. The current top song on Apple Music is Machine Gun Kelly's Eminem diss track, “Rap Devil.”

Miller had different ideas on how to utilize the platform music gave him.

In 2012, he invited budding rapper Kendrick Lamar to join him on tour. A year later, he did the same with the then up-and-coming Chance the Rapper. A year after that, Miller took a chance on the relatively unknown R&B singer, SZA, and offered to produce tracks for her 2014 EP, Z.

These connections show Miller's ability to align himself with talents who'd ultimately surpass his own critical and commercial success. More importantly, they exemplify the kind of accepting and hopeful future Miller wanted for hip-hop.

Kendrick Lamar's success has been crucial in amplifying the message of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Chance the Rapper uses every chance he gets to point out and marvel at the positive elements of the world. SZA packed her debut album with celebrations of Blackness, intimacy and self-love.

Miller's hand in these careers went largely unnoticed, only being spotlighted in the artists' tributes to the rapper on social media.

Rapping was the one area where Miller couldn't avoid attention, though he still managed to hide behind a pseudonym—Larry Fisherman—for his production credits. 

In his body of work, especially in the music made towards the end of his life, Miller matched the narrative that's quickly emerged online regarding his altruistic lifestyle. 

His best-reviewed album, 2016's The Divine Feminine, mused on the powerful female figures of his life and strived to promote love above all else. It was a success—even if the album's jazz-inspired beats may not have been as splashy as his frat-ready, chart-topping debut, Blue Slide Park.

Still, a rap album appreciating the complexity of women carries a special kind of significance— especially as eight of the top 10 tracks on Billboard's current Hot Rap Songs chart refer to women by derogatory terms.

Miller told i-D he wanted The Divine Feminine to be a "date in itself," and give listeners an opportunity to "love to [the] record." The album even closes with a widower asking listeners to consider "[h]ow important it is to love, respect and care for each other."

Miller's insistence that his work serve a positive purpose exemplifies his wish to bring out the good around us. He wanted people to foster love and value each other's company, so he used the medium he knew best to try and guide us there. 

Just because Miller's time on earth ended—once again he dashed off before anyone could thank him—doesn't mean we can't use his music to create the tender world he envisioned for us.

The future he saw for himself was much simpler; he summed up his personal mission to i-D as simply "trying to make sure [he's] not the reason that anything would be ruined.”


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