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Miller’s posthumous album brings some closure

Mac Miller, a mainstay in the hip-hop scene, shocked fans with his sudden passing on Sept. 7, 2018. Many thought that his 2018 project “Swimming” would be the last they would hear from Miller, but on Jan. 17, 2019, his posthumous album “Circles” was released.

“Circles,” recorded around the same time as he was finishing up “Swimming,” builds on a lot of the themes seen in the previous album. “Circles” shows a lot of development and experimentation, and it is probably the least hip-hop sounding album from Miller.

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This is not a bad thing, as the different genre influences found within the songs make up a new complexity and fullness on the album. “Circles” also shows the great amount of personal, positive change Miller made in his life before his passing.

The title track, “Circles,” follows up on the final track of “Swimming.”

“And I cannot be changed,” Miller says, giving a feeling of being lost without direction. “I cannot be changed, no. Trust me, I’ve tried. I just end up right at the start of the line, drawing circles.” 

Miller sings a lot on this softer track with a calming guitar riff, bringing out his voice more than he did in his last album.

On “Blue World,” Miller is a lot more upbeat. With the lyrics “Well this mad world made me crazy; might just turn around, do 180” and a choppy, electronic dance style beat, the song references the craziness Miller experienced in his life and his reflections on his choices.

A lot of the songs convey a similar message, but this is the most upbeat one on the album. On the bridge, Miller raps “Don’t trip” repeatedly: both a message to his fans and to himself about how to deal with life.

“I spent the whole day in my head, do a little spring cleaning,” Miller raps in the beginning of the song “Good News.” This song was the first music fans of Miller heard after his death, being released as a single with an accompanying music video. The song details his pain and mental illness struggles and how that affects others, saying that “Good News” is all people want to hear from him, even though that’s not always the case.

“Everybody” has Miller singing again alongside a steady drum beat and some piano riffs. While his singing voice is enjoyable to listen to and the piano-heavy beat is pleasant, this song doesn’t feel as complex as the others with its lyrics and content.

“Woods,” a synth-heavy track, features Miller rapping in slight auto-tune about heartbreak and the worst of things being over.

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“So far beyond all our control, you say this all so close to broken, yeah; it’s so much better when you wait, forever and a day, that’s all I got,” Miller raps. The listener is left to interpret if he is talking about a specific person or the situation he was in prior to his passing.

Much like the other songs on the album, themes of escaping past problems and learning for the future are highly evident in this song. The instrumental is pretty stripped down, giving a clear path for Miller to tell his story.

The only feature on the album, singer Baro Sura, brings a beautiful chorus to “Hand Me Downs.” With sentimental-sounding guitar chords and a little synth, Miller raps about how he deals with his problems and what is going through his mind. The guitar creates a peaceful song that conveys a feeling of hope.

“Yeah, well I’m just being honest; my conscience ain’t doing bad because I try to minus the problem I attract,” Miller says, showing the progress he had made in his journey with drug addiction and mental illness.

“Circles” can be streamed on Apple Music and Spotify.

The only truly traditional hip-hop sounding song is “Hands.” Miller raps a chorus, “When’s the last time you took some time for yourself,” which seems like a reference to his song “Self Care.” This song highlights a lot of Miller’s struggles with drug use and feeling trapped inside his head. It’s a short but powerful song with a catchy beat and deep lyrical content.

The final track, “Once a Day,” features the late Miller’s signature jazzy and funky sound. The beat is pretty lo-fi with synths and no percussion, highlighting Miller’s melancholy half singing, half rapping. Miller finishes the song and album saying “But every now and again, why can’t we just be fine?”

It can be hard to listen to this album’s lyrical content with Miller’s passing. The album shows the immense amount of musical growth and, more importantly, personal growth that Miller had accomplished at the time of his passing. Still, for fans of Miller, this album is like one last message from the artist, telling us that he is OK.

Rating: 9/10

Best songs: “Blue World,” “Woods,” “Once a Day”

Worst songs: “That’s on Me”

Leo Friedman can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @leofriedman13

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