By Catherine Taylor
American rapper and producer Mac Miller, best known for his 2016 album The Divine Feminine, passed away suddenly this month. He was just 26 years old. The ‘Self Care’ singer, born Malcolm James McCormick, dreamed of a music career from a young age. He released his first mixtape But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy in 2007 under the alias EZ Mac. Miller continued to release independent mixtapes before being signed to Rostrum Records in 2010. His first album Blue Slide Park debuted in 2011 and peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200, a significant achievement for an independently distributed album.
Not only known for his rap skills, Miller’s prowess as a producer led him to set up his own indie record label REMember Music. In 2014, Miller and his label signed a $10 million deal with Warner Brother Music, through which Miller would release both his own records and those of artists signed to REMember Music. His albums The Divine Feminine and Swimming, released in 2016 and 2018 respectively, saw the rapper’s style evolve into an increasingly mature, sonically sophisticated sound. The Divine Feminine received critical acclaim, with Pitchfork rating the album a highly respectable 7.8/10. Swimming, released a mere two months before Miller’s untimely death, also received positive reviews, with Rolling Stone declaring it “the most impactful album of his career.”
However, despite his professional success, Miller spent much of his early 20’s battling severe drug addiction. Addiction permeated every aspect of Miller’s life, from his music to his relationships, his most high profile of which was with singer Ariana Grande. Media coverage of this tragedy has been less than kind to Grande, who ended their two – year relationship in May 2018 before becoming engaged to comedian Pete Davidson in June. Both Grande and Miller had been open about the affect addiction had on their relationship; ‘Better Off’, from Grande’s 2018 album Sweetener, is rumoured to detail the doomed relationship, while Miller’s 2018 single ‘Self Care’ deals with the aftermath of his arrest for a DUI prior to his sudden death.
Following the 7 September announcement that Miller had passed away at his home from an apparent drug overdose, social media trolls sent Grande numerous hate messages, claiming that the singer was herself personally responsible for Miller’s death. This message was only further instilled by the wider media, who referred to Miller as merely ‘an ex – boyfriend of Ariana Grande.’ The blame unfairly placed on Grande became so intense that the singer had to remove all comments from her Instagram.
In a post published on 14 September, Grande paid tribute to her ‘dearest friend,’ stating “I’m so sorry that I couldn’t fix or take your pain away. I really wanted to.” Although a touching sentiment, Grande’s statement cannot be taken as an admission of guilt. The message being perpetrated in the media that a woman is responsible for the actions of a partner in a toxic relationship is dangerous, and pins misplaced blame on women who find themselves in these situations.
Mac Miller’s untimely death has been described as a profound loss to the hip – hop community, and to those who knew him. The blame lies with nobody but the demons that haunted a talented young artist, lost but whose musical impact will live on.
Photo by Nicolas Völcker [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons