By Anjali Nayak
Previously seen as a pop rap scamp not to be taken seriously, Mac Miller quickly evolved into one of the most influential figures in the ever growing abstract hip-hop scene. Mac Miller very quickly showed his increasing ambition through Watching Movies With the Sound Off (2013), but the release of his mixtape Faces (2014) permanently cemented him as one of the most creative artists of the last decade. Producing the majority of the album by himself, Faces features Mac consistently unfurling hypnotic soundscapes, using jazz tinted chords and a variety of live instrumentation, all of which was extremely hard to find in a rap album in the early 2010s. Over hazy keyboards and complex guitar chords, Miller picks apart his infatuation with drugs. There’s a troubling sense that Mac is tiptoeing down a well-lit path towards self-destruction, and that he feels either too helpless or too entrapped to change course, but this is often offset with the sense that music is his salvation. Listeners follow Mac as he indulges in the same vices, namely sex, drugs, partying, and isolation. Miller is completely aware of the effects of his wrongdoing, making watching him go down the same path even more tragic.
Listeners are invited to visit the very depths of Mac’s mind. Track three, “Friends” is practically him rambling over music. Verses are tinted with self deprecation and emotional instability. The chorus is the taunting voice of his own conscience making fun of his name, calling him Miller Mac.“Colors and Shapes”is a perfect example of Miller’s creative capabilities, an abstract realm of sound with no clear chorus, verse, and bridge. We hear the rapper’s mindset as he indulges in drugs once more. This song signifies what it means to continue the trail of addiction, reaching for the bottle once more. Mac has realized that this is just the way he is built, there is no fruition in breaking free, explaining that the only way to hold onto sanity is to let yourself slip.
However, I want to make something very clear:Although the project revolves around self sabotage, addiction, and depression, there are still some absolute bangers on this album. One of my favorite songs, “Therapy” features angelic vocal synths layered on top of booming 808s. The song is meant to represent Mac during one of his benders, complete with excessive partying, drinking, and sex. The very apex of his life, just before he tumbles down to rock bottom. The tongue in cheek, sarcastic song “Angel Dust” features a slow trumpet warbling from a record player into the intro. The chorus is playful, highlighting the peer pressure and lack of shock Mac has talking about his addiction. Although concerning an extremely serious topic, Mac Miller proceeds to remind us that he is still the funny, goofy, kid we remember from his “The Spins” and “Nikes On My Feet” days. The song feels almost OutKastish, as if Andre 3000 could easily be spitting the same bars.
The album features a previously unknown bonus track, known as “Yeah.” I beg you, if you are going to listen to one song off of this album, please make it this one. Complete with sharp guitars, a booming chorus, and introspective lyrics, the song is reminiscent of 80s and 70s power ballads previously sung by legends such as Bowie, Queen, Aerosmith, and the Bangles. Even if you are not a big fan of hip hop, at the very least listen to this song.
I would recommend this album to anyone. Although the run time is seemingly long and drawn out 91 minutes, Faces never seems to wander. Mac Miller’s creativity never bleeds through a project more, every song different from the other, but all are consistently good. With his untimely death, unreleased mixtapes have slowly been released to streaming services. First, the K.I.D.S mixtape which shot him into pop rap stardom. Now Faces, a project that is evidence that this guy needs to be taken seriously.