Monday, September 21, 2015

Mac Miller - GO:OD AM Review

For the past few years Hip-Hop fans have been in disbelief over Mac Miller’s sudden, shocking departure from corny college frat rap to cloud rap for a modern era. He’s removed himself from that label, associating not with skipping classes, the worth of his sneakers and the best day ever, but with his former addiction to drugs, maturing in the limelight, and relationships gone awry, all the while working with the L.A. scene in Black Hippy, OFWGKTA, and Flying Lotus. So, after reconfirming the appeal of Watching Movies with 2014’s Faces, his credentials are set for his proper major label debut, GO:OD AM. For the first time in his career though, Mac Miller is not the underdog, the surprise winner who wows everyone with his ear for beats. He’s the emcee who raps with Vince Staples, Jay Electronica, and Earl Sweatshirt, growing his expectations to that of what’s come before. And while there are certainly highs here, some exceeding that of his previous best tracks, his third full-length LP fails to leave such a drastic mark, as GO:OD AM is more a stagnation of influences with no real progression, a watered-down mash of Watching Movies' lyrics and Faces’ instrumentation, with unfortunately no dashes of Delusional Thomas thrown in for contrast.

If one were to be earnestly critical of Mac Miller the cons would far outweigh the pros. For one, he’s not a good lyricist or content writer. While there are clever lines sprinkled throughout GO:OD AM, there are far too many that would induce eye-rolling amongst analytical listeners. A large part of this can be attributed to Miller’s tendency to spit baseless philosophical nonsense, a facet of his persona that has increased since his departure from hard drugs to the stoner culture. Its nearly impossible to go one track without hearing redundant phrases best left for the cheesy motivational posters. The pinnacle of which comes within the first six bars of ‘Rush Hour,’ in which Miller spits that “the more you give a fuck, I guess the less you make,” followed not more than 10 seconds later by “soon as I learned the more you do, the less you wait,” both in reference to making money, both exceedingly opposite each other its striking their proximity. Even the general concept of the album, arising out of bed, is seen as a sort of enlightenment despite the general vision of the album lacking any such insight. There’s a lot of pseudo-metaphorical gibberish too, mixing that in with a litany of tiresome cliches (the nice guy on ‘ROS,’ the murdering emcees on ’Time Flies,’ the white lines on ‘God Speed’) makes for an album that, lyrically, disappoints. 

But then again, what more could you expect from Easy Mac with the cheesy raps? Where I can forgive artists like Travi$ Scott and Young Thug for being poor emcees because they don’t think themselves as such, I can’t do the same for Miller. To many though, including myself, that’s not why they listen to the Pittsburgh-based emcee, that honor falls to his first-rate beat selection. Watching Movies saw production arise from current day leaders like Flying Lotus, Clams Casino, and The Alchemist, along with Earl Sweatshirt and Miller himself both under pseudonym’s, the latter two contributing in bulk on Faces as well. While the production occurring through GO:OD AM is suitable, sometimes grand, in relation to Mac Miller’s talents, its more reincarnation than reinvention. Whereas Watching Movies evoked highly-textured synth layers to create a deep space atmosphere and Faces introduced organic instrumentation with the likes of horns, strings, and sax’s, GO:OD AM simply pairs the two, causing for a more negligent version of each. Even the production credits sees a shift, where Larry Fisherman (Mac Miller’s pseudonym) is completely absent and the tracks by well-to-do artists (Sounwave on ‘Two Matches’ and DJ Dahi on ‘ROS’) are forgettable beat-wise.

There are some great moments here, lead single ‘100 Grandkids’ is a prime example of that. The beat, the chorus, the lyrics, all manifest under the same context where it all conceptually makes sense. Even the interpolation of Diddy’s ‘Bad Boys For Life’ adds to the allure of a kid wishing for stardom, the beat switch into that present self another welcomed layer. ‘Weekend’ is another killer thanks in large part to Miguel’s bridge and outro. The beat during Miller’s verse, with a gargled voice whimpering on command, meshes well with a stuttering bass and simple delivery. And while ‘When In Rome’ will be declared the banger of the album with the likes of ‘Watching Movies’ and ‘Insomniak,’ the undertow winner is ‘Cut The Check’ with Chief Keef, a bump in the whip jam that sees some great delivery, an unforgettable bridge, and a verse from Keef that dumbfounds me. Speaking of features though, the lack of rapping ones hurts the album tremendously, as it becomes increasingly difficult for Mac Miller to handle nearly all 70 minutes on his own. Even his Delusional Thomas mixtape, which clocks in at just 27 minutes, has one more featured rapper than this. 

Overall, for fans of Miller’s works, GO:OD AM is a welcome addition to the catalog for it accomplishes more of the same without expanding or risking much. The album does seem to follow Watching Movies’ pattern of gradual untwining, where slower songs encompass the last few tracks, culminating in ‘The Festival.’ These moments, while typically unmemorable for emcees, were some of the best on Watching Movies, here they don’t make such an impact apart from the finale which is a nice melodramatic conclusion featuring Little Dragon. Its rather conductive of the album as a whole that everything, apart from a few standouts, fail to leave a lasting mark. The reason for that being, at the end of the day, for the first time in his career Mac Miller isn’t the white suburban rapper elevating above his preconceived stereotypes, he’s a dull emcee with nothing remarkable to offer. It’s still a fun listen, the beats are adequate for easy consumption, but on the whole GO:OD AM suffers from the expectations put upon it.

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