Mac Miller has built up some pretty good buzz for himself over the past few years. Though I admit I've skipped over him until now for no particular reason (in between Mac Miller, Meek Mill, Macklemore, Mack Maine, Mack Daddy, and MC Mackerel, it's kinda hard to keep who's who straight). The Pittsburgh MC's second LP Watching Movies with the Sound Off has gotten quite a bit of positive buzz, so I decided to see what the deal with this guy was.
I knew a little bit about Mac Miller before listening to this, although I hadn't actually bothered to listen to his songs. Earlier in his career, he built up a reputation for being something of a frat boy party rapper AKA "EZ Mac with the cheesy raps". This album is different though. Perhaps fearing that he might abruptly go down as a novelty fad like his white college boy contemporary Asher Roth, Watching Movies with the Sound Off isn't focused on suburban debauchery. The lyrics on most of the tracks are a mix of abstract imagery and introspection. Among other things, Mac Miller talks about his struggles with drug addiction, reflecting on his younger days, that special someone in his life, and the death of a close friend years back. Mac Miller doesn't completely abandon his hedonistic roots though. More than a fair share of these songs fall back on drug and sex-fueled debauchery. As a rapper, Mac Miller is decent if not unremarkable. His flow is pretty good. His monotone voice is tolerable though not particularly memorable or commanding. His delivery isn't too bad. The big thing I take away from Mac Miller is his lyrics. More than anything, what he's trying to sell with this album is his growth into a deep, introspective lyricist. Uh....I think he still needs some work in that department. He tries to be deep and over-your-head with his lyrics and concepts, but if you think about it for two seconds a lot of the lyrics just sound a little silly. For example, his hook to "Avian": "There's a bird in the sky/look at him fly/Why?" ????????!!.....er.....wha?? Is that supposed to lead me to come up with some kind of epiphany about life or something? Sorry my man, but it takes more than some vague metaphors to be deep. His hedonistic songs work better because the less challenging subject matter allow him to get away shallow thinking and partially goofy lines.
Watching Movies with the Sound Off is mostly produced by Mac Miller himself under his moniker Larry Fisherman. There are minor contributions from Flying Lotus, Chuck Inglish, SAP, and Pharrell Williams. They create a cohesive sounds that's kinda spacey, kinda dreamlike, and kinda atmospheric. The production reminds me of a more fleshed out interpretation of Odd Future production. These beats are pretty damn good; this dude can really produce. My only issue is that the production doesn't change tempo at all on this long album.
Problems? Yup. As good as the production in it, the lack of variation in tempo makes this album feel like one long droning song. Mac Miller's monotone voice doesn't help either. It all results in an album with no standouts. Nothing's really bad here but nothing's really good either. It's all just in the middle; the songs that end of on my Favorites list aren't much better than the songs that don't. My biggest gripe with Watching Movies With the Sound Off is the lyrics. It sounds like Mac Miller thinks he's deeper than actually is. Even the damn album name Watching Movies With the Sound Off. Really, dude?? Is that supposed to be like some Rain Man shit or something? And how about the cover? The flowers, apple, and red wall are artsy, but what's Mac Miller's nudity supposed to mean? Is it supposed to represent his "bearing it all" in his lyrics? Is it supposed to be artistic? Provocative? Ehhh......maybe it's just me, but there's something about that cover that feels disingenuously wise ass to me. Maybe all of Mac Miller's stupid tattoos ruin the artsy-ness of his nude body. I admit his tattooed body reminds me of Eminem, who always used his nudity in his videos as a joke. I don't know. Mac Miller's pseudo-deep concepts are especially worse juxtaposed with his sexist drugged up horndog songs because he's more believable as a sexist drugged up horndog. The sum of all of this creates a perception of Mac Miller that reminds me of Fritz the Cat. I can picture it now:
Setting: Some house party
Mac Miller is chilling outside smoking a cigarette.
Three college freshmen girls walk outside towards him holding bottle of beer
Girl 1: Hey EZ Mac, I, like, brought you a beer.
Mac Miller: Thanks, babe. *takes sip*
MM: Yeah, cuz um.....do you remember that movie Babe that came out when we were, like, toddlers? I called ya "babe" cuz seein' your face reminds me of the good ol' days when I didn't have no worries.
G1: Oh. *blushes and smiles sheepishly* Thanks.
Girl 2: But what about us, EZ Mac? Aren't we babes too??
MM: Oh, word! You're all my babes!
All three girls talk amongst themselves
Girl 3: Omigod, he sounded so black when he said "word"! But not in, like, a too-ghetto way but in, like, a cool way.
G2: Yeah cuz he's, like, a famous rapper.
G1: Omigod, that's like, so awesome! You think he knows Drake?
All three girls look admiringly at Mac Miller, who takes a long drag of his cigarette and hangs his head as he blows the smoke out
G3: Is something wrong, EZ Mac?
MM: Oh, I'm just thinking about my life an' stuff....I've been in and out of rehab since high school and look what I'm doing to myself...
G1: Omigawd, if I'd have known I wouln't've given you that beer!! I didn't mean to make you, like, relapse or whatever! I'm so sorry!!
MM: It's okay, girl. At the same time, I was thinking how, like, big the universe is an' stuff. Like, in this big universe, each of us is, like, one drop of this beer or one flake of ash from this cigarette. Our actions don't, like, matter that much in the grand scheme of things cuz no matter what happens, this beer is gonna get drank up and this cigarette is gonna burn out.
G2: Oh my God....that's so, like, sad....
MM: No it's not. Cuz the way I see it, each little drop or flake of ash makes up the beer and the cigarette that God is enjoying. So it's like, we're all a piece of something bigger than us, knawmean?
G2: *smiles slowly* Wow...I, like, never thought of life that way.
G1: You're so deep, EZ Mac!
G3: "Knawmean"...that's so awesome!
MM: I'll tell you what, I can tell you ladies all about my philosophy an' stuff if you want.
G1: Yeah!! That'd be awesome, EZ Mac!!
G2: Yeah, tell us!
G3: Yeah, and do you know Drake?
MM: Oh, hell yeah! I can also tell ya about the last time I partied with him about two months ago. That shit was so crazy!
All girls: Omigod, omigod, omigawwd!!!
The night ends with Mac Miller fucking all three at the same time in a bathtub
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