Mac Miller
GO:OD AM
Warner Brother Records
Features: Ab-Soul, Lil B, Miguel, Chief Keef, Little Dragon
Production: Tyler, the Creator, I.D. Labs, Vinylz

4bars“To everyone who sell me drugs/ don’t mix it with that bullshit, I’m hoping not to join the 27 club,” Mac Miller says on “Brand Name”, the second track on his third LP, GO:OD AM. It’s a morbid line that captures Mac’s mindset up to this point in his career. His last full length project came in the form of a 24-track mixtape titled Faces — a tape laced with some less than subtle death rhymes. By the end of the tape you couldn’t help but think that Mac might actually join the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse in the infamous 27 club. He was heading down a dark path of self-destruction that looked like it had no light anywhere in sight. When you finally get to the last track on Faces you’ll find Mac on “Grand Finale” pondering his own death by way of overdose. When he nonchalantly notes “I’m a bit surprised that I’m even still alive/ Mixin uppers and downers, practically suicide” on the last verse of “Grand Finale” you can almost make out the classic story of an artist’s demise after using drugs and alcohol to cope with the life that comes with the industry.

On Mac Miller’s major label debut, GO:OD AM he wakes up to find the once dim light at the end of the tunnel. Although he seemingly overcame his substance abuse problem, on the opening track “Doors” he makes sure we know that he isn’t exactly as straight-edge as his friend Tyler, the Creator who produced the track. “Ain’t sayin that I’m a sober, I’m just in a better place.” Mac cruises through the 17-track album showcasing his ability to make complete, well-structured songs.

The outdated, happy-go-lucky, frat raps have been replaced with gritty bars on self-awareness, love and everything else that comes with signing a $10 million-dollar-deal with Warner Brother Records. On “In the Bag” we find an elevated Mac who’s left the feel good raps behind, “this the music that make white people mad” he claims on the hook before ravaging through the second verse. When we get to “Ros” he breaks into a touching love ballad dedicated to his girlfriend. On “Time Flies” Mac flexes his lyrical prowess while Lil B provides some classic based scripture in the background. It’s on this track that Mac reflects on some of the decisions he made while life zoomed by, “All the times that I’ve been reckless, with an ego big as Texas, thinkin’ “I’m the man.”

The album boasts five features (not counting some comical dialogue from Domo Genesis and Schoolboy Q) that all fit the story Mac is trying to tell. One of the best songs on the album is “Weekend” which features some assistance from Miguel on the hook before he steals the show on the outro. TDE’s Ab-Soul fired off an MVP verse on the fourth track “Two Matches” but Mac held his own like he did on the prequel that was on his last album Watching Movies with the Sound Off. For years Mac has taken a backseat to some of the seasoned lyricists but on GO:OD AM he makes a strong case for why he should be considered as one of the most gifted MC’s in the game. On the previously released single “Break the Law” he flashes a breathless flow to complement an impressive rhyme scheme, “No pressure, dope seller, smarter than your professor/ Hoes, I don’t stress her, put a bitch down like Old Yeller/ The flow’s stellar, stella ella ola, have you ever been.” The most surprising feature comes from Chief Keef on the gaudy track “Cut the Check”. Sosa and Mac channel the same chemistry they had on Keef’s Bang 3 album (I Just Wana).

Production on GO:OD AM is handled by ID Labs, DJ Dahi, Frank Dukes Vinylz and the aforementioned Odd Future leader, Tyler the Creator. All of the beats on GO:OD AM provide Mac with a canvas to paint the picture of his battle with drugs, love and success. On the first half of the two-part tack “Perfect Circle/ God Speed” Mac tackles the temptations he once faced and their effects on his loved ones. The sinister sounding piano keys paired with a chilling choir that sounds like it’s made up of kids from the Adam’s Family create a gloomy, drug heavy scene. When the track transitions to the second part by way of a phone call from Mac’s brother, the tone has been more than set. Mac reflects on his failure to defeat his vices on the soulful track that’ll have even his most casual fans in shambles.

GO:OD AM is the best work of Mac Miller’s career. It’s a refreshing reminder that artists still have the ability to grow on their own terms — even in an industry that might expedite their maturation process. Mac was once a kid from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who signed a record deal, bought a big house in Los Angeles and threw crazy parties with his friends. He did what any normal kid would do after earning that type of money, “Got a bigger crib, always use the extra space/ Shit was so different in 2008/ Growing pains, fill the open veins with Novocain/ Relapse, I eat that, I don’t complain” he raps on “Rush Hour”. GO:OD AM is the most transparent music Mac Miller has ever made and in doing so he has created a sonically cohesive and impressive album.