If you still think Mac Miller is your typical everyday white-boy frat-rapping stoner, its time to give the 21-year-old Pittsburgh native another listen. Mac's second studio album Watching Movies With the Sound Off is a complete departure from his boyish routes and an entrance into a far more dark and emotional spectrum of hip-hop. If you're looking for uplifting goofball party-tracks ala "Donald Trump" (as many Mac Miller fans may be), you won't find them here.
After generally negative reception coming off of his first album Blue Slide Park, Mac vowed to stop thinking about what kind of music he should make and just start saying what he wanted to say. Five months later, Mac released mixtape Macadelic; a psychedelic and emotionally heavy production that became critically acclaimed. Watching Movies With the Sound Off is a continuation of the young rapper's journey to find himself and grow as a lyricist as he attempts to distance himself from the teenybopper stoner image that brought him to stardom. Mac's befriending of hip-hop collective Odd Future, as well as artists such as Schoolboy-Q, has evidently had an impact on his lyrical content and direction as an artist. Tracks such as "I'm Not Real" (which features Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt) and "Watching Movies" are a testament to the new sound that Mac is converging into.
Production of the album was largely a change of pace as well, with Mac Miller self-producing much of the songs under the alias Larry Fisherman. However, that is not to say that other big-name hip-hop producers didn't lend a helping hand. Pharrell Williams produced the track "Objects in the Mirror", which is completely unique to anything that Mac has ever attempted. In fact, the track is just as much of a jazz piece as it is hip-hop. Mac more or less sings every word of the song over a mellow piano and drums, and the lyrics tell what seems to be the emotional story of wishing a lost love back into his arms. "I promise that I'll be a different man / Please give me the chance to go and live again / Leave it all in the rearview." In another uncharacteristic move, Mac Miller creates the synthy, psychedelic track "Youforia". The track is eerily beautiful, extremely well-produced, and, like "Objects in the Mirror", features Mac singing and harmonizing rather than rapping. The 21-year-old boldly ventures into these tracks, and his boldness seems to demand respect with its quality and ingenuity.
Watching Movies With the Sound Off may not be the album that the world wanted, but its the one that Mac Miller needed. At such a young age, with so much lyrical talent, it's safe to say that Mac may someday ascend to the top of the rap pyramid (or The Throne as Jay-Z and Kanye West have deemed it). For those of you who still doubt the artist formerly known as Easy-Macs lyrical supremacy, listen to his collaboration with Queens chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson on the track "Red Dot Music". Or perhaps his quick-witted and crude wordplay on "S.D.S.", the album's lead single produced by Flying Lotus. "People selling drugs cause they can't find no job / Wonder if Christ made a million off selling the cross." Fans can also rest assured that the rapper is being guided by more than capable minds. Before the end of 2013, Mac is set to release an EP titled Pink Slime with the aforementioned musical virtuoso Pharrell Williams. And while many figures in the hip-hop industry, be they critics or artists, remain disgruntled with Mac Miller's status and image, he has been building his resume by collaborating with names such as Lil Wayne, CamRon, Jay Electronica, and Kendrick Lamar. So yes, Mac Miller is a white, Jewish, stoner, former frat-rapper, but his latest album, at the very least, deserves attention and open ears. His potential is, without a doubt, amplifying to apparent.