On Friday afternoon (Sept. 7) the music world was left stunned and heartbroken by the unexpected passing of Mac Miller. The 26-year-old Pittsburgh rhymer was remembered all over social media with fans and fellow rappers leaving messages of love and prayer for the Swimming rapper.
Miller left us with a prolific, decade-spanning body of work. Under the independent powerhouse Rostrum Records, Miller found success delivering several mixtapes, hit songs and two Billboard-charting albums, with one of them, Blue Slide Park, debuting at number one in 2011. Following his stint with Rostrum, Miller continued his impressive run releasing a pair of mixtapes and three studio albums that each debuted in the top five on the Billboard 200. His battles with fame and drug use were the background to his music as his career progressed with fans admiring his honesty with his ongoing issues.
In his decade-long career, the eclectic Miller reinvented himself from “frat rap” MC to the well-respected, alternative hip-hop heavyweight that has amassed a loyal following of fans. He was always recognized for his genre-bending beats and engaging lyrics. As the music world continues to take in and digest Miller’s passing, Billboard dove into the late MC’s catalog to savor his 10 best songs.
“Diablo” - Faces (2014)
The first single off Mac Miller’s eleventh mixtape Faces sets the tone for the jazz-inspired sound you hear throughout the album. Produced by Miller, under his Larry Fisherman pseudonym, “Diablo” is a lyrical exercise for Miller who raps over a head-nod inducing beat. Miller raps about the lyrical superiority he has over his peers, calling himself the rap devil long before Machine Gun Kelly took on the title.
“Donald Trump” - Best Day Ever (2011)
Long before the country stood divided in regards to the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump was a notable figure in hip-hop: his success in business became an enduring symbol in the genre and a number of rappers dropped a bar or two about aspiring to be successful as Trump. In 2011, Miller joined the fray with the first single off his fifth mixtape Best Day Ever. On the song, Miller raps about his own aspirations to be on top of the hip-hop world just like Trump was on top of the business world. The song charted on the Billboard Hot 100 debuting at number 80 as it quickly became a fan favorite. The song would put a bigger light on Miller as people took more notice of the Pittsburgh MC.
“Nikes On My Feet” - K.I.D.S (2010)
On “Nikes On My Feet” he shows his appreciation for the sneaker brand while firing braggadocious rhymes about his style. People often labeled Miller’s music as frat rap, but he showed his music was far from that on this song. Sampling Nas’ “The World Is Yours,” Miller’s witty metaphors and smooth flow ride the boom bap-inspired production with ease, proving the then-18-year-old's ability in creating a real hip-hop record.
“Rain” feat. Vince Staples - Faces
On this 9th Wonder-produced cut off Faces, Miller enlisted Vince Staples for a lyrical back-and-forth. Staples sets the bar high with his raps about his no nonsense demeanor and how he developed it growing up. Miller follows suit with an excellent array of bars discussing his past drug addictions, the consequences that come from drug use and contemplating suicide because of the stress and depression.
“Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza” - K.I.D.S
Miller’s standout record on his fourth mixtape K.l.D.S is our introduction to the Pittsburgh rapper. Over a retread of Lord Finesse’s “Hip 2 Da Game,” Miller raps about his aspirations while explaining why the hip-hop community should accept him and his music. Unfortunately, Lord Finesse hit Mac Miller with a $10 million lawsuit for using his song, changing its title and pushing it out under his name in order to launch his music career. The two settled under undisclosed terms.
“Cinderella” - The Divine Feminine (2016)
Miller enlisted Ty Dolla $ign for the fifth track off his fourth studio album The Divine Feminine. On the song he voices his lucid feelings towards a lover over a Tokyo Police Club-sampled production. Confirmed by Ariana Grande on Twitter, “Cinderella” is about their relationship prior to breaking up last May. Miller’s elite storytelling and explicit lyrics are on full display here as he gets his listeners wrapped up in his rhymes about seeing his lover in his dreams and explaining what he can do to make her feel like the most important person in the world.
“Self Care” - Swimming (2018)
“Self Care” features Miller reflecting on how people perceived him following his break-up with Grande and his DUI charge. He explains how he’s dealing with all the comments and judgment people have thrown at him following these situations while also revisiting the depths he sunk to due to his heavy drug use and the opportunities he lost because of it. Thankfully, he admits on he’s changing for the better with a whole new mindset, determined to improve his health.
“REMember” - Watching Movies With The Sound Off (2013)
Dedicated to his late friend Reuben Eli Mitrani, Miller speaks to Mitrani over a slow, hazy production rapping about their time together and how he hopes he’s proud of all the success Miller has achieved. But Miller also expresses the pain he’s feeling due to the loss of his close friend. The song gets darker and his pain is felt on the second verse where Miller bargains with a higher power just to able to see his friend again, symbolizing the third stage of grief. He understands life is short now and warns people not to limit themselves, because letting go of whatever is holding you back means you can find who you really are.
“S.D.S” - Watching Movies With The Sound Off (2013)
The first single off Watching Movies With The Sound Off features Miller rapping effortlessly over a Flying Lotus-produced beat. The light-hearted rhymes accompanied by the off-the-top flow shows Miller’s ability to pair words together freely at ease. There are several verses that have little meaning but there are a few that stick like Miller discussing diversity and creativity while also rapping about turning into an icon the day that he dies.
“Perfect Circle/God Speed” - GO:OD AM (2015)
On part one of this song, Miller gets introspective speaking on his goals in the rap game while putting his competition on notice for his rapid ascent. He also digs into the two things that consumed his life, music and drugs. On part two, Miller captures his dark moments where he thought becoming a rap star would eliminate all his issues. He embraces the mistakes he made and has come to a realization that he now has an opportunity to become a better person and pursue the clearer image of what lies ahead for him.