WRITTEN BY: JARED PHILLIPS
PHILADELPHIA – Mac Miller’s rise to major label success has been, in a word, mercurial.
The Pittsburgh emcee burst onto the scene with 2010’s K.I.D.S., a mixtape he wrote at the ripe age of 18 that immediately caught the attention of high schoolers everywhere with its frat rap tendencies. After the release of a handful of mixtapes and his first full length LP Blue Slide Park, Miller had been facing harsh criticism for his album’s content despite Blue Slide Park being the first independently released album to debut #1 on the Billboard 200 since Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food.
The commercial success wasn’t enough for Miller, as he was slammed critically for his work and retreated to Los Angeles to survey the alt rap scene taking over the west coast. Friendships with local young emcees like Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples materialized, and the stylistic change to his music produced Watching Movies with the Sound Off.
The sophomore LP included fresh tactics involving pitch shifts, more complex rhyme schemes and collaborations with left-field producers such as Flying Lotus. It was certainly a start. Critics praised Miller for his shift sonically, but felt he was still searching for his real sound beneath drudging stoner rap. A few months after gifting fans with 2014’s ambitious Faces, a 24-track mixtape that was a journey through the slightly disturbed mind of a rapper who some worried was dabbling a little too much in the world of drugs, Miller inked a $10 million deal with Warner. An independent artist for years, Miller had excitement bubbling around what he could do with the resources at his disposal under a major label.
In September came the release of GO:OD AM, Miller’s most focused and deliberate project to date. With a decidedly more confident approach on the mic and guest appearances from usual suspects like Ab-Soul and eye-openers like Miguel, not to mention the best production he has benefited from in his career, Miller rolled out one of the better rap releases of 2015 in a year when rap music saw a renaissance not seen since before 2000. The album sparked a headlining tour across the U.S. that finally made its way to Philadelphia Saturday night, which brings us to the here and now.
In my first escapade to The Fillmore, Philly’s newest music venue located in the heart of Fishtown, I have to admit I was bound to be biased. I had heard nothing but good things, and rightfully so. The acoustics are amazing, and the venue is aptly suited to appeal to both the under and over 21 crowd alike. After a series of openers in Choo Jackson, Michael Christmas, and Earthgang (all members of Miller’s label REMember Music), the clock hit 10 PM and the lights dropped to the opening beat of “Loud”, the hypest track off 2012’s Macadelic and a staple in Miller’s opening repertoire.
Running onto the stage donned in a custom #94 Penguins jersey with Snoop Dogg’s classic “Gin and Juice” on the back, Miller shouted about liking his music real loud before jumping into the title track from WMWTSO. Miller continued with another cut from his sophomore LP, this time “Bird Call,” a live favorite thanks to the version on Miller’s live album spanning the Space Migration Tour, Live From Space. From there he rolled out another banger, this one “Insomniak,” the collab with Rick Ross off Faces.
Miller then asked the crowd if they had the chance to listen to his new album, upon which he got a rousing response. This prompted a sole spotlight to shine on the emcee as he swayed and sung his way through album opener “Doors,” before diving into singles “Brand Name” and “100 Grandkids.” The crowd quickly made it apparent that they weren’t here to see Mac perform K.I.D.S. judging by the huge response to GO:OD AM tracks. This didn’t stop him from getting back to his roots of course, as Miller backtracked for “Red Dot Music” off WMWTSO before getting into “Nikes on my Feet,” one of his earliest hits.
Miller quickly reassured fans that this was the GO:OD AM Tour, as he rattled off four straight tracks off the new album, including the Miguel-assisted “The Weekend.” He even made a nod towards his K.I.D.S. follow up Best Day Ever with the controversial “Donald Trump.” From there he rattled off two of the tightest songs in his catalogue with “Diablo” off Faces and the new “Break the Law.”
Despite the progression Miller has made over the last couple years as an artist, he has never shied away releasing more personal and emotional material. He displayed that on Saturday night, first with an acapella version of “Objects in the Mirror,” quite possibly one of Miller’s best songs in his entire discography, then “ROS” off GO:OD AM.
After getting emotional with the crowd Miller decided to restore the party atmosphere with “Onaroll,” a track off the presumably lost Pink Slime EP that was supposed to happen with Pharrell (seriously what happened with that?). Lucky A** B*tch,” and the best banger off GO:OD AM, “When in Rome” came next. That was followed by a prompt exit from the stage with the crowd screaming for an obviously expected encore. There wasn’t a person in the building who thought Miller was done for the night.
Mac returned to the stage to perform his only cut off Blue Slide Park for the night, “Frick Park Market.” He followed that with one of the strongest tracks off the new album, the Chief Keefe-featured “Cut the Check.” Miller added to the hype of this banger by performing Keefe’s verse as well, which in my opinion has to be one of the most coherent sets of bars Keefe has ever put together.
Miller finally put a nightcap on the evening with “Best Day Ever.” This was my first Mac Miller concert, but I would assume he ends his concerts with that track with regularity. I don’t blame him as the chorus has him singing “No matter where life takes me you’ll find me with a smile…”
With a successful major label debut and a headlining US tour under his belt – not to mention finally gaining legitimate respect in the rap game – I would say Mac has plenty to smile about.
- Watching Movies
- Bird Call
- Brand Name
- 100 Grandkids
- Red Dot Music
- Nikes on my Feet
- In the Bag
- Rush Hour
- The Weekend
- Donald Trump
- Break the Law
- Objects in the Mirror (acapella)
- Lucky A** B*tch
- When in Rome
- Frick Park Market
- Cut the Check
- Best Day Ever