Mac Miller: Lessons from a Too-Fast Life

The thing about death is that we all know it’s going to happen eventually, yet most of us expect that for many, it will be when one has lived a long and full life. After all, that’s the natural course of things: birth, growing up, building a career and raising a family, and then living out one’s twilight years in comfort and quietness. When things occur out of the ordinary, it’s bothersome. It often makes one pause and reflect on how short life can really be for others – especially when such a life seemed to be lived so swiftly, like a car running 120 on a 20mph street. This pretty much describes how one might describe the life of Mac Miller, young rapper extraordinaire, who died because of overdose in 2018 at the age of 26.

Rising Star

Born on January 19, 1992, Malcolm James McCormick started rapping at the young age of fifteen. While this might seem common to most teenager boys, Malcolm (or Mac, as he would eventually be called when he rose to fame) stood out from the rest because it was clear as day how he was incredibly gifted in this talent of rapping. Many would observe him to be the next (and quite possibly, even better) Eminem: a young, tattooed white dude who can go head to head with anyone who’s got lyrical game – and effortlessly wipe the floor with him. His talent did not go unnoticed, for a year after he was signed with Rostrum Records in 2010 his debut album would reach number one on the Billboard 100 charts. This feat is made all the more significant due to the fact that this was the first debut album to be independently distributed while making it to the top of the charts since 1995. Career-wise, it was good things all the way to 2018 – years that were peppered with successful studio albums, signing on to a major label like Warner Bros. Records, and a massive following worldwide.

Struggles

His rise to stardom wasn’t without its fair share of trials, of course. Miller struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues, which caused problems for him in his romantic relationships, run-ins with the law, and a lot more. This would also apparently deliver the deathblow to his health, as he would die from drug overdose on September 7, 2018 in his Studio City home.

After all this, it is not hard to compare Mac Miller’s life to a meteor shower: brief, but awe-inspiring. Not many in can compete with his achievements in the rap industry at such a young age, while his destructive habits clearly suggested that there was a high chance of him bowing out soon if he didn’t get cleaned up. What should be noted though is his awareness of it: he spoke openly about his addictions, took to music to express his feelings (and problems) with love, and made commendable attempts to get as cleaned up as possible. For the fans, his limited releases are all too precious. For friends and family, he was someone who would be there to support them and help them overcome their struggles as he clearly grappled with his own. Brilliant and selfless, he gave the world the best of his talents in such a short time – as if he himself sort of already knew that his stay on Earth was limited.

Such a life carries with it lessons for the younger set – those who admired him, struggled as he did, and basically navigating that confusing time between teenager and young adulthood.

  1. Explore your interests until you find that one main skill you want to cultivate. Miller was into sports before he focused on music, but once he realized that he could sing/record/perform for a living, he poured all his efforts into it. In music, he finetuned his specialty to rapping. Once he knew what it is that he wanted to do, it was easy to let go of other prospects so he could hone his craft. Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t be multitalented. A well-rounded person will always like and explore many things, but when you know that one thing you want to focus on then it can be your top priority for the time it takes to cultivate it. When choosing the right priority, it helps to evaluate if it will be the one to bring the most return of interest. For a lot of people, this may be in the form of financial compensation or recognition; whatever it will be is entirely up to you.

  1. Express your difficulties into the right outlets. Granted, Miller had a problem with addiction – but at the very least, he had music as some form of therapy or sounding board to release some of the problems he had in life. He released songs with lyrics and topics that provided insight into his romantic relationships, which is actually a very healthy thing to do. The lesson here is to avoid destructive responses by taking your difficulties and pouring them out into healthy outlets that are available to you. For example, if you’re having problems at work, a better outlet to release all that pent-up frustration is to work out in the gym or sign up for a painting class instead of drowning your sorrows in whisky. It is safe to say that Miller probably fanned the flames of his substance addiction with the trials he faced in life, whatever those may be, to a point where it got out of control and ended him.

  1. Seek and help others, no matter how you feel. Helping and being there for other people primarily helps them, but the benefit extends to you. No one loses anything from being a good friend, even when you have your own troubles. Frankie Grande, brother of his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande, notes how Miller was there to encourage him and support him throughout his own personal struggle with drug addiction. It takes a big person to do this, and you should give yourself a pat on the shoulder if you are able to do so wholeheartedly.

  1. Don’t be afraid to make the big decisions. Throughout his career, Miller made a number of decisions that clearly showed he was in control and that he had a vision of what he wanted to accomplish in his career. This included choosing a record label that was located in his hometown (as opposed to committing to one in the big city), and putting out his own record label REMember Music, to name a few. He had his own reasons, both personal and professional for doing so – which bore fruit. While he eventually moved on to bigger things after these, it was easy to see that he had expectations of himself that necessitated such decisions, so he had no (or maybe just a few) qualms about going ahead with it.

  1. Establish limits on yourself. Miller’s run-ins with the law and his eventual death was the result of him not recognizing his limits enough to stay on the safe side of things. While a life as colorful and as action-packed as his is very interesting to read and know about, it was also so short that it kept him (and his captive audience) from finding out what else he was truly capable of because he passed on too soon. In your own life, you must be aware and purposeful of limits that you will set on yourself simply because you know it will be good for you. It can be as simple as forcing yourself to sleep at 11pm every night instead of 2 am, or not allowing yourself to be a push over to people whose intentions are more self-serving than anything else.

  1. Maintain authenticity, because the people who matter with appreciate it. The last Grammy’s was criticized for not giving the award to Miller posthumously. It was a supposed sign of commercialism instead of a celebration of uniqueness that came hand in hand with raw talent. Despite this, true fans know what his album is: a completely personal experience that he was generous enough to share with the world. His music sent the clear message that it was never about hitting sales targets but rather it sending profound messages in the form of songs to touch the lives of others and give them an insight into his.

Mac Miller may be gone, but his music will always be there for people to turn to when they need it. The years he was active in the music and rap industry will always be heralded as one of the most impactful. At 26, he has clearly accomplished so much more than his contemporaries; more importantly, he has raised the bar high for those who are as talented as him – and we are all watchers who will note whether or not someone will come up to scratch.   

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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