GO:OD AM, the major label debut from Mac Miller, comes on like a wakeup call. This time around, however, Miller, 23, embraces the idea he might stick around for a while longer.
GO:OD AM, the major label debut from Mac Miller, comes on like a wakeup call.
Following a brief intro, the album kicks off with the sound of an alarm clock blaring. Then, over the course of 17 tracks, the Pittsburgh-born rapper proceeds to wipe the sleep from his eyes, dropping verses about steadily emerging from the drug-fueled fog he documented in vivid detail on his 2014 mixtape Faces, a dark, trippy affair where he labelled himself a "drug absorbent endorphin addict" and fantasized about dying of an overdose.
This time around, however, Miller, 23, embraces the idea he might stick around for a while longer. He backs off his overdose predictions on "Brand Name," admitting he's "hoping not to join the 27 Club" of troubled musicians who died at the age of 27 - a group that includes the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Elsewhere, he proclaims a desire to grow up "old and rich," envisions the possibility of marriage, and, on "100 Grandkids," recounts a promise he made to his mother to provide her with grandchildren "so she can spoil 'em."
That's not to say Miller's completely shaken his demons - "Ain't saying that I'm sober/ I'm just in a better place," he sighs on "Doors" - but there's a definite sense dawn has finally arrived at the tail end of a long, cold night.
"It's very important for me to reinvent what I'm doing every record, but this one more than anything - maybe because it's on a major label, maybe because it feels like a new phase of life - this one really feels like album number one," said Miller, who headlines a concert at LC Pavilion on Sunday, Oct. 11. "I think it's just the energy surrounding everything. I have a whole new team [around me] and everything is running a lot smoother and more fluid. And, yeah, I'm sure a part of it is coming out of my quote-unquote dark times."
Throughout GO:OD AM, Miller details the various spoils that accompany celebrity - namely money, drugs and women - and the havoc these forces can wield in combination. "I been having trouble sleeping/ Battling these demons," he gripes on "Weekend." "Wondering what's the thing that keeps me breathing/ Is it money, fame or neither?"
While the rapper never settles on an answer, there's an overriding sense he's finally starting to find his bearings in the spotlight - a feeling that pervades even in those moments the music takes a less hopeful turn. Witness the muted, ghostly "Ascension," where Miller wonders how "I'm supposed to look in my parents' eye/ When I'm scared to die/ My eyes the same color as cherry pie."
"There's never going to be a record I make that's all 100 percent happy. I think this record is more [based in] reality, and there are always going to be dark moments in reality," Miller said. "But those records are easy when you let go. You just have to unlock that part of you that has any hesitation. It's like sitting and talking with a therapist. It's not hard once you decide you want to be honest."
Of course, most therapy sessions tend to take place one on one behind locked doors rather than on tracks designed to be heard by hundreds of thousands - not that Miller sees a difference.
"You've got to think, when I'm recording, it is just one on one; it's just me and an engineer," he said. "I tend to not think of the people who are going to hear it when I'm making something. Some people, that's all they think about when they make a record."
Early in Miller's career, he included himself among this group, and when he set to recording his debut full-length, Blue Slide Park, from 2011, he entered into sessions with an acute awareness of his audience. Though commercially successful (the album sold nearly 145,000 copies in its first week in stores), it was creatively bereft, filled with generic party bangers awash in mentions of women and weed.
Recalling the critical drubbing that accompanied the release - Pitchfork granted the album a 1.0 on its 10-point scale, writing, "His art is 144,487 times less remarkable than his first week sales numbers would have you believe" - Miller allowed that "everyone is entitled to an opinion" before rendering his own verdict: "On the older work, I was boring."
A turning point arrived with the 2013 release of Watching Movies with the Sound Off, a dense, cinematic record where his skillset finally caught up with his natural enthusiasm for the genre.
"Watching Movies was 100 percent a turning point," Miller said. "I think I just started focusing on making albums - like full, complete projects - and I stopped thinking about who I was talking to and what they wanted to hear, or what would be big, or where I fit it. It's the moment when I finally started making the records I wanted to make."