Remembering Hip-Hop's most underrated rapper, Mac Miller

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Mac Miller
Mac Miller performs in Los Angeles in 2017. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)

On Friday, the Hip-Hop world learned that Pittsburgh rapper, Malcolm James McCormick, better known as Mac Miller, passed away. TMZ broke the news, announcing that the 26-year-old died of a drug overdose. The news shook friends, family, and fans alike. For me, it was like someone took a dagger and slashed it through my heart. I was inconsolable when I saw someone tweet, "R.I.P. Mac Miller." It must've been a joke, I thought. Promptly, I went to Google, and saw various news sources confirm my fear that Mac had actually passed.

I'll be honest with you, I cried that evening. I'm of the age where many prominent artists and celebrities have died, but Mac's death felt personal. It feels like I lost a friend. I must've been in the 10th grade when I heard of Mac Miller. Can't really say how I found him, or maybe he found me, but I was captivated by his youthful spirit and respect for hip-hop's underground roots. Because he was just two years older than me, I could relate to his teenage angst, lust for women, and longing to be successful.

I remember always trying to convince my friends that Mac Miller was one of the best artist of our generation. They'd always laugh at, until I played some of his newer hits (2015 and later), and they'd reply, "No way — that's Mac Miller?" From a musical standpoint, he showed maturation in his lyricism and storytelling. With every new album, Mac introduced a new element to his artillery. His career is what we hope from our favorite artists — the feel-good tracks from their early years, followed by sequels that show the artist's growth as a creative and an individual.

It's not often talked about how hard it is for white rappers to find a niche in Hip-Hop, which is an extremely exclusive community to outsiders. Eminem was the first white rapper to fully unlock the doors for white rappers into the genre. The Detroit native is often mentioned in Hip-Hop's pantheon of rappers, but there's still controversy over his place in Hip-Hop.

For white rappers who came after the self-proclaimed "Rap God," it's been a struggle to be accepted in Hip-Hop. One, you have to pay respect to the genre, but two, you have to create your own lane separate from Eminem's. Mac Miller was one of the rare post-Eminem white rappers who managed to find his own lane. Since his debut in 2007, Miller has gained respectability from some of hip-hop's biggest names: Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, to name a few.

When Mac Miller was making hits like "Donald Trump" or "Knock, Knock," you couldn't help but think that Mac Miller would become a one-hit wonder. Think Asher Roth. Everyone remembers, "I Love College." You can probably remember where you were when the single came out, and how popular that song was in 2009. But where is Asher Roth, today? Exactly. That's where Mac was unique. He wasn't content at just being another white rapper. He sought respect, he sought perfection, and he worked tirelessly on his craft to attain it.

On August 3, Mac made a bold marketing move by releasing his fifth album, Swimming, on the same day of Travis $cott's Astroworld. Fans had an important choice to make: join the mainstream hype and immediately bump Travis' new joint, or dive into Swimming. Personally, I chose the latter. On his final album, Mac talks frankly about heartbreak and his mental state in the wake of his breakup with superstar Ariana Grande. He opens up about addiction and learning to maintain. He even makes light-hearted jokes about his melancholy throughout the album.

Many fans have blamed Mac's death on Ariana Grande, but I urge you to take a step back. The pair had been together for two years, and it's been cited that his substance abuse was the key reason for their separation. Mac Miller's death sucks. Addiction sucks. But let's not point fingers. Rather, in this moment of anger and grief, we should all take the time to show love, just as Mac did for his entire career.

Hip-Hop lost their best friend over the weekend. I was happy to see various artists, fans, and even NBA stars, like Karl-Anthony Towns, show their respect to the Pittsburgh legend. He was the artist of our high school years, but it was more than that; he was the artist that wasn't scared to share his fears, his regrets, his doubts with the entire world. Over the years, we grew with Mac, and he grew with us. His authorship was never going to blow your mind, but it left you satisfied and longing for more. Perhaps the saddest thing about Mac Miller's passing is that we'll never get to see the final product.

It took me some time to get my mind clear enough to write this tribute to you, Mac. Thanks to you, I published my first-ever article, "The Most Underrated Rapper in the Game." That was you Mac. You were slept on by many, but you've left your mark on millions. Thank you, man. Thank you for helping me get over my own existential crises. Thank you for teaching me that showing vulnerability doesn't make you weak. Thank you for being unapologetically yourself. Thank you for your music. Thank you for your kind soul. You gave your heart and soul to the game, so rest easy, Mac. Much love always, Jeff.

Jeffrey Bissoy is an assistant producer at MPR News. Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and raised in The Twin Cities, Jeffrey has grown a passion for representation and identity, Hip-Hop, and the impact of sports on society. He's also the host of two podcasts — Maintainin' and The Come-Up — the former examines the nuances of the young adult experience, and the latter stays current with the weekly drama of the NBA.

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2 Photos

  • Mac Miller
    Mac Miller performs on the Camp Stage during day 1 of Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival 2017 at Exposition Park on October 28, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)
  • Mac Miller performs on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'
    Mac Miller performs with Jon Batiste and Stay Human on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert' on August 13, 2018. (Scott Kowalchyk/CBS)

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