A shame that my tragedy my masterpiece.
The quote above is from Faces, but beyond the obvious relevance to Circles, it illustrates something about Mac Miller I find utterly compelling. Maybe the most compelling thing about an evolution that, even cut unfairly short, looks now like one of the most impressive and unique in music today.
There is so much potential for disaster on posthumous albums. But Circles, the final effort from the deeply missed Mac Miller, sets a new standard for how albums like this should be done.
Though Miller didn't get a chance to finish Circles before he died in 2018 at age 26, thankfully, nothing about the album feels incomplete. Collaborator Jon Brion takes the helm for much of Circles, and does a fantastic job of maintaining a sense of purity throughout the project. He lets Miller shine through haunting, unembellished production, and ….
The news of Mac Miller's fatal accidental overdose sent shockwaves through the Hip Hop community in September 2018. The 26-year-old artist had just released Swimming, one of his most rounded and critically acclaimed albums to date, and it was rumored that he was in the midst of completing a companion album that would be called Circles. Thanks to superproducer Jon Brion, who helped produce Frank Ocean's Blonde and has scores of high-profile production credits under his belt, Circles was completed and was released two days before what would have been Miller's 28th birthday.
Mac Miller's death from an accidental drug overdose sent ripples across the rap community he helped cultivate. He was a kind-hearted collaborator and invested heavily in others' growth, but his musical arc was left unfinished. In August of 2018, he put out Swimming, an album that was like a quantum leap in self-discovery. Then, a month later, at 26, he was gone, unable to realize that potential.
On September 7, 2018, just a month after the release of his critically acclaimed fifth album, Swimming, Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller died from an accidental drug overdose. His struggles were no secret, but there was a glimmer of hope on Swimming that hinted that better days might be around the corner. While those possibilities were unfortunately lost with his passing, Miller did manage to record extra material that ended up on the posthumous set Circles.
M ac Miller's narrative arc was genuinely surprising. A capable but derivative white rapper from Pittsburgh with neck tattoos, his early works about partying did not seem likely to trouble the zeitgeist in any lasting way. The zeitgeist knew otherwise, however, and from 2011 to his untimely death by accidental overdose in September 2018, Miller built ambitiously on those bro-hop beginnings.