Over the course of his decently long music career, Mac Miller has taken a variety of avenues per project. Although he is often considered to be part of the “mainstream” at this point, he does not stick to one generic formula for each album.
His early work, such as his attention-grabbing mixtapes and his first album “Blue Slide Park,” was largely focused on the party life of, well, a very young adult. This progressed, however, into something more emotionally-oriented that was fully heard on his sophomore album “Watching Movies With The Sound Off.” “WMWTSO” witnessed Mac falling hard into drug addiction and a deep depression. After Miller overcame these struggles, he dropped 2015’s “G.O.O.D. A.M.” This project was a mix of ideas, but overall portrayed the main point that Mac was his old self again yet still differed quite a bit from his previous work.
Now comes “The Divine Feminine.” Just as “Watching Movies With The Sound Off” dealt with feelings, so does this project, only the feelings are much, much different. Miller has touched on love and relationships many times throughout his career, such as in “Missed Calls” off “Blueslide Park,” “Objects In The Mirror” off “WMWTSO” (yes, I realize that this song has multiple meanings) but here we have an entire album dedicated to this topic.
Now Miller’s approach to a love song is not entirely unconventional, but is also not particularly generic. He approaches the subject in numerous ways, whether it’s a failed relationship, a sex-ballad or just a flirtatious track, Miller gives you multiple angles to look from. Additionally, the beats on this project match each song well, with instruments of multiple types bringing the moods to life. The horns on “Stay,” for example, complement the tone of every one of Miller’s words. The gentle but firm plucking of the strings on “Cinderella” provoke just what this album is about: raw emotion. On the subject of “Stay,” Ty Dolla $ign delivers a quality hook, something he continues to do across the tracks of some of hip hop’s most notable.
Speaking of features, listeners will no doubt notice that Miller’s latest love interest Ariana Grande comes in light but strong on “My Favorite Part.” The two showed their chemistry in a big way on Grande’s 2013 hit single “The Way,” a track that helped launch her singing career in a big way, and that chemistry continues fittingly onto “The Divine Feminine.”
In Mac Miller‘s “The Divine Feminine”, the instrumentation is often impressive but the cheap lyrics are wasting the whole effort. Even the presence of major guests doesn’t help.
Other features on the track, such as Kendrick Lamar and Cee Lo Green, are worth mentioning for namesake but do not add anything particular to the project as a whole. One that is particularly a standout, however, is Anderson .Paak’s chorus on “Dang!” This track is all around enjoyable, with grooving bass lines topped by an assortment of instrumental details that truly bring it to life. With .Paak bringing his smooth, raw style on top of the beat, this is the track to revisit.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/275364740″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
The problem is found, however, in the lyrics, and it’s a recurring one that brings the entire project down several notches. Over and over Miller spits one line after another of bland, overly-corny sentiments. For example, on “Planet God Damn,” he raps: “Don’t go back on my word, yeah I keep that shit gift wrapped/Your pussy better than Six Flags, I’m in that.” And on “Skin” he proclaims:
My tongue twistin’ is ticklin’ just a little bit
I’m swimmin’ inside of your skin like a river
In the Caribbean
When one hears these lyrics one has to stop and ask him or herself, “Really? It took an entire year for this guy to write this?” Frankly, it’s very disappointing. Miller has never been a top five lyricist or anything of that nature but we have certainly seen him destroy the mic in many ways many times before. Like it or not, good hip hop relies on good lyrics. There is a reason that hip hop’s figureheads throughout history, Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mos Def, N.W.A (and the list goes on for a while) all displayed strong talents as lyric writers. And in many cases, as rapper’s lyrics have declined, so have their sales and critical acclaim. Yes, there is plenty of modern hip-hop with practically no lyrical worth, but the fact of the matter is that this music does not stand up straight to that of those who could and can balance good instrumentals with equally good, if not better, emceeing.
Ultimately this album as a whole is not entirely awful, much of the instrumentation is impressive and there is a definite standout track in the Anderson .Paak featured “Dang!” but lyrics of this poor quality cannot hold a hip hop album together. So thanks Mac but I’ll just hope your next one is better.