[22 July 2014]
Superficially, Mac Miller is not your obvious hip-hop star. He’s a pale, Jewish white kid who looks like he’s going to pass out on stage let alone perform and entertain a crowd. Thankfully we live in a world where superficial judgements can be silenced with talent. Mac Miller only needs to open his mouth and all doubts about his hip-hop integrity can be swept under the carpets. Faces is what you present to people when they tell you that Mac Miller can’t cement himself as a credible hip-hop artist. He’s proved that he’s not a fluke talent, building on the hype he created with Watching Movies With The Sound Off, and he’s proved that you don’t need to be from the hood to make it in hip hop.
Faces asserts, not for the first time, that Miller is in this on his own. He’s always stayed away from the bright lights of big labels, and his debut album Blue Side Park was the first independent hip-hop album in nearly 20 years to top the Billboard charts. He hasn’t chased after the big names to hunt down features and put his name out there, something he acknowledges in ‘‘Here We Go’’ where he says he “did it all without a Drake feature.” Yes, there are features on the album, but they’re there because they work with the song, not because they’re a big name. Earl Sweatshirt’s appearance on ‘‘Polo Jeans’’ is infectious, and the relatively obscure Mike Jones was brought in on ‘‘Uber’‘, not because of his name, but because of how he could enhance the song. His production is also brilliant throughout the album. Using the pseudonym Larry Fisher, he has enough production talent to pack the whole rap game in and do just fine. The album spans from the melancholy beats to the high energy tracks such as ‘‘Therapy’‘. Mac Miller, the boy who fell in love and devoted himself to hip-hop at 15, seems to genuinely care about the work he produces. Nothing is rushed, everything is carefully crafted, and it’s paying off.
What’s so satisfying about this mixtape, and Millers work in general, is that you feel like you’re truly following the progression of his life. For the first time we see Miller documenting the fall out of his rise to fame. New found money and fame appear alongside drugs and addiction, with Miller portraying himself as having a “drug habit like Phillip Hoffman” on ‘‘What Do You Do?’‘. It’s a seemingly realistic portrayal of his problems. There’s no slamming drug use, but he’s insightfully aware of how dangerous they can be. On ‘‘Friends’’ we see the effect of drugs on those around him as he raps, “I know my father probably wish I would just smoke pot / My grandmother probably slap me for the drugs I got.” Throughout the mixtape we gradually see how fame brings its perks, but also it’s vices, and these vices soon dominate the mindset of Miller, rendering his new found fame relatively obsolete. It’s an astute insight and at times it makes for somewhat difficult listening.
The biggest flaw is that it’s too long. At around 90 minutes in length, smart lyrics and flawless production begin to fall on deaf ears. It’s a rookie mistake and even the most established of artists would avoid an album of that length. Yet if the main flaw is that you can have too much of a good thing then it’s evident that Faces is something that every hip-hop fan should delve into without questioning whether a white Jewish kid from Pittsburgh can rap.