|Album Review: Mac Miller - Watching Movies With The Sound Off|
Watching Movies With The Sound Off
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Mac Miller is like the Vanessa Hudgens of the rap game. He makes art for teens. Except unlike Hudgens, Miller has always been upfront about being a pothead. I guess that’s the advantage of not working for an antisemitic megacorporation. You can be yourself.
If Blue Slide Park is Miller cutting class, then Watching Movies With The Sound Off is him worrying about flunking out. The Pittsburgh emcee’s sophomore album is a coming-of-age story, an indecisive work, as Miller struggles to define his aura, his voice.
Like all young adults, Miller faces a dilemma. Will he follow the path laid out for him, in this case pop stardom? Or will he fall through the cracks, into the underground? Judging from Movies, Miller doesn’t know.
Just like Kid Cudi, Miller now produces his own beats under the moniker Larry Fisherman. He produced 12 of the 16 songs on Movies, darker, trippier and more nuanced than Blue Slide Park.
For “Red Dot Music”, Miller loops a whiny vocal sample, improvising an intro slightly less interesting than “that ALC shit” -- see “ALC Theme.” “Youforia”, the LP’s closer, is an electronic-inspired number, a combination of Ratatat and Clams Casino -- see “One Last Thing”. Speaking of Cudi, you almost anticipate his booming baritone to come in. “The Star Room” may be Miller’s most original beat, with its slashing guitar distortion and rhythmic drum spasms. As a whole, Miller’s production sounds both lush and disjointed -- a combination of mainstream and underground sensibilities.
As far as the lyrics, Miller has good flow, but hopscotches between topics too fast. It seems his ADHD prevents him from telling stories, making it difficult to transcend buzz rhymes. Does he really need to shout out The Fader on wax? Content alternates between bragging about his lifestyle and feeling ashamed of it.
On “Matches”, Miller and Ab-Soul trade stories of their youth. Apparently the TDE deep thinker busted his first nut on a bitch at age 10, and looks back on his turnt up youth with pride. Miller sounds less convincing spitting about his career highlights. He doesn’t brag like Soul. Instead he contemplates a career in medicine.
On “REMember”, Miller falls deeper into a funk, as he remembers a deceased homie. “Way back then I didn’t know shit, and I don’t know shit now. When the world’s looking hopeless, I’m a hold shit down,” he sings on the chorus, before dropping a wired guitar solo.
For all its immaturities, such as the relentless religious references, Watching Movies With The Sound Off fulfills its purpose. It's an honest reflection of Mac Miller the rapper, which is all we can really ask of an emcee: to be real.
In today’s culture, Miller could go Hollywood and maintain his stoner image. It just doesn’t sound like he wants to. Or he’s not sure. It’s that kind of indecision, paired with poor business chops, that spells suicide for a rapper.