The Divine Feminine (2016)
Rap / Hip-Hop
REMember / Warner Bros.
Remember the days when Mac Miller was just “Easy Mac with the cheesy raps”? Yep, he was the dude in the Pitt basketball jersey sitting on his bed in what might be the most cringe-inducing mixtape cover out there. He was immature with a little too much braggadocio. Fortunately, Mac started to find his footing and started to mature over the years through releases like Best Day Ever, Blue Slide Park, and most recently GO:OD AM. Each of these releases, whether they were mixtapes or studio albums, had a different theme but they all had one thing in common. They were all stepping stones to where Mac is now in terms of his maturity. With the release of his fourth studio album, The Divine Feminine, we receive a Mac that is way more mature and maybe way more complex than ever before. It’s a unique album that demonstrates just how far the Pittsburgh rapper has come since his Taylor Allderdice days where he was slinging mixtapes in hopes of making it big.
First let’s begin with what makes Mac’s fourth go-around so unique in the current climate of Rap…it’s an album entirely focused on “love.” Yeah, every single song explores the idea of love and relationships. That’s not something you really see in today’s rap industry. Rappers are always quick to brag about their money and their women, but Mac takes a softer and more sentimental approach with his latest project. Look no further than the album’s premiere single, “Dang!” featuring the talented Anderson .Paak. Mac straight up says it himself in his rhymes…he needs to find his softer and more sensitive side, something that goes against the grain of orthodox hip-hop.
There’s a lot of steamy material within the concise 10 song LP. “Stay” is an intimate plea to Mac’s girl, begging her to stay the night. The song’s laced with some great jazz instrumentals; an abundance of trumpets and saxophone that will make anyone snap their fingers. There’s also “Skin,” which is the closest thing you’ll find to a sex-ready song. Mac himself mutters, “So finally I made a f***ing song,” over a beat so smooth and sensual that it’s sure to fog up your windows. Let’s not forget about Mac’s collaboration with Ariana Grande, “My Favorite Part,” that might as well be the announcement of the two’s relationship. It’s a genuine song that wonderfully displays the two’s mutual feelings for each other in a passionate way. What a couple.
Another thing to note is Mac Miller’s complexity that he brings to his lyrics. Mac Miller isn’t new to exploring complex themes. Just look at projects like Watching Movies with the Sound Off and Faces. That same brand of intricacy makes its way onto the album on songs like “Cinderella” and “Planet God Damn,” which features a wonderful sounding hook from Njomza. Despite this fact, there are still some immature lyrics that poke their way through some of the material that at times mucks up the final product. Lines like “I just eat p***y, other people need food” made me shake my head. C’mon Mac, there’s no room for juvenile remarks on such a complex album as this. Hey, I guess everyone still has room to mature right?
Whether you like it or not, there’s also a lot of singing on the part of Mac Miller. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sold on Mac’s singing voice, which made me a little worried going into the album for the first time. He’s experimented with it in the past, and to be fair, he has improved as time’s progressed. There are some songs on the album where his singing works really well, and other times where it sits at mediocrity. In the end, I think I am more sold on Mac’s voice then I ever was before. That’s a compliment that you can take to the bank.
There’s a bevy of collaborators on the album, besides the ones I’ve mentioned already. Bilal lends his voice to the outro for “Congratulations,” a song that floats on cloud-high piano melodies and mellow jazz. Kendrick Lamar lends his ability to the album’s final track, “God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty,” an interestingly titled cut full of passion and lyricism. Instead of rapping a verse, Kendrick harmonizes with Mac and acts as a supplement to the record, which works extremely well. As a big Kendrick fan I was hoping to hear a beefy verse, but I can’t really complain with his contribution to the song. The one feature that didn’t work too well was Cee-Lo Green, who’s featured on the simply-titled track “We.” It’s a solid song with a goes-down-easy hook, but Cee-Lo Green just felt like an afterthought. He didn’t really add much to the track and felt tacked on.
I have to give major props to Mac Miller for dedicating an entire album to the complex concept of love. That sounds like a terrifying endeavor, an idea that could go horribly wrong if not handled with care and expertise. Fortunately, Mac dives into the topic with complexity and maturity that makes The Divine Feminine a stand-out. The album also has some of the best production I have heard from a Mac Miller project. It’s almost worth releasing an instrumental mix of the record. Although the album’s not completely perfect, it’s still prime Mac, a rapper who has come a long way since his days as Easy Mac with the cheesy raps. (God…what an awful name for a rapper…)