GO:OD AM marks the 23-year-old, platinum-selling rapper’s third record in the last five years – and a different Mac Miller than we’ve heard before. The Pittsburgh native has come a long way since his early days with Rostrum Records. After a half-dozen mixtapes and a $10 million label contract with Warner Bros. Records, Mac has finally refined his laid back panache, distancing himself from a lingering “college-rap” reputation.
This album offers a more distinguished vibe from what we felt in Blue Slide Park and Watching Movies With the Sound Off. Mac’s nonchalant flow has a stronger presence in the airy mallet synths and heavy back-beat kicks. Multiple collaborations with ID Labs, Sounwave, Frank Dukes and Tyler, The Creator show Mac’s reoccurring taste in spacey, detailed instrumentals. The second track “Brand Name” – a soulful sample that channels a background slice of Watch the Throne’s “Gotta Have It” – sets the tone for the whole album: a rise n’ shine, good morning call. Mac raps ‘it ain’t nothing but a brand name / baby, this right here is hand-made,’ claiming that people shouldn’t be quick to judge a young, white rapper’s façade.
In the following tracks we hear Mac comfortably settling in. Thundercat’s thick, jazzy basslines pulse through Mac’s lyrics in several other instrumentals – some of which even seem Kendrick Lamar-esque. In particular, “Rush Hour” moves toward impressions heard in “A.D.H.D”, a kind of aura that you’d expect Lil B to appear on (which he later does so in “Time Flies”). “Two Matches”, the sequel to Watching Movies’ “Matches” with Ab-Soul, captures the same nostalgic feeling; both artists reflect on their early days of making music toward how they’ve grown and prospered today.
Miguel’s feature in “Weekend” complements Mac’s melodic talent. Their vocals promote the harmonious side of Mac that we’ve heard flash before in Knock Knock and Diamonds & Gold, but never quite experienced in full potential. Moreover, in “Clubhouse”, Mac asks ‘if there’s a list to the top you can sign me up,’ implying again that this new work is worthy of recognition and a membership at the top. And he makes a good case for that in party anthems like “100 Grandkids” and “Break the Law”. Mac returns to his roots with a playful, reckless attitude – only this time it’s upgraded. In “100 Grandkids” he promises his mom that he’ll ‘bless her with some grandkids,’ but until then, Mac explains ‘I’m getting dollars, I’m just doing what I gotta.’ Here we are reminded that he’s still in his early twenties. Relating back to a 2014 interview with Billboard, Mac said “I’m finally having fun again. Fun – there’s nothing wrong with that.” We gain a stronger understanding of this in “Break the Law” with Juicy J, where Mac returns with his old ‘F the system’ mentality that has left college kids head-banging to for 7 years.
Yet, Mac takes a step back in the 11th track to contemplate the ‘fun’ he’s lived through. “Perfect Circle / God Speed” is Mac’s epiphany, spilt in two-parts. He retreats during these 8 minutes – allowing for a moment of clarity, in which he hides nothing. His realization seems like a long time coming: ‘them pills that I’m popping, I need to man up,’ he shares, ‘admit it’s a problem, I need a wake up.’ Mac faces himself internally and opens up to his audience, touching on past struggles with addiction and depression. His ultimate acknowledgement ‘I’m finally awake, good morning’ echoes maturity and the theme of the rest of the record.
Overall, the album speaks to a new era for Mac Miller. As he put it best in a tweet:
I made 9 different albums until I finally arrived at this one
— Mac (@MacMiller) July 30, 2015
Mac has finally realized the boundaries of his genre, and GO:OD AM explores every aspect of his sound. Its track chronology is impressive, with scattered, strategic placements of slower tempos and certain featured artists. As a whole, the record feels very complete, much like Mac’s expressed self-satisfaction. While lyrical sophistication may still be lacking in his rap portfolio, GO:OD AM gives us something to consider next time we hear him called an Asher Roth wannabe.