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Late Review: 'Swimming'

A Continuous Series Reviewing Music, Movies, Books, and Other Arts

Courtesy of Variety—All Rights Reserved—No Copyright Intended

"My regrets look just like texts I shouldn't send."

From the very first line that comes out to the last beat you hear, Mac Miller commands your attention on 2018's album Swimming. With a mix of jazz-inspired beats and modern-day production, Mac Miller raps about his struggles with self-love (along with self-respect), his battle with drugs, relationships (both old and new), and his place in the world around him.

The opening two tracks, "Come Back to Earth" and "Hurt Feelings," provide a strong opening into the evolution of Mac Miller. Communicating his struggles, these two tracks provide a strong juxtaposition from where he was when he first started.

In comparison, these tracks, among others on the album, are not like anything Mac Miller has done before 2013. It shows how much he is matured and grown since the years he entered the world of music. The wittiness behind the lyrics and the delivery remains somewhat the same but the production has changed. The tone and ideas behind each song matured alongside Mac. To understand the growth of Mac as an artist, we must look at how his linear growth rises with each of his projects. Mixtapes like K.I.D.S. and Best Day Ever, we see his playfulness and his immaturity through his songs. He reminds us that he is still a kid and just having fun with hip-hop. Once the mid-2010s roll around, we see a different Mac. Projects like Faces, GO:OD AM and The Divine Feminine only seemed to broaden his awareness of his issues. We see his problems with drugs and his pondering of his existential place for being. We see his love for the various women in his life and women in general. In the long run, these projects only serve to broaden his catalog and his audience.

There was not much build up to this album. In fact, there was about a two-year break in between where fans could only catch Mac on small features. Releasing non-album singles "Buttons" and "Programs" proved to be the necessary steps to prepare for a full-length project.

With singles "Small Worlds," "Self Care," and "What's the Use?", Mac shows how the fusion of genres and pushing boundaries in hip-hop is necessary. It can provide new sounds for audiences and an experimentation with beats, rhyme schemes, production value, etc. No matter the issue, he seems to find a new way to convey his thoughts and ideas to his audience.

Some reviewers note that Swimming lacked a sense of spirit and any depth that audiences normally encounter with Mac's discography. Some of his lyrics are simple in comparison to other songs on other albums. Yet there is some sense of beauty in its simplicity.

There are glimpses of deeper meaning and thought with album cuts such as "Perfecto" and "Wings." With lines like "She put me back together when I'm out of order/Perfect" and "Talking shit, I wander through the motives/Wonder who the fuck I'm supposed to be," some of those concerns seem to lose their value.

Taking a listen through the album, you find fewer raps and more melodic singing and crooning. This, by all means, does not necessarily add to its depth or take away from it. It only adds to the unique style that can only be found in the mind of Mac Miller. Through his melodic singing, Mac finds his place and runs with it, much to the delight of his fans.

Muddled with the release of several top-tier albums by artists who deserve attention (Astroworld and STAY DANGEROUS) in their own right, Swimming earns its own space among the best. With simple yet introspective lyrics and jazzy beats, Swimming provides a breath of fresh air in the ever-changing landscape of hip-hop.

Though the death of Mac Miller will forever remain tied to Swimming alongside its commercial success, we must not undermine the value of this album. It is still a shining moment in maturity and a step in the right direction to something more.

It is Mac Miller's most complete work and yet there was still room to grow.

Official rating: 8.7/10

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