When Mac Miller passed away in September, I — like many, many other people my age — felt like I had lost an old friend. The kid from Pittsburgh was so much more than a sound or a face in your music library. He was an icon — a symbol of authenticity, optimism and everlasting youth.
As a grimy-looking, hip-hop-loving white boy growing up in American suburbia, I fell in love with Mac at first listen. I was in eighth grade, driving back from Thanksgiving at the beach with my older brother. He popped in a CD with a crudely drawn blue streak on the cover, and what I heard made me feel different than anything I had ever heard before.
The artist was talking about my life, my shenanigans, my aesthetic — hell, he made the music feel like my own. My addictive obsession couldn’t get its fix from just one listen, so as soon as I got home, I timidly asked my brother for a copy of “Blue Slide Park” for Christmas. That ride kicked off a long, supportive and loving relationship between Mac’s music and me. The rest is history.
So when I saw The Greek Theatre announce a Halloween memorial show (what would have been Mac’s L.A. stop of the “Swimming Tour”) filled with Mac’s friends, influences and collaborators from over the years, I knew I couldn’t miss it. Of course, so did every single body on the West Coast. So when I went to bed on Oct. 4, I made sure to set several alarms in preparation for the 10 a.m. ticket release.
But, in typical Mac fashion, I took a “Senior Skip Day” that morning and decided to sleep in. When I finally woke up shortly after 11 a.m., I timidly pulled up Ticketmaster and was unsurprised to see that it had sold out. My heart only sank lower and lower as I perused resale markets only to find pit tickets selling for thousands.
Eventually, I reached a respectable point of self-forgiveness for failing to acquire tickets, and I finally accepted that I would not be joining my fellow Mac disciples for his final send-off. I closed my computer, congratulated friends who secured tickets and retreated to my room. My eyes instinctually gravitated towards my top shelf, where an old electronics bag had been collecting dust for only God knows how long. I looked inside, and the screen from my old iPod Classic stared back at me.
Suddenly, bits and pieces of high school memories began to flood my mind. I remembered my 15th birthday, when I sat in my New England boarding school dorm room sad and alone — listening to “K.I.D.S.” and “Macadelic” for company. I remembered when my dad picked me up at the end of sophomore year, and I asked him to play “Best Day Ever” as we drove through the school’s gates one last time.
I remembered crisp, frigid December mornings at Columbus High School, when my group of friends would huddle together in one of our cars and blast Mac’s many feel-good tracks before school. I remembered nervously showing my favorite songs to love interests, and naively gauging our compatibility from their reactions.
I laid in bed and put his discography on shuffle, and I tried to imagine my youth without his music as its backdrop. I couldn’t, and as I type this up, I still can’t. So, naturally, when The Mac Miller Circles Fund announced that it was going to live stream the entire concert online, I cleared my Halloween plans and set up camp in my living room with an HDMI cord, two joints and a tall glass of Jameson.
As I watched the night’s performers take the stage one by one, each more wildly different and talented than the last, I began to realize the true scope of Mac’s legacy. A-list artists, experimental collaborators and REMember Music signees (Mac’s personal music label) all performed side-by-side, with no prioritization for one artist over another. With each new artist, new memories of Mac would resurge — especially with Vince Staples and Chance The Rapper.
Chance, now one of the biggest names in popular music, went on his first national tour as an opener for Mac on the Space Migration Tour in the summer of 2013, along with Vince and Odd Future’s “The Internet.” Only a few months prior, Chance released his ground-breaking mixtape “Acid Rap,” to which I had already developed an addiction. As well, I had been a fan of Vince’s “Shyne Coldchain” mixtape and Odd Future collaborations, so I bought two tickets for my mom and I (I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts alone at the time) to go see them at a crappy strip mall nightclub in Jacksonville, Fl.
Both Chance and Vince, armed only with laptops and microphones, delivered unforgettable performances to an unknown audience before Mac served as the main dish. Only a few years later, the two artists were selling out arenas, this time the suburbanites chanting their lyrics back at them. And with this concert, the three artists came full circle, with Chance and Vince giving heartwarming tributes to a friend who helped kick-start their careers.
I could write about this for days and days, and perhaps I will one day. But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end at some point, and, like Mac, I hope to leave you with enough material to remember him as he should — with laughs, smiles and an endless trail of nostalgia. Rest In Peace, Malcolm James McCormick (Jan. 19, 1992 – Sept. 8, 2018).
Matthew Philips is a junior majoring in journalism. He is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Fill in the Blank,” runs every other Monday.