Written on: The Anniversary of His Death
Malcolm James McCormick always knew how to start an album.
Hallelujah — thank God I have a future / Praying I don’t waste it getting faded
Stage Name: Mac Miller, multi-platinum-selling emcee, Pittsburgh native, and victim to fatal overdose as of September 7th, 2018.
I know it’s been a minute since I been awake / Didn’t mean to cause you pain, I just needed to escape
When I found Mac, I met an artist in a state of continuous evolution, constantly shedding splices of his endlessly shifting self. I found him stamped on vinyl and etched into deep ruts humming with 808s, two-point-five decades of agonizing and imperfect and teleologically hopeful therapies, there ticking away for our listening pleasure.
The sun don’t shine, when I’m alone / I lose my mind and I lose control
If I’d stuck to framing this whole piece as a Letter to Mac and hadn’t gotten so depressed about it all, had stuck to making a longer comparative-essay-as-letter type effort (but why the need for coarse comparisons, why the clickbait) it would’ve been overwordily entitled:
to : MAC MILLER
from : ME, CADE STONE
on : THE ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR DEATH BY OVERDOSE
subtitle : “THE CRACKED BUT RADIANTLY REPIERCED ART OF A YOUNG MAN GONE TOO SOON — aka “WHICH OF MAC MILLER’S ALBUMS IS THE MOST HOPEFUL AND MIGHT IT BE THE HEDONIHILISTIC DAYDREAM OF ‘WATCHING MOVIES’?”
an ODE; or GOODBYE MAC
My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send / And I got neighbors, they’re more like strangers, we could be friends / I just need a way out of my head / I’ll do anything for a way out of my head.
Per the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner investigation: Cause of death found to be a catastrophic overdose on the evening of 09.07.18; victim: male, Caucasian, 5’7”; toxicological reaction stemming from fentanyl, cocaine, and ethanol.
But the hopes, the doubts, the spillage of personal pathologies, those were missing; had not yet gone cold with the rest of him.
I found Mac’s unceasing etches to be endlessly inspiring, dented by the blows of his years but never warped; his ever-sloughing snakeskin forever shifting towards something Bigger, Denser, Truer.
I occasionally miss him very much.
I’m sicker than a biohazard psychopathic murderer / speak to Jews in German words I go to church with burglars — if you count Delusional Thomas as canon (less an album than a drug-addled ketamine spiral of a mixtape framed as an alter-ego’s manifesto) — and it might be better not to, for the sake of gentle psychological continuity, free of lingering questions about selfhood and its brutal refractions through hard drugs.
I sometimes wonder if Mac was haunted by who he was on drugs and who he was, himself; sober and shaking. I wonder if he ever worried that his most brilliant lyrical contortions were conjured in a haze of amphetamines. I wonder if he ever stopped running, if he ever turned around. I wonder what he thought of his youthful breakout pop-rap single “Best Day Ever” at the time of his death. I wonder how he felt about Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson’s notorious (not-yet-imploded) engagement the day he started the September bender that would be his last.
Maybe he winced when looking back on the long musical tumult of his past, the rarified records of his raptures.
Maybe he missed it, like phantom pains: the buoyant vocal lilt of his scraggly, uncertain youth — a boyish strain held high, nearly falsetto and almost weightless, like pogo-sticking through a carnival on acid.
Maybe he marveled at how compressing all the months and mixtapes of his life let you hear his voice literally sag over time, under the accretive weight of the years, the substances, the anonymity lost and all the fucking expectations, finally slouching into the slack drawl that he finds later in his expiring life slanting through his rhymes and drawled in permanent diagonal like half of the face of a stroke victim or a grin that got lost on its way over; Mac seemingly hating his natural voice to the point of warping, distorting, performing it away, holding his darkest thoughts at arm’s length with vocal mixing like oven mitts, always splicing at his worst urges and darkest unanswerables at alter-ego’s edges, at the ragged umbridges of his dissolution.
I wonder how Mac’s doing now; how he sounds.
So it goes, so it goes, so it goes.
Cade Stone: I was born in Austin; spent several decades grappling with that; and at last decided, after graduating into a pandemic, that the threat of death was palatable compared to moving in with my parents. I kept my windows rolled up as I drove to D.C., where I work in communications.