GENRES: Hip-Hop, Mainstream Hip-Hop, Psychadelic Hip-Hop
TOP TRACKS: The Star Room, I Am Who I Am, Red Dot Music, Goosebumpz, O.K. , Claymation
On what is the final album in what has been probably the best week for hip-hop all year, Pittsburgh-based Rapper, Mac Miller, has the unfortunate challenge of competing with Kanye West's Yeezus and J Cole's Born Sinner in the same week.
As a long time mainstream rapper with pop-rap qualities in his lyrics, production and overall marketing fanbase, Mac Miller has always been somewhat uninteresting to me. His voice is somewhat annoying at times because he always sounds like he's trying to act high, and his music never had any depth or any flavor to it at all. On this latest record, Mac Miller made a point to find himself as a an artist, and I'm not quite sure if he succeeded but his new sound on Watching Movies with the Sound Off is much more intriguing than his old sound.
On this album, Mac Miller goes almost psychadelic. The production is about as far from pop-rap as Mac could have possibly attempted to go for. The beats feature some really glitchy sounds and grooves and the tempo of most of the songs is laid back and almost gives me the same type of stoner rap vibe I get from listening to I don't maybe, A$AP Rocky? This vibe is also realized by Mac Miller's once again incredibly stoned-sounding voice. I would not doubt it if he did a ton of drugs during the making of this album.
As for the actual content on the album, it's definitely an improvement from Mac Miller's previous work. As I said before, the production is definitely more ambitious and even though I didn't think it was extraordinary or necessarily for me, it's impressive to see an artist with as much mainstream hype as Mac Miller go for something so new and out there. Once again however, Mac Miller's somewhat strange and confusing persona of a wanna-be gangster white kid who might even have a bit of southern attitude, harms him in some ways (at least for me). I feel like he is not interesting even a little bit and he definitely laid it all out there for his listeners on this new record. It's actually pretty introspective but with that intimacy, not much actually intriguing subject matter comes along. For example, on the song "REMember", Mac Miller is clearly trying to be deep. He's talking about his longtime childhood friend who met an untimely death. However, he sings (or tries to) on the hook and his lyrics don't really do the beat or hell even the story any justice. He's being sincere, I can definitely tell but I don't know, maybe it's just me. I don't find any of it interesting.
That's why the songs that I really liked on this album were a bit less serious and a bit more fun. For example, the opening track "The Star Room" features some pretty outlandish lyrics about drugs and a really high-pitched verse from Mac in the beginning. The new trippy production really works here. The guitar in the background really compliments the almost lazy sounding bass. I also felt this way on "I am Who I am" which also boasted the psychadelic sound to it but it also has some pretty nice background vocals from Niki Randa on it. The song is mellow and really accomplishes the goal that I think Mac Miller was going for from the beginning and that is to completely reinvent his sound.
You hear this also on the track "Red Dot Music" featuring Action Bronson who delivers two really good verses. The track itself is very good and very interesting but the end of the song has a pretty interesting outro to it which is basically just the rapper Loaded Lux talking with no additional sound. He asks "Who the Fuck is Mac Miller?" and he goes on to basically talk shit about Mac Miller which I'm assuming is meant in a joking way or it probably would not have made the album. Anyway, he talks about how the old Mac Miller or "Easy Mac with the Cheesy Raps" is no more and basically delivers the message to Mac Miller's fans that he is a new artist and he's making new music with a new sound whether his fans like it or not. I can definitely respect this because it's now all about the music for Mac Miller.
Unfortunately, most of the album is lacking in excitement for me. I for one was really looking forward to hear what Earl Sweatshirt and Ab Soul would do on this album and neither of them really made any impact on the album itself. Because of this, it really boggled my mind that the three bonus tracks, "Goosebumpz", "O.K.", and "Claymation" did not make the album because they are better than most of the songs on the actual full length album. Especially "O.K." which Mac Miller even admits is the song he can laugh on on an album with sad songs. It features resident rap prankster, Tyler, the Creator whose presence is felt in the form of cheesy rooting on of Mac Miller during the chorus and a jokingly crazy verse. I don't know, it's almost so outrageous that it works. The beat is pretty syncopated and rhythmically complex as well which shows that both of these artists are not 1 dimensional by any means. "Goosebumpz" is also pretty fun and upbeat and actually reminds me of a pop-single that Mac Miller could have used on what is not really a radio friendly record.
I still don't really get this album and to be honest I'm not quite sure how I feel. Mac Miller has proven that he is a versatile artist, he has proven he can change his sound and he was really ambitious with some of the material on Watching Movies with the Sound Off. However, something about Mac Miller has always annoyed me since the day he has stepped into the game. I think that the problem is he's not deep or intelligent as a lyricist or musician. So now that he's ventured into the game of more experimental or abstract hip-hop, there really isn't that much that he's capable of. Granted, this album was definitely the best thing I've heard from him but it's nothing I can see myself listening to in more than a month tops. Mac Miller's pop fans will be weirded out by this album and die-hard hip-hop fans won't see enough actual content in it. Because of this, Mac Miller is stuck somewhere in the middle and that's not a place that any musician truly wants to be.