Mac Miller – Faces

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Self-released: 2014

Moms possess an incredible skill: They can convince you to do things you don’t want to do. It’s only after the fact – after you look back at your suddenly, uncharacteristically clean room – when you realize exactly what kind of Jedi-like mind trickery just transpired.

So when Mac Miller dropped Faces this past Mother’s Day it made for a kind of curious present. After all, he’s still 22 and seemingly taking advantage of all the trappings his kind of celebrity can afford – including but not limited to alcohol, weed, cocaine, hang-overs and hangers-on. Suffice to say, Mac drops more than enough drug references over the course of the tape to make any mother concerned; consequently, this Mother’s Day present at first blush seems more like Pandora’s box.

The tape begins with a dreary Mac floating atop the track in a heaven-sent trance: “I should’ve died already.” Inlaid in the backdrop is a blast from the past: the spooky sound effect used in Super Mario Brothers when a ghost is chasing Mario. More than just a metaphor, the sound serves as a mission statement of sorts for the mixtape – Miller’s demons are right behind him, but he’s at his best when he turns around and faces them.

He throws out his first flurry of tongue-in-cheek jabs on “Here We Go”, the tape’s second track. Here he brags about his skills (“If ain’t in your top 10, then you’re a racist.”), his status (“I did it all without a Drake feature!”), and, astutely, his new-found critical success: “Cocaine, ether creates a strange creature / They wasn’t hearing me ’till I fucked with a Brainfeeder!”

While people are now clearly fucking with Mac Miller, he doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with the newfound success, doling out drug-riddle escapades like “Angel Dust” with the weary hangover of “Happy Birthday”, where there’s a birthday party for him but he could not be bothered to show. “They don’t notice if I never go and show my face. / They just looking for a reason they can celebrate,” he sighs. As self-aware as ever, he sprinkles in observations that indicate he’s using a mirror for more than just a drug accessory.

Interesting then that he couldn’t trim the fat a bit on this project. At 90 minutes and 24 tracks long, Miller is still not quite captivating enough to deliver a project of this length without losing his grip on the listener’s attention or without eliciting eye-rolls. He awkwardly name-checks Kevin Hart and Edward Sharpe on “Friends” and drops off-kilter lines like “I might die before I detox. This ain’t high school, no little Asian I can cheat off,” on “Malibu”.

This won’t be every rap fan’s favorite mixtape – its length alone all but assures that. And there will still be some people who cast glares when you bring up Mac Miller, still remembering his regrettable “Easy Mac” growing pains. But those that can give the mixtape a fair shake will find a talented rapper, ambitious production, and an enviable stable of great guest features, totaling a damn fine free release.

It also turned out to be a pretty good Mother’s Day for Mrs. Miller. According to a recent interview, the rapper has been sober for a few weeks now. Ain’t it amazing what moms can do?

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3 out of 5

You can stream and download Faces via Audiomack.