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DOPENESS INTERACTIVE / Mac Miller : Watching Movies With The Sound Off (Album Review) / 0%

Mac Miller : Watching Movies With The Sound Off (Album Review)

Written by 4 minutes, 38 seconds Read

ARTIST

Mac Miller

ALBUM NAME

Watching Movies With The Sound Off

LABEL

Rostrum Records/Universal Music Group

DOPENESS RATING

8.5

ARTIST

Mac Miller

ALBUM NAME

Watching Movies With The Sound Off

LABEL

Rostrum Records/Universal Music Group

DOPENESS RATING

8.5

Mac Miller skated into rap with all the bottomless happy-go-lucky charm of a best friend’s insouciant little brother. The documents of his early career are the works of a kid very much in love with hip-hop but frustratingly ill-equipped to translate his verve into compelling music. His songs didn’t feel lived in; their observations were as slight as their lyrics were clunky. Even so, Miller proved a hit on the underaged weekend warrior circuit, and despite a withering critical reception, his 2011 debut album Blue Slide Park became the first independent hip-hop album to top the Billboard charts in nearly twenty years.

Things got knotty for Mac just as quickly as he took off, though. Beset by detractors and disillusioned with his career path (and the ever-present “frat-rap” association), he turned to promethazine to cope during 2012’s rigorous Macadelic tour. Miller also ran into threats of litigation from hip-hop producer Lord Finesse, who says his production was used without permission on a popular mixtape cut, and Donald Trump, who came calling after a 2011 single named after him racked up millions of views on YouTube. Miller kicked the promethazine habit, settled with Finesse out of court (although Trump still taunts him), and then summarily ditched his native Pittsburgh for Los Angeles, where he’s been palling around with members of Odd Future and Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment collective ever since. Watching Movies with the Sound Off is steeped in the pathos of Mac’s bad year and the musical influence, both direct and indirect, of his new rap friends. It’s the wide-eyed kid brother of Blue Slide Park home from college extolling the virtues of meditation and salvia.

Watching Movies with the Sound Off reintroduces Mac Miller as a druggy philosopher on the mic and a left field talent behind the boards. Gone are the undercooked shaggy dog stories ofBlue Slide Park and mixtapes like Best Day Ever. In their place we get a batch of songs that break the surface with snarling, self-deprecating wit (“I don’t act hard/ Still read Babar” from opener “The Star Room”) and musings on mortality (“Probably be dead soon inhaling cigarette fumes” on “Avian”) and drugs (“That fetanyl, it numbs me/ …Turns you into a junkie” on “Someone Like You”). There’s still a lemon here and there (“I spit the shit that leave a diaper brown” on the otherwise promising lead single “S.D.S.” and “Gees”, with its chorus of “Suck my dick before I slap you with it”), but the Mac Miller of Watching Movies, who feels comfortable trading verses with rap nerd favorites like Jay Electronica and Action Bronson, largely succeeds in distancing himself from the guy peddling kiddie-pool deep rhymes about drinking 40s in front of the police just two years prior.

Miller’s Doom-esque witticisms are dispensed here over production that matches Wiz Khalifa’s 2012 cloud rap gambit O.N.I.F.C. for sheer druggy majesty. Miller handles a good portion of it himself, turning in loping circus music on “Avian” and eerie descending mellotron melodies on the absurdly titled “Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes”. “Aquarium” stir fries tUnE-yArDs‘ “Powa”, churning out a slow-building and hypnotic barn-burner replete with massive drums and tasteful strings. The rest of Watching Movies’ production is farmed out to blunted Cali hip-hop luminaries like Flying Lotus and Alchemistas well as emerging production talents like Clams Casino and Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt. Lengthy passages of stately, ephemeral soundscapes give Watching Movies the feel of a quixotic vision quest with Miller playing the role of the wizened sherpa.

The hazy sprawl of Watching Movies also gives Mac a chance to dart outside the boundaries of hip-hop a little. He ditches rapping on a few cuts, exposing a singing voice in line with the Mark Everett school of coarse-throated, disembodied vocalisms on the oceanic Clams Casino assisted “Youforia” and Pharrell’s gossamer “Objects in the Mirror”. Both are lightweight love songs that make up for what they occasionally lack in lyrical profundity with an open armed earnestness. He one-ups both with “REMember”, a letter to a fallen friend full of heartsick what-if scenarios (“You had a girl, I kinda wish you knocked her up/ So I could meet your son and talk you up”) and frank talk about the therapeutic power of crying. All three are instances of Miller imparting stories that dig deeper than the bedroom boasts and quests for weed that made up the bulk of his songwriting up to this point.

Watching Movies with the Sound Off is a quantum leap in artistry, but it’s not without faults; the album’s about three songs too long, and a couple of the tracks in the back end just plain run together. Also, while all of the guest spots here are welcome deviations from Miller’s adroit Stones’ Throw homage, they routinely punctuate how much room he’s got left to grow as a writer. It’s highlighted most poignantly on “Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes”, where Jay Electronica shows up unannounced to kick a nonsensical verse, his first in years, and blows the whole album sky high just recounting the story of The Wizard of Oz, and also in the spoken word interlude after “Red Dot Music”, which features breakout battle rap star Loaded Lux lampooning “Easy Mac with the cheesy raps”, ruthlessly snarling “Who the fuck is Mac Miller?” Watching Movies with the Sound Off begins to broach the subject, but the question still stands.

Written by Craig Jenkins of pitchfork.com

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