Review Summary: Easy Mac with the cheesy raps no more.
The musical evolution of rapper Mac Miller has been fascinating to watch. Miller burst onto the scene in 2011 with the success of his mixtape K.I.D.S. and debut LP Blue Slide Park, which featured a breezy pop rap sound and launched a trio of frat party-friendly hits in "Party on Fifth Ave", "Donald Trump" and "Frick Park Market". Miller proceeded to shock the hip-hop world with his 2013 LP Watching Movies with the Sound Off, which saw him shed the easily digestible sound that made him famous and start making introspective hip-hop that was dominated by hazy, abstract production. Miller continues to push the boundaries of his sound on his third LP, GO: OD AM, and that wider scope make this the most impressive project the 23-year old Pittsburgh product has released in his brief career.
GO: OD AM is essentially the coming-out party for Miller as a serious rapper. Watching Movies with the Sound Off and his excellent 2014 mixtape Faces proved to the hip-hop community that he wasn't just another white rapper novelty act. Now that he's proved his legitimacy to his doubters, he's starting to unleash his full arsenal of talents on the world.
The most noticeable improvement Miller shows on GO: OD AM is with his delivery and sharpness as an MC. Since he overhauled his sound a couple of years ago, his flow has been fairly limited. Miller only sounded truly comfortable rapping over psychedelic, cloud rap beats and every time he strayed from that sound, he sounded stilted and awkward. On GO: OD AM, Miller still spends plenty of time in his trippy cloud niche ("Clubhouse", "Time Flies", "Two Matches"), but also demonstrates an ability to rap over everything from trap bangers ("When in Rome", "Cut the Check") to piano-fueled jazz rap ("100 Grandkids", "Weekend") with equal conviction and precision. While Miller's rapping has steadily improved with each release he puts out, his newfound ability to tailor his flow to a large variety of beats allows him to make his biggest strides to-date.
Miller's artistic progression has also carried over to his lyrics. Miller still consistently bares his soul about his various struggles with drugs, depression and dealing with fame, it's just that this time around he's rapping about his demons in the past tense. Miller's approach to tackling these subjects is refreshingly subtle and the level of nuance in his lyrical approach make his messages much more poignant. Tracks like "100 Grandkids" and "Break the Law" may be seem like hollow brag raps, but they are actually a reflection on how becoming famous and wealthy at such a young age (Miller was only 19 when his career took off) made him an arrogant know-it-all jackass who believed he was invincible. "Rush Hour" and "Brand Name" use similarly effective strategies as Miller uses uptempo beats, clever wordplay and intense rapping as a guise to discuss how he's recently re-evaluated his life priorities and defeated his bout with depression and obsession with the opulent, hollow lifestyle that consumed him when he first become famous. GO: OD AM is the story of a man who still faces his fair share of internal struggles, but faced and overcame his most troublesome issues to become a better person and musician.
GO: OD AM is a striking wake-up call for the hip-hop community to start taking Miller seriously as an artist. Easy Mac with the cheesy raps is dead and an intelligent, clever and refreshingly candid MC has taken his place. Miller still needs to work on small issues (cutting down on the runtime of his albums, making his slower songs less monotonous) before he can join the upper echelon of modern hip-hop artists, but GO: OD AM proves that Miller is the real ***ing deal and that it's only a matter of time before he becomes one of the genre's finest acts.