There aren’t many rappers who immediately jump to me to listen to their work within minutes of release — Kanye, Common, and Mac Miller, are, and were, some of the very few I have a watchful ear. Like I’ve mentioned previously, I’m someone who holds superlatives at a low — save for the few — some astound me from the length since original release or the feeling of time in-between. For Mac Miller, The Divine Feminine is the latter. The five years since haven’t felt like five years. I remember when I first heard The Divine Feminine — immediately, I galavanted about proclaiming this as Mac’s opus as an artist. To this day, I still firmly believe it, despite knowing that Mac had something better lying dormant in the crevices of his mind that we will never get to hear.
Mac Miller has always been a gifted musician; however, after Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Mac Miller would shift almost all the production to others. For an artist, it is sometimes hard to create unison between sound motifs when using different producers as their input is varied on their strengths. And Mac is privy to this, as he didn’t dabble with production until later in his career. He has been able to create cohesive and intricate music, as his focus remained on sonic motifs — Macadellic had psychedelic overtones, K.I.D.S had boom-bap made by weed smokers, and The Divine Feminine has whimsical piano keys. It speaks to the vulnerability, as it is a standard for love ballads, which in turn mirrors the vulnerability we hear from his singing.
Mac Miller is a standard falsetto without much range in pitch, with his voice only going deeper. But like his storytelling skills, Mac lets his voice express vulnerability since it allows for more emotional range than rapping. Whether we are listening to his darkened thoughts, clogged in the back of his mind like on “Grand Finale” off his Faces, or remedy an argument like on “We” off The Divine Feminine, we’re left in awe by how personable he can be. Mac isn’t new to singing, but he put it on the back burner since it wasn’t one of his strengths.
Unlike Mac Miller’s projects at the time, ambition for him came in the form of song construction since he maintained leveled hip-hop patterns throughout the first half of the decade. Good A:M saw Mac being more experimental with production, song construction, and overall concept. It’s his first fully-fleshed out concept album, as he looks at a modern relationship, specifically, that of two people whose love burns more than the outer layers suggest.
The Divine Feminine has simple and complex situations that may occur in relationships with depth and relatability. With a clear mindset, Mac relays over his mistakes and the virtues of patience and love through songs like “Congratulations,” “My Favorite Part,” and “Soulmate,” where Mac finds himself feeling engulfed by many thoughts that fluster his mind. “Congratulations” represents the sentiment from memories that back her divine nature, according to Mac. “Soulmate” sees Mac quantifying the meaning of the word over these triumphant horns on the production, representing the angelic glow he places on his significant other.
“My Favorite Part” was many fan’s introductions to a song where Mac Miller is solely singing. He’s sung hooks and eloquent covers live, which he did on tours — something I was fortunate enough to witness. And on the surface level of “My Favorite Part,” it doesn’t read duet, considering their musical history — and ballsy considering Ariana’s talent. But that flies out the window as soon as the song hits. Following the path of minimalism, in comparison to songs from others of similar nature, they beautifully complement each other, and it has to do with their chemistry.
“My Favorite Part” is a smooth jazz ballad that exemplifies his deep falsetto, which beautifully compliments the lounge nature of the production. It’s calm and endearing, and you feel the spark between the two. It leaves you entranced with the groovy bass lines to maintain center stage with the percussion. Like the production, “Cinderella” stands out as the best song on The Divine Feminine. It’s a beautiful rap ballad with Ty Dolla Sign, speaking on his idealization and love for Ariana Grande — it is the only song about her on the album. “Cinderella” is split in two — the first part is about Mac’s patience with her, despite other woman’s advances; the second part explains how she made him feel after their first collaboration.
With The Divine Feminine, Mac Miller found something rooted within and explored it with the utmost detail, despite a few songs failing to reach the high point others hit. There are songs like “Skin” and “Planet God Damn,” where the former is the one that isn’t good and the latter, which is enjoyable if you’re into crass and dirty rap. Its placement feels slightly forced, as Mac makes this song specifically about sex, similar to “Skin,” which goes from an endearing love fable to implementing crude lyrics. From there, it starts to lose some importance within the overall concept.
However, what surrounds these songs are some of Mac Miller’s most focused work. Swimming and Circles levied the personable nature, which has given Mac ease with writing intricate rhymes and keeping a consistency. Despite being personal, The Divine Feminine digs into a different sector to deliver common perspectives in a slightly uncanny fashion. Mac takes life experiences; specifically, with past partners, as he reflects growth through different themes, like the meaning of a soulmate and the moods that snap amid an argument. On “Stay,” Mac takes an alternate route to the subject — he pleads to his significant other to stay so he can remedy the situation, as opposed to immediately trying to subvert her trust back with promises that he’ll get better.
Now, it isn’t uncanny for rappers to make love songs, but Mac Miller shifted the concept on its head as he finds new ways to deliver potent material. So, instead of making rudimentary raps about their dates, looks, and flexing riches, Mac is keeping simple by focusing on what makes him happy and trying to maintain stability in this aspect of life. This innate focus has allowed Mac to see the bigger picture when crafting his albums, especially The Divine Feminine. I hold this album in high regard because Mac isn’t just focusing on himself. We see him seeing other perspectives, aghast when they act the opposite, and feeling warmth the more he spends time with his divine feminine.
In hindsight, The Divine Feminine is Mac Miller’s best work. He takes the wheel and allows his worldview to impact the various moods, whether personal or slightly oblique. But is it perfect? No, but it isn’t far from it. It set the first step for Mac to continue elevating his music with a purpose, and as a fan at the time, it was all one could ask since music heads still had some waning hesitancy. Mac himself was also slowly pushing away from the Frat/Stoner raps of his past and trying to elevate his music to newer levels. He creates depth, even when some songs carry standard situational story structures. The Divine Feminine turned 5, September 16, 2021, and it feels like it’s been 10. The world misses you, Mac.