Published Aug 09, 2018Forget any talk about the long-buzzed Mac Miller finally arriving as a fully formed MC on his latest album, Swimming. Aside from more finely honed bars, the Pittsburgh artist also appears to be poised for pop stardom on songs like "Ladders," and "What's the Use?," both of which sport funky neon-bright instrumentals (think Pharrell's work with Daft Punk or on his own "Happy"). Both tracks are helmed by rapidly rising Vancouver producer Pomo, though Pharrell lends his writing talents to the darker, murky synth drenched "Hurt Feelings," which was co-produced by none other than J. Cole.
Other big names featured on this LP include Flying Lotus as a co-producer on the sputtering, drum-backed, woozy keynote-lined "Conversation, Pt. 1," not to mention Top Dawg heavyweight producer Tae Beast on the old-timey soulful "Small Worlds." (The latter is known for helming Kendrick Lamar's "Ronald Reagan Era" and "The Heart Pt.3," Ab-Soul's "Track Two" and ScHoolboy Q's "BETiGOTSUMWEED" among others.)
Yes, Miller's taste in beats and collaborative instincts are all on point throughout those tracks. And sure, he's no slouch when it comes to bars, be it his insightful and inspiring lines like "All you do is sit around the house gettin faded / That ain't entertainment" on "Conversation, Pt. 1," or his plodding, comically conversational flow on "Small Worlds" that puts over giddy fun punch lines like "She say that I grow below the waste / And a stroke is just so PGA." And, of course, his heartfelt lyrics on "Self Care" are a few among many throughout Swimming to movingly address his high profile breakup with pop megastar Ariana Grande.
But it's Miller's pop savvy on "Ladders," and "What's the Use?" that stand out as crown jewels amongst an otherwise sturdy, but less remarkable batch of tracks. Whether Miller is singing on those funk-inflected highlights, or rapping on them with a flow that's airtight to their irresistible rhythms, he sounds like a would-be chart-topper, not to mention one of the most versatile and accomplished hip-hop artists working today. He also clearly has pop chops to rival those of his former flame. (Warner)