North Texas Daily

Review: “Watching Movies With the Sound Off”

Review: “Watching Movies With the Sound Off”

Photo courtesy Mac Miller

Review: “Watching Movies With the Sound Off”
June 25
13:26 2013

Michael Felder / Staff Writer

3.5 stars out of 5

Forget everything you thought you knew about Mac Miller.

21-year-old Malcolm James McCormick got his start in the hip-hop game under the moniker of EZ Mac. Playful and comical raps about women, weed and just having a good time are what fans of his earlier work have come to expect He eventually changed his stage name to Mac Miller. His first studio album, “Blue Slide Park,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2011 and was the first independent label debut to do so since Tha Dogg Pound’s “Dogg Food” in 1995.

With profits in hand from an independent label, as well as from his MTV2 reality show, “Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family,” Miller is entering a new level of stardom to come with his age, and how to deal with an even larger amount of money, clothes, women, attention and success. These themes are what earned Miller his “frat rap” affiliation in the first place, along with artists Hoodie Allen, Rich Hil and Asher Roth.

“Watching Movies with the Sound Off” works hard to make Miller’s transition into adulthood interesting. Just as Asher Roth left his major label recording deal, rejecting the fame he earned with party anthems like “I Love College” in exchange for a more jazzy and lyrical sound, Mac Miller is looking for maturity. Thanks to the creative freedom granted by independent record label Rostrum Records, Miller took advantage of the opportunity to switch his style up when he pleased, and the difference shines through.

The many features on the album don’t detract from the star whatsoever. Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson and even the illusive Jay Electronica hold their own and feel right at home on each track. On “Watching Movies,” Miller sets himself apart from the “frat rap” label he held early on by embracing the super-lyrical weirdness usually found in much less commercially viable hip-hop. Because of the similarities in subject matter, this difference is not easily defined, but it is almost palpable while listening to the album itself.

Underneath his protective rap bravado, Miller reveals a self-conscious young millionaire who is very concerned about the life he’s living. Unfortunately, he can’t seem change what he is. “The Star Room,” the album’s opener, is a dreamy and contemplative track outlining Miller’s many demons: reinventing himself as an artist, keeping his parents in love and experimenting with drugs.

“Red Dot Music” should erase any doubt about Miller’s growth as an artist. What starts as a study in boom-bap lyrical acrobatics for Miller and featured rapper Action Bronson becomes something much more. As the song seems to end, a gutting verse by Loaded Lux gives the album a right-hook loaded with context.

It’s this battle rap crafted verse that gives the most insight to the progression of Miller as an artist. When Lux asks, “Who the f— is Mac Miller,” it communicates that Miller himself might know less about his identity than his fans. This unsure fragility makes “Watching Movies” thought provoking, not to mention darker than Miller’s previous outings.

The album’s production has improved along with the lyrics. Pharrell Williams, Flying Lotus, Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids, Earl Sweatshirt and Clams Casino are all responsible for the dark, brooding and bass-heavy production. Even Miller himself, under the name Larry Fisherman, made a few beats.

The lyrics of “Watching Movies with the Sound Off” often still fixate on the vices of his old material: weed, women, drinks and partying. But the way Miller delivers these ideas has matured along with him, and his lyrics, production and features are all a step forward – the biggest and best he’s ever taken.

Mac Miller will bring his headlining tour, “The Space Migration Tour,” to The Palladium Ballroom in Dallas on Wednesday, June 26th. Featured artists include Chance the Rapper, Vince Staples, Njomza and backing band The Internet. For more information, visit www.macmillerofficial.com/tour.

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