Miller died Friday in Los Angeles — never failed to rep his hometown, mentioning this Steel City in his music throughout his too-brief career.
Miller started rapping at a young age and formed The Ill Spoken with fellow Pittsburgher Beedie. After releasing their mix tape, How High, they began picking up gigs, including opening for well-known artists such as Soulja Boy.
Soon, Miller went solo and released mix tapes, But My Mackin Ain't Easy, The Jukebox: Prelude to Class Clown, and The High Life. It all led to a record deal with Rostrum Records in 2010, and one of his most popular mix tapes, K.I.D.S., in August of that year.
Three months later, Miller dropped his first single. “Knock Knock” is a fun party song with lyrics showing his Pittsburgh ties: “New kicks give me cushion like whoopie/Keep a smile like an Eat’n Park cookie.”
In November 2011, one year after releasing “Knock Knock,” Miller’s debut album Blue Slide Park premiered and hit No. 1 on Billboard 200. This album was another homage to Pittsburgh, named after a section of Frick Park at the corner of Beechwood Boulevard and Nicholson Street. Blue Side Park features some of Miller’s most recognizable hits: “Missed Calls," "Party on Fifth Ave," and “Frick Park Market.”
Miller rapped about what he knew. After the success of his first album, he moved from Pittsburgh, and his juvenile, fun-loving party-songs gave way to ones riddled with lyrics about drug abuse.
Watching Movies with the Sound Off, Miller’s sophomore album, was released in June 2013, was an honest, introspective look at his relationship with drugs. A selection from the song “The Star Room”:
But me, I'm still trapped inside my head I kinda feel like its a purgatory
So polite and white, but I got family who would murder for me
Think I'm living paradise, what would I have to worry 'bout?
Dealing with these demons, feel the pressure, find the perfect style
Making sure my mom and dad are still somewhat in love
All these backfires of my experiments with drugs
And I don't know what I'm running from, but I'm running still
I conversate with acquaintances, but it's nothing real
I'm from a city that you hear and think a bunch of steel
So a hundred mills wouldn't make me sign a f*cking deal
Money kills, that's the truth, it's called the root of evil
Miller seemed to have his life more together in his third and arguably most refined album, GO:OD AM. In “God Speed,” he admitted he had a problem:
White lines be numbing them dark times
Them pills that I’m popping, I need to man up
Admit it’s a problem, I need a wake up
Before one morning, I don’t wake up
Miller spoke publicly of working to overcome his drug habit. Then he met Ariana Grande, who helped Miller with his sobriety and was the inspiration for his fourth album, The Divine Feminine.
The album is sensual, intimate, and completely different from everything he released before. This was Miller in love.
When their two-year relationship ended, Miller fell back into bad habits. On his fifth and latest album Swimming, released August 3, Miller sings about heartbreak and his fragile mental state.
Miller was scheduled to bring the tour to Petersen Events Center — another homecoming for a global superstar who appeared to always keep Pittsburgh in his heart.
And the heart is where so many Pittsburghers are feeling Mac Miller’s death.