It’s always darkest before the dawn, and while the slew of mixtapes, EPs, and two studio albums leading up to Mac Miller’s latest release, GO:OD AM, might not constitute darkness, it’s been a long-winded journey for the 23-year-old rapper. While his debut album Blue Slide Park was generally perceived as lackluster and repetitive its successor, Watching Movies With the Sound Off, captivated its supporters with innovative, psychedelic production. On GO:OD AM, Miller returns with an adolescent swagger now tempered with a healthy dose of self-reflection; however, it is Mac Miller the producer that ultimately elevates GO:OD AM to his best executed work yet.
Opener “Brand Name” sets the stage accordingly; a lush sax introduction gives way the sort of crisp, calculated beat that speaks to the rapper’s experience as a producer. Stylistically, the album jumps around. “Rush Hour,” “When In Rome,” and the Chief Keef-aided “Cut the Check” take cues from Drake and his mainstream ilk. The songs feature bass-heavy minimalistic beats and monotone hooks, which isn’t a necessarily a bad thing. “Cut the Check” stays dynamic thanks to its constantly shifting pace, while “When In Rome” fuses tightly viscous flow with a club-ready beat. Comparatively speaking, these are the weaker points of the album. The more melodic cuts are the true gems. On “Two Matches,” Miller muses on the continuum of life while muted horns swell in and out. “In The Bag” marries pure swagger—“I don’t know bout you but I’m important,” Miller crows with sax punctuations. “100 Grandkids,” the album’s first single, is an earworm so deftly produced that you really don’t mind having it stuck in your head all day.
Lyrically, the Pittsburgh native doesn’t stray far from the content his audience has come to expect. He likes to drink, he likes to party, and to quote “100 Grandkids,” he “may be a little arrogant.” All this is articulated with trademark wisecracking wordplay in “Perfect Circle/ God Speed: “I know that life is a bitch / I thought we’d put her in a cab by now.” Now and again, however, he drops bars that approach the genuine and near vulnerable. Mac Miller still remains juvenile, but maturation and experience have injected self-awareness into his music. If his career thus far has been the weekend bender that never ends, then GO:OD AM is that first morning you wake up without a hangover—renewed, focused, and aware.