While it’s evident how he’s won hearts, Miller’s not the complete package yet.
Adam Kennedy 2012-05-22
Hip hop has hit something of a self-aware apex in the 21st century's first decade, having learned which buttons to press to ensure success. Pittsburgh native Mac Miller might very well sum up the phenomenon with this debut album proper, finally earning a UK bow after confirming his ascent on its stateside release in November 2011.
Labelmate and close pal of radio-humping rhymer Wiz Khalifa, Miller – or the distinctly un-rap Malcolm McCormick to his postman – has worked hard to get this far. Seven mixtapes deep, for what it's worth, he has racked up eight-figure numbers on YouTube as if they possess an expiry date. Yet Blue Slide Park is a record in semi-open conflict with itself, pitching twee cover artwork and dips into ballad-esque considerations against regular bluster-filled club hit intent.
Evidence? Try the six-minute span of Frick Park Market and Smile Back. The former packs in chunky beats and honest, semi-wistful verses that could position Miller alongside the true school hip hop movement. The next moment, with scant warning, Smile Back winds up and delivers a hypnotic momentum owing more to snap music straight out of dirty south strip clubs, name-checking Texan underground kings UGK for good measure.
Wider juxtapositions are similarly befuddling: Miller happily indulges in occasional spots of misogynist wordplay, then spits about conscious trailblazers De La Soul. Muddying the waters further, more than one rhyme disparately mines his bar mitzvah-replete upbringing, whether mourning holocaust victims or noting he “always do it big like a Jewish nose”.
It's not impossible to see why he has won hearts. Up All Night jauntily handclaps its way through an excitable pop-tastic party stomp, overflowing with dumb fun and echoes of lightweight Californian good-time soundtrackers Smash Mouth.
And Miller does wrestle gamely with the two sides of his musical personality. It's just that without ever truly harnessing the kind Jekyll-and-Hyde potential made famous by – white rapper parallel alert – one Slim Shady, Blue Slide Park ends up a charm-bereft everyman hip hop record merely ticking the boxes required to shift units.