I’m going to preface this with a simple disclaimer: THIS IS NOT ABOUT MAC MILLER. At least not all the way… I originally wrote it about a year ago about Mac Miller’s impact his music had on the industry. Because, when you’re a pretentious music twat like me, you want to find an excuse to have your friends read a pretentiously-inspiring piece on his birthday. Then it devolved into a trifling-ass thought piece that I was nowhere near equipped to finish, mainly because it made me cringe, so I deleted it. A year later, I finally realized what I started writing about: substance abuse and the downward spiral.
Mac Miller would’ve been
30 31 today. I actually didn’t really dig his music when I first heard him. When I first heard K.I.D.S., it had just been released on DatPiff a few months before (I’m always late to the game. Don’t @ me) but I was in a completely different space in respect to hip-hop, so listening to some college kid rap about smoking weed and kicks over Nas samples was simply not my jam. Not to mention that I was on a hell of an indie rock kick and going to as many of the now-legendary local shows that Sound N Vision was putting on at the time. Simply put, I wasn’t feeling it and I wrote him off as someone akin to Asher Roth (I Love College did NOT age well, FYI) in the “white boy wannabe rapper” category. And that was that. I never really listened to him again until around 2016.
In 2016, I was working a job where I designed and executed on all media aspects of beer events at, what I still consider to be one of the best restaurants in Visalia: Pita Kabob & Grill. The culture, being what it was, made this one of THE spots in the Central Valley where you deep-dive into what most of our events centered around: Craft Beer. And, you know what? During that time, I was legitimately happy. Our friends and peers noticed the work we poured our hearts into and received the recognition for it when we did run into other industry heads. In those days, my boss Chafic and I would make routine out-of-town trips to source the kinds of beers that don’t get distributed to bars in the Central Valley. We were willing to do the extra work to make sure the people here got truly-rare and just outright amazing beers. It was what set us apart—and if I may be allowed a bit of bragging—we were really fucking good at what we did. Those trips would almost always take an entire day of loading kegs in the morning, driving for hours with nothing to talk about and making the return trip to unload that night. That much driving requires a lot of time-killing and one of the things we did was always to put on music. That’s when a song called “DANG!” came on. “DANG!” featured Anderson .Paak (someone whom I was also introduced to on those long drives) and that’s when the homie riding shotgun (and who was also responsible for introducing me a lot of good music during this time) told me, “Yeah. This is Mac Miller.” I didn’t believe it. He didn’t sound the same. His style had changed. His voice had changed. He had a flowy drawl. This is NOT the same kid. I came home that night and proceeded to absorb as much of this album; you know it as “The Divine Feminine”.
Know my heart like gold but it break like glass.-Mac Miller, Dang!
Over the course of the next few weeks I proceeded to absorb everything this kid had put out. There was a definite progression in his style. With every album, he slightly reworked his style and his flow improved. He wasn’t a kid anymore. He was a maturing lyricist, a nimble rapper and an obsessively-original producer and had mastered the way hip-hop artists compiled albums at a time when we were all slowly forgetting the very subtle art of making a damn good mixtape. Through it all, he was also incredibly-candid about the way he struggled with substance abuse and depression, something which we really never get into because we simply don’t live in a country or timeline where any of these problems are addressed with solutions; just bandages in the way of—surprise—more substance abuse. He sung about it constantly and his lyrics just proved that he was very much a product of his circumstance. By 2013, he was already very heavy into lean, having constant legal troubles and, most importantly, was pretty damn honest about it. More on that later.
I love lean; it’s great. I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy. I was so fucked up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.-Mac Miller, Inteview with COMPLEX
Following “Blue Slide Park” and “Macadelic”, Mac struggled with fame and drugs and was bashed by critics who derided him as another entry into the frat-rap canon (I guess I know which one of those assholes I am.) But then he dropped “Watching Movies With The Sound Off” and “GOOD:AM” and the world started to see what those of you who had already been giving the kid his flowers for a while already knew: Mac Miller was onto something dope and he was gonna be one of the best of his generation. Then came “The Divine Feminine” (this is where I started) and then “Swimming”, my favorite of his albums, and each time he appeared in the news for dropping a new track he was constantly reinventing himself. Whether he was recovering from depression or addiction or heartbreak and he brought his fans along with him and was never bashful about any of it. After all, it’s what made his music so relatable. It’s also what made September 8th, 2018 so painful-yet-unsurprising. The world woke up to the news that Malcolm James McCormick, known professionally as Mac Miller had passed away from a drug overdose at the age of 26. “Circles” was released posthumously.
Everybody say I need rehab-Mac Miller; Perfect Circle / God Speed
Cause I’m speedin’ with a blindfold on and won’t be long ’til they watching me crash
And they don’t wanna see that
They don’t want me to OD and have to talk to my mother
Telling her they could have done more to help me
And she’ll be crying saying that she’ll do anything to have me back
All the nights I’m losing sleep, it was all a dream
There was a time that I believed that
But white lines be numbing them dark times
Them pills that I’m popping, I need to man up
It’s a problem, I need a wake up
Before one morning I don’t wake up
The signs were all there. The whole world saw them. Shit, we reveled in them. We all just wanted to write them off as the kinds of things a truly-dedicated artist has to do in order to “suffer for their art”. We like to romanticize the idea that artists can be addicts and come out the other side like they’re fucking Gandalf The White after fighting the Balrog, when the reality is anything but. Addiction doesn’t leave. Depression doesn’t leave. And they both permanently ruin your life if you don’t fucking deal with them. This brings me to why I really wrote this in the first place.
I had a friend. His name was Robert Cooper. Coop to the homies. Coop was a difficult man and we were both rabidly social drunks in our heyday but, overall, Coop was a great guy. Foolhardy, stubborn as a farm mule and loyal to a fault. We met in our 20s through a video game message board (shoutout to the Gamingforce squad; y’all are real O.G.s) and eventually became very good friends. I watched him grow from the stubborn child who could curbstomp me in Street Fighter III to… a stubborn man who could curbstomp me in Street Fighter III and now had a wife by 2010. We met quite a few times but the last time he came to my house, when I lived in Ivanhoe, it was him and his wife on their motorcycles. We spent the evening grilling ribs, drinking a bottle of tequila, Miller High Life and Sierra Nevada Pale Ales. He was a lot like me in the spirituality department: Card-carrying staunch atheist. It’s one of the things we had in common with a fierce passion. I long ago lost my militant penchant for it but he never did.
This is important to note: I’m not going to accuse my friend of something I, quite frankly, don’t know if he ever truly had a problem with to this extent. But I do know how it ended. On September 16th, 2012 after having moved to Las Vegas and living on his own, he typed his suicide note as a Facebook post and took enough drugs (knowing him, probably hydrocodone) to topple a small battalion.
He had called me the night before but, since it was Mexican Independence Day, I was probably out with my friends here doing my Saturday drinking run and I never answered the call. I thought I still had the Blackberry Pearl with that call in it but it was probably lost in a fire. When I still had it, I never found a way to get rid of it willingly, so it’s oddly cathartic that I never found it at all after countless moves. In the end, about the only things I still have are a few photos of us drinking and his original number with the following quote written in the “notes” portion of his contact in my phone:
Here is how the great escape goes. When you can’t take your dead friends’ names out your phoneAesop Rock, Cycles to Gehenna
It still digs at me to this day that I didn’t answer his call. He would have been 37 this past November 13th. On October 6th, 2012, I drew and painted a chalk mural in his memory at the Festival of Hope in Tulare. !!! (Chk, Chk, Chk) and Fierce Creatures performed that year.
He used to love the Kool Aid man and, to be honest, that was very much his personality: Just a “crash through a wall and fuckstop your day” kind of guy. He’d also call us all “fucktards” when he got pissed off. It seemed fitting to memorialize him as that. I miss him greatly and every year on his birthday I used to pull my Dreamcast out of wherever I had it stored, plug it into a TV and play Street Fighter III just to remember him and usually a Miller High Life.
You could have the world in the palm of your hands-Mac Miller, So It Goes
You still might drop it
And that’s the way life continued. Survivor’s guilt is mad real and, as it turns out, deeply-introverted video game nerds who develop drinking problems at an early age to cope with trauma—religious or otherwise—just never develop the emotional intelligence to deal with these things. Coop’s death also wasn’t the catalyst for why I continued the descent. It was simply another pebble collected in my pocket that would eventually become the collective weight I’d attempt to sink myself with. I performed my shitty cover version of “moving on”. (Like 311’s shitty cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong”, but worse) Life kept on and I kept adding to the pile and kept complicating my life in many different ways by attempting to fill those little pockets of THE VOID with the usual: drinking and the ocasional narcotic. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it compounded. I started to drink more. Like A LOT MORE. But, I’m not worried. I can quit when I want! In fact, tomorrow I’m swearing off the weed and alcohol and tomorrow I won’t be surrounded by doubts at all. (R.I.P. Gift of Gab, Nowhere Fast)
Because I have neither the desire nor cholesterol to fill you in on the next few years or what brought me to the final spin—mainly because those years have already taken far more attention than they ever deserved and because fuck ‘em, that’s why—let’s just make a shitty Bruckheimer jump-cut to the end of 2019. By this time, I was a full-blown raging drunk. I had just suffered a traumatic event my so-called life and, when you already have the muscle memory to lift a glass and the cocky personality to think you have the tools to quiet the voices in your head, you simply do the only thing you know how to do: numb the brain with whatever substances you can find which, in the middle of a pandemic, delivery services like DoorDash or Drizzly were oh-so-accommodating to bring to your door (for a small fee, of course) with the end goal being to never deal with your shit.
By mid-2020, in the middle of a pandemic, living on my own with my worst enemy cohabitating in my head and after countless of failed attempts at trying to rearrange my life, I finally made the decision that I was going to do the bare minimum at everything in life and simply drink myself into an early grave. I really just didn’t wanna be here anymore and, goddamnit, I got disturbingly-close to lifting off this shitshow permanently. To this day I still get tremors on my hands if I don’t sleep well enough or I’m out late at night shooting a show; a nice little remnant that my central nervous system kept of what I now realize recovering alcoholics call “The .1 shakes”. I’m certain several of my friends probably received texts from my phone number but were returning correspondence to someone else. I have photos of shows that I shot for Sound N Vision that I don’t ever recall being at. I’ve had talks with people whom I apparently had full-blown conversations with and, yet, I do not remember any of these things. Who knows how many other things I don’t remember from this time? To be honest, I think it’s better that my brain doesn’t remind me. Some things are best left unsaid.
Without further boring you with details, countless hours of therapy quotes and a ton of platitudes, I’m happy to say that I’m no longer in that place. But it does help to be reminded to be pragmatic about it. Like rationalizing why you drink and acknowledging the problem are two steps in fixing that. But I haver never been pragmatic about anything. I had help. My sister helped me out. My friend Lisa did too, in her own way. I don’t think those 2 women will ever truly realize what impact they had on me regarding all of this. Eventually I just came to realize that I don’t have an off switch. I can’t just have a glass of wine with a steak, because the next thing I know 3 days have disappeared. Recovery is tough. Relapses fucking suck. You gotta be willing to put in the work. Some people are simply not ready for that. It took me a year and a month (give or take) of relapses before I finally committed to it. Therapy helped as well. Again… You gotta put in the work. For the record: Today is Day #617.
And, in that sense, I suppose having known Coop really galvanized me into who I am now. I came to find that, not everyone is interested in helping themselves. I know now that there was nothing I could have said to Coop to change his mind, even if I had answered his call or if that’s wha he was calling me about in the first place. For all I know, he was probably just calling me to talk shit and call me a “fucktard” like he was prone to do. Some questions I really just don’t wanna know the answers to anymore.
Because I have known many people like him who have an inherent value to our lives, our persons or the world in general, despite of what they tell themselves, I now also know that it’s never going to stop me from trying. That decision I made long ago.
In the end, I just have to remember something very simple: Someone was kind enough to help me find my way too. ❤️🩹
Somehow we gotta find a wayMac Miller, Ladders
No matter how many miles it takes