Review: Mac Miller’s ‘Faces’

The critically acclaimed 2014 mixtape has finally made it to streaming services

‘Mac Miller Memoir’ Twitter | Photo Courtesy
The re-released project was blessed with a newly updated, glossy album cover.

The age of the mixtape was a strange one, to say the least. Rather than profiting off of musical releases, artists had, and still have, the opportunity to publicly release digital mixtapes for free through websites such as YouTube and DatPiff.

The mixtape format allows artists to pursue full musical creativity, as clearing samples isn’t required as the artist isn’t monetizing from their song or project. The only downside as the Internet continued to evolve is that the general public moved away from downloadable files on their iPods and transitioned towards digital streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL, among many others.

The mixtape era has disappeared in the age of dominating streaming services, but that doesn’t mean that there are some true gems buried deep within the internet from some of our generation’s most beloved artists.

Some of the most well-known artists that went on famed mixtape runs include Lil Wayne, Meek Mill and the beloved Mac Miller. Miller had a total of thirteen mixtapes that have been forgotten, excluding diehard Mac fans.

The underground rise of Mac Miller

While most were released under his name, there were others released under alter-egos. For example, Miller created a darker beat tape under the title and name Delusional Thomas, as well as a jazz project under the pseudonym Lovestein & The Velvet Revival at the young age of 20.

When ‘Faces’ was originally released in 2014, it quickly became the most shared and discussed mixtape of this decade at the time. Cemented in the hall of fame of mixtapes, it drifted away from public popularity as the masses moved towards monetizing streaming services.

With Mac’s devastating death in the fall of 2018, his family and estate took careful consideration with how they should move forward with the possible release of posthumous music.

Rather than following in the footsteps of Pop Smoke, Tupac or Juice WRLD’s estates with the release of partially finished songs and adding big-name features, the Miller estate took a more honorable path.

The estate made the decision to first release his nearly finished 2020 album ‘Circles’, therefore completing the “Swimming in Circles” concept that Mac originally set out to complete.

Following the companion album’s release, little was known of where the estate would go next, as it was an honorable decision to not capitalize on the abundance of unreleased material he left behind.

Rather than move forward with the plethora of demos and half-finished ideas, the family decided to clear the necessary samples and release Mac’s critically acclaimed mixtape ‘Faces’ for release on streaming services.

After years of hard work and effort from his family and musical team, the 2014 mixtape has finally arrived in his original vision for most of his fanbase to hear in full for the first time.

The release

The formal release premiered on Miller’s YouTube channel with a sentimental short film documentary, followed by the project in its entirety complete with psychedelic music videos created by his team. Immediately after the premiere, the moment came that all fans have been waiting on for nearly eight years.

The mixtape begins with “Inside Outside”, a track that’s become known as one of the most chilling intros on a mixtape to date. Over a psychedelic and upbeat instrumental, Mac repeatedly chants “should’ve died already.”

The statement alludes to the intimacy of this project and an introspective look at his life at the time, as well as the foreboding descent into drugs and addiction that took a star too early.

Over the next 24 songs and 90 minutes, Mac dives deep into a section of his life that’s rarely been shown to the public eye before, or after, this project. The project boasts features from rappers such as Vince Staples, ScHoolboy Q and Rick Ross. On ‘Faces’, Miller raps about addiction, mental illness and untimely deaths.

A highlight of this project is Mac’s simultaneous focus on lyricism and production. ‘Faces’ is Mac’s most sole-produced project, with Miller having production credit on over half of the album and many of the tracks being produced singlehandedly himself.

With this focus on the landscape and groundwork of the music, Mac didn’t take any effort away from his lyricism. Overall, the project has a rhyme scheme percentage of 60.1%, meaning that over 6 out of 10 words on the album rhyme with one another. This may be a small detail, but it’s extremely impressive for an artist of any caliber to reach this percentage.

The concept

From a lyrical perspective, Miller offers one of his most concise and conceptual projects to date. When listened to from start to finish, the project showcases an alternate reality of Miller’s life. It begins with Miller doing anything he can to become famous and make his voice heard in the music scene, beginning with only a dollar and a dream in life.

Over the course of the album, Miller begins to depend on drugs to cope with the sudden launch to fame. By “Happy Birthday”, Miller doesn’t want to do anything else other than fuel his creativity through addiction and make music in the studio, despite there being a birthday party for him upstairs.

As Miller sits in the studio during the birthday party upstairs, he ponders his past, present and where his life will lead him over the next three tracks. Songs “Happy Birthday”, “Wedding” and “Funeral” represent a mini trilogy of Mac’s life at three millstone stages in an average person’s life and his personal take on his life leading to death.

During “Rain”, Miller dies from a drug overdose and continues to create music with the ghosts around him in the studio. Continuing out the remainder of the album, Miller reminisces on his life, accomplishments and what more he could have done while he was alive. It’s a self-described and deeply personal alternate reality that became all too real only four years later in 2018.

The project still holds up as one of the most impressive projects from him to this day, with very little altered for a public, monetized release. Aside from a handful of movie lines at the beginnings and ends of a few songs, all instrumental samples were cleared for an official posthumous release.

The cemented legacy of ‘Faces’

The project is by far Mac’s most personal project created in his career. With over half of the production done by himself, along with the lyrics that were almost too predictable of his ill-fated future, Miller had outdone himself at an unbearably young age. At the project’s core, the album is simply about faces. He didn’t see people anymore; he simply saw faces.

Miller reached a point in life where all he wanted was to be musically creative, yet multiple addictions caught up with him. To him, creativity didn’t come without drugs and addictions, yet those brought his greatest potential out of himself. One didn’t come without the other, leading to a heartbreaking demise for a young star that burned too bright.

95% of Mac fans haven’t heard this, which goes to show how much of a hidden gem this mixtape has been. Those that haven’t heard this before are in for a real treat, as it’s widely regarded as one of his best, if not his best project released. Three years removed from Mac’s death; this release is yet another milestone cemented in the artist’s legacy.

Review: 5/5

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