RETROSPECTIVE: Mac Miller - Faces

Reflecting with Clarity

Mac Miller - Faces (2021 McCormick Family Trust)

- Content Warning: addiction, substance abuse, death -

 

After what seems like a lifetime of waiting, Mac Miller’s seminal mixtape Faces has finally landed on streaming services. Originally released in 2014 as a follow-up to sophomore record Watching Movies with the Sound Off (2013), Faces remains, arguably, the Pittsburgh rapper’s magnum opus.


Executive produced by Miller himself under the moniker Larry 'Fisherman,' Faces is one of Miller’s most consistently dark projects with its primary focus revolving around the artist's struggles with addiction and substance abuse. In the shadow of Miller's passing, these themes hit even harder today than they did when Faces arrived. Instrumentally the mixtape centres around jazz and psychedelic influences, building upon the sound Miller developed on Watching Movies. Opener ‘Inside Outside’, produced by long-time collaborator Thundercat, is a prime example of this sound. A repeated saxophone motif lingers throughout the track atop of woozy drums. It is followed by the joyous ‘Here We Go’ (which hosts one of Miller’s most iconic lyrics):


"I'm still playin' it out the same speakers
I did it all without a Drake feature"

It's another example of Miller’s bubbly personality blossoming through his music. This time, however, he departed from the youthful raps of earlier projects like K.I.D.S, trading them in for a more mature perspective and a wider view of the world. In Miller’s earlier career his lyricism was criticised for its immaturity but the subject matter that underpins Faces was nothing of the sort. It's well-considered, developed, and it (in this reviewer's opinion) contains what is easily the best lyricism of his discography.


Mac Miller isn’t subtle about his struggles on this record either. ‘Angel Dust’ is a blunt take

on a noxious relationship with PCP, while ‘Friends’ has Miller openly discussing cocaine use – "there’s snowflakes falling on my debit card." The entire project is an unfiltered and uncut discussion on Miller’s self-awareness at the notion of his own self-destructive path. The frequent mentions of overdosing, passing out and entering comas are often juxtaposed with upbeat flows and engaging instrumentation. It remains a provocative combination: preventing the mixtape from drowning in bleakness, while still affording the project room to say its peace without interruptions.


This mixtape, while admittedly suffering from occasional inconsistency, still stands as potentially Miller’s best work. Faces' sonic palette seems to touch on every aspect of Mac Miller’s persona: whether it be high- spirited beats or more sombre, introspective moments. Thematically it is easily Miller’s most powerful work, with the artist treating his music like his only salvation from a drug-

induced hallucination of an outside world. While Miller does retain his playful, cheeky edge

throughout the track listing, Faces is an even more heartbreaking listen now than Miller could have ever conceived.

 

James Mellen is currently studying songwriting and production based near Bristol. Interests include silly effects pedals, Yorkshire tea and 100 gecs.


Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture website created by Ben Wheadon, an English literature graduate and guitarist from South Wales. He edited this article and is a Fleet Foxes shill.


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