Critical Voices: Mac Miller, The Divine Feminine

September 27, 2016

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Mac Miller has come a long way since the early frat rap days of his career. “Donald Trump,” the best known single off of his 2011 debut album Blue Slide Park, has made a recent resurgence due to the current relevance of a certain political figure. But Miller is not the same person he was in 2011, as is made obvious by his new album, The Divine Feminine.

On The Divine Feminine, Miller shows us he has become a hopeless romantic, in a certain sense of the term. His concepts of love and lust are inextricably linked, so for every moment where expresses genuine sentimentality (“We sounds better than you and me,” “You in my dreams that’s why I sleep all the time, just to hear you say I love you”) there is another moment where his sex drive gets the better of him (“All I really wanna do is procreate,” “I just eat pussy, other people need food”). These crass latter lines make it a bit hard to believe Miller as a writer of love poems. He’s no Lord Byron, but he is exceedingly honest in his adoration of all aspects of femininity, particularly the physical ones.

The Divine Feminine is an extraordinarily sensual album, and this fact is reflected in its sonic qualities just as much as in Miller’s suggestive verses. Even though it encompasses a variety of genres and production styles, the collection is as silky-smooth as linen bedsheets from start to finish. Make no mistake; Miller is trying to give us babymaking music. The infectiously groovy “Dang!” features Anderson .Paak, who delivers a healthy dose of funk from his recent release Malibu. “Stay” showcases a sultry trumpet solo, and “Skin” includes swathes of steamy tenor sax. “We” is anchored by R&B crooner Cee Lo Green. “My Favorite Part” is an amorous duet between Miller and his current flame Ariana Grande. Miller has developed into a fine producer, and his collaboration on The Divine Feminine with producers like Frank Dukes and musicians like jazz heavyweights Thundercat and Robert Glasper results in production levels that few would have ever predicted from a Mac Miller album.

The album is capped by a gorgeous finale in “God is Fair, Sexy Nasty.” Kendrick Lamar contributes his whiny tenor for the hook, after which Glasper tickles the ivory in a dazzling piano outro. The album ends on a sweet note, with an audio recording of an elderly woman describing her love affair with her husband, in which she emphasizes “how important it is to love, respect, and care for each other.” Here Miller exhorts the listener to give him the benefit of the doubt; this recording is how he truly feels about love, but he’s just better at expressing his feelings in a more carnal manner.

All in all, The Divine Feminine is musically one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. One can’t help but feel that if this same album was made by an MC with exceptional lyrical ability, it would have been a masterpiece. However, it is still a very good album, and an encouraging indication that Miller continues to evolve and follow an upward trajectory.

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