From a generation at UMN: Thank you, Mac Miller

You’ll be with us in our headphones and in our thoughts.

Illustrated by Hailee Schievelbein

Illustrated by Hailee Schievelbein

Samir Ferdowsi

Some musical artists have the ability to influence an entire generation. Mac Miller is one of them.

On Sept. 7, 26-year-old Mac Miller died in Studio City, California from an overdose. Set to kick off a “Self Care” tour for his newest album “Swimming,” Miller’s music has instead been heard around the world through tributes played at various clubs and events.

The Pourhouse in Dinkytown hosted a celebration of his contributions to music on Thursday, with many students filling the venue to throw their hands up to his stolen youth.

Miller was one of the first artists to die who truly ingrained himself in our generation. Students from across the University of Minnesota were brought up on the sounds of “Blue Slide Park,” as well as other works of art. 

He got us through our algebra worksheets and gave us something to blast when we got our license. This generation of rappers has lost a true spitter and influencer; the 2011 XXL Freshman will not be forgotten.

“His music was always a small escape, which is something that good artists should be able to create,” biomedical engineering senior Carter Ibister said. “He made certain groups of people feel comfortable with themselves.”

And that’s just it. Miller wasn’t a flexer, a dripper or even a hyper. He was himself — just Miller. During the rise of clout rap and hypebeast style, staying true to oneself was something every rapper boasted, but few stood true.

“There were kids growing up who lived very similar lives to Mac and felt strong connections to what he had to say because they hadn’t heard it come from anyone else,” Ibister said.

Mac Miller hailed from the same high school as Wiz Khalifa, and it’s important to note Miller’s roots. Putting the industry-heavy city of Pittsburgh on the map was no easy feat, yet he and Khalifa did so.

This is something that connected with us Midwestern teens too — making a culture out of what we have.

“I still remember wearing my Pirates hat to school all the time,” Michael Munson, a sophomore studying agriculture and marketing and communications, said. “He definitely spoke to a younger audience that did not have much of a voice yet.”

Playing together at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair, Mac and Wiz brought the essential early 2010s rap ingredient — youthful positivity — to Minnesotan ears.

Think about it. Some of the biggest hits of the era were “Forever Young” by Jay-Z, “Young, Wild and Free” by Wiz and, of course, “Party on Fifth Ave.” by Mac. These were the anthems of high school tailgates across the state. 

“He found that place in music that spoke of struggles and accomplishments that others could find relation to,” Abby Poeschl, a freshman biology major, said. “I listened because it wasn’t just cool to listen to, but had an actual message.”

This is a small snippet of how the Steel City native broke through the noise and began to culturally mold a generation that’s currently in college. 

A cultural classmate of those who composed the rise of a new sound in hip-hop, Miller was an icon that made us all feel OK with being ourselves. Nothing flashy, only pure human sound and story. 

Rest easy, Miller. You’ll be with us — in our headphones and in our thoughts — as we smile back on the times we had because of you. Thank you.