Letter to the Editor: In Honor of Mac Miller

“We need to continue to fight the war against the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health.”

Emily Ness

May peace fall upon the city of Pittsburgh today as Mac Miller, a Pennsylvania native and performer, has died at 26 years old following a suspected drug overdose.

The rapper, who is best known for his albums “Blue Side Park,” “Watching Movies with the Sound Off,” “GO:OD AM” and “The Divine Feminine” will be remembered fondly, as one of the most powerful, playful and praiseworthy artists of our generation. He will be greatly missed.

Miller’s talent blossomed over the years as he evolved into a kind, respected and eloquent young man. His most recent album, “Swimming,” was one of his very best. The world is lucky to have it. 

At the same time, however, the world only saw a glimpse of Miller’s talent. It is impossible to fathom what he would have accomplished if he would have lived on.

Tragedy doesn’t even begin to describe the fact that addiction claimed Miller’s life. Perhaps what is even more tragic, however, is the fact that in many respects, he was crying out for help.

Despite sounding somewhat optimistic in his 2018 song, “Self Care,” the music video presents a very different picture. In it, the rapper appears lying flat on his back in a box illuminated only by a flashlight. As the camera pans in and Miller shines the flashlight on the nails above him, viewers learn that this box is a coffin.

Rather than panicking like one might expect, Miller kicks off his shoes and pulls out what appears to be the only possessions in his pocket: a pack of cigarettes and a pocket knife.

He lights a cigarette with a match and nurses it as if it will be his last, while rapping about a peaceful paradigm of sorts, which he refers to as “oblivion.” 

“I switched the time zone, but what do I know? Spending nights hitchhikin’, where will I go?” Miller raps as he begins to carve away at the wood above him, cigarette still in mouth.

It seems by these lyrics and by Miller’s glossed over eyes and overtly calm demeanor that the oblivion he speaks of is drugs.

“I could fly home with my eyes closed. But it gets kinda hard to see, that’s no surprise though,” he continues.

Hearing these lyrics and seeing these images today is chilling to say the least. But so is that of addiction.

Addiction has long plagued the world of music, killing some of the most passionate artists to date. Sadly, we as a nation and as a world are not doing enough to help those suffering. This is due to a number of factors.

One might think that an artist would be immune to the everyday struggles that cause us pain and tempt us to fill our bodies with poison.

The truth, however, is that no one is immune. In many respects, we are all idealists, living in an unideal world. The question, then, is how to make the world more ideal? And though this task might seem daunting, it is doable in time.

For starters, we need to continue to fight the war against the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health. Perhaps in the world of music.

After all, it couldn’t possibly be easy for Miller to admit to his family, his friends and his fans that he was struggling with substances that are frowned upon so heavily in society. 

No one wants to burden their family and friends, and no one wants to let their fans down or set a bad example. How does one navigate this then?

It seems Miller — like many artists — turned to his music. And strangely enough, it seems he made peace with his circumstances.

As the video for “Self Care” goes on, Miller maintains a cool, calm and collected persona despite the fact that he is trapped in the cage that is this coffin. And he continues to chip away at the wood above him with his notorious cigarette in mouth. Perhaps this represents the notion that we as people must take things step by step and day by day. After all, it takes time to change anything — including the world’s approach to addiction.

Ultimately, Miller is able to carve a big enough hole to punch out and wiggle his way through. The camera pans out to a giant pile of dirt and viewers watch as Miller emerges from the ground and into what appears to be a new world. Perhaps this breakthrough is representative of a number of breakthroughs, including breakthroughs in the ways by which we deal with addiction.

Rest in Peace Mac Miller. Your legacy will live on forever.

Emily Ness is a senior studying communication and digital media.