The United States of America is going through a time of major push back with the next great era of civil rights and the next great era of feminism all pushing at the doorstep of an innately sexist nation. One things holds those two things in place: fragile masculinity, one of the more humorous insecurities. Fragile masculinity runs rampant, crossing races, crossing ethnicities, even crossing genders. One place that fragile masculinity runs its highest is within the rap community while great music is being made one can’t argue that fragile masculinity runs freely in rap. This is what makes me, and many others, so infatuated with Pittsburgh native, Mac Miller’s fourth album: The Divine Feminine.
The importance of femininity cannot go understated for both men and women. Often men do not approve of any form of femininity within themselves or their family/friends, even more so there’s an abundance of men who do not appreciate what great femininity does for men. Women do not always accept their femininity because of the way society has deemed inferior to masculinity. How could a woman be feminine when it is a male driven society in which men seemed to fear femininity as if it is a terminal disease. Mac Miller clearly sees this same chasm within our society and intentionally or not- frankly, I lead towards not- Mac’s newest album perfectly accentuates this dichotomy.
This is an album that men and women alike should, better yet need, to grab a hold of. In a article on this blog, She Waited Just Long Enough an album review Noname Gypsy’s mixtape Telefone, Dominick Poret says, “In times like this, it’s important to find something to lean on, to listen to,” and The Divine Feminine is an album that any person struggling with masculinity or femininity must listen to. The album is that powerful. There is a great hook on this album on the song Soulmate that repeats the phrase “Divine Love,” and that one line really epitomizes the feeling that this album causes in people.
On surface level The Divine Feminine is a sex album and I will not sit here and tell you it is not. But it’s so much more than that. The Divine Feminine is something so maddeningly human, so frighteningly relatable, so necessarily fresh, it’s scary. In no other format have I seen another human verbalize very simply human things the way The Divine Feminine does. Mac, and many others, have shown us party- Blue Slide Park. Mac, and many others have shown us a drugged-out phase- Macadelic. Mac, and many others, have shown us darkness, and the long lasting mental & emotional effects of psychedelic drug use- Watching Movies With the Sound Off & Faces. Mac, and many others, have shown us the light at the end of all the darkness- GO:OD AM. Mac, and very few others, have shown us Love.
Mac told us this was an album made up of all love song, and he did not disappoint. It is an album made up of all of Love songs. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way but that is what The Divine Feminine is. If there has ever been an adequate representation of loving as a man, and I can speculate as woman, this would be it. As fragile masculinity goes two ideas reign supreme: 1) emotions are as evil as the devil- maybe no one goes quite that far but look at it and that is how it seems. 2) men cannot love like women do, for it is unmanly. And you know, in a sense fragile masculines are right, it is unmanly to love “like women do” because it is boyish. What hurts about saying that it is boyish is that there are so many men, full aged men, that will not only agree with the two largest ideas of hyper-masculine culture but they will fight me, you, anyone until they’re blue in the face that it is not boyish. It is. And frankly, other than the fact that Mac Miller’s main audience is the largest demographic of this culture- the white man- Mac just made a whole album where a large portion of it is sung, the whole thing is about Love, and man, it is just so off the norm. For most rappers that this type of project career suicide, it must be executed flawlessly for people to actually buy into it, just ask your Kid Cudi’s, Kanye West’s of the world.
When rap comes to most of America’s mind- aka middle-aged people- it is a bunch of base and gibberish. But they’re so wrong, I make the argument that rap is the most human of all music forms since it can really express anything. This album has points of good base usage, has its moments of gibberish, though mainly in the beginning of songs. This album uses instruments- beautifully, might I add, this album is very enunciated. Dang, the album’s second song and first single, is a good example of this enunciation. The end of the first verse Mac sounds nearly breathless like at a live show and for some odd reason that pushes his enunciation to another level.
The topic of discussion so far has been what the album, what the album stands for, but not so much what the album sounds like or what the song are like.
The Divine Feminine, an album by Mac Miller.
That is the opening to the very first song, Congratulations. The intro is done by fellow singer/musician and unverified love interest, Ariana Grande. The song is produced by Aja Grant and Mac himself under the pseudonym, Larry Fisherman. I’m going to get the bad out of the way first, I don’t love Bilal at the end of the album, though he has grown on me so this may change. Bilal just gets really quite loud on it and it overwhelms my ears, I don’t mind it otherwise. The good: the intro to this song, and to this album, is simply beautiful. Before that Mac breaks back the giggling girl that he’s used on previous albums this time it being Grande. The piano in the background of the song is perfect for the tone of the song. Mac has possibly his best set of bars at the beginning of the second verse: “Well, baby. You were everything I ever wanted. Bought a wedding ring, it’s in my pocket. Planned to ask the other day. Knew you’d run away, so I guess I just forgot it,” this is beautiful in the sense it shows fear and typical forgetfulness. How many men are afraid to propose for fear of rejection and will admit it? I wholeheartedly admit to it and Mac seems to, as well. Later on in the song Mac very simply enlightens us on anxiety that goes with love, “And every time I call your phone, you better pick up your cell. I swear to God I’ma freak out if it go straight to voicemail. Well, I’m the jealous type.” Congratulations was the perfect introduction song for this album. With its flawlessly beautiful production, the tone for the rest of the album was set.
Then the tone was thrown away, set on fire and travelled to a dimension of groovy bliss of the 1960s on the album’s second song and first single, Dang, produced by Pomo. Anderson Paak fits this song so well it’s crazy. In many ways he makes the song. Mac goes from questioning himself because he is so in-love with the girl on Congratulations to more or less accepting that what is done, is done but in a really upbeat manner. He outwardly questions what more he needs to do before the girl leaves, he is coming to see the inevitability. He has a pretty humorous bar, claiming he “just [eats] pussy, other people need food.” A very Mac-like line, honestly. The second half of the second verse he changes the way he says some of his bars which comes out really nicely. The song is groovy, with the best feature possible for this song, and is a total change of pace from Congratulations. Dang really exemplifies how Mac can seamlessly weave his way through the different meanings of love.
Maybe I jumped the gun on saying we went away from the tone set on Congratulations because we’ve met some interesting middle ground of jazz, groovy and rap all in one track. I freaked out the first time I listened to track three, Stay. The first song without a feature, Stay is produced by Frank Dukes and longtime productionist for Mac, ID Labs. My first take away of this song is that it definitely sounds and feels like Coloring Book-era Chance The Rapper type-song. Mac also brings back a Macadelic feature with female sex noises ending the song. But, my God, this song is immaculate. The trumpet usage gives this song a particular addition that is necessary. The song is incredible but the trumpet adds an extra layer, and pushes its greatness through the roof. Which brings the question everyone seems to be asking: Is this the brilliant Donnie Trumpet? I feel like anytime you need a trumpet player he’s the guy you have to call. The song is what it sounds like, Mac is continuously begging the girl to stay. Mac again hits us with a classic Mac line, “ Binge watches Sopranos, made it all the way to season five.” The song is sensual with a twinge of creep with the female voice in the background. In a lot of ways that creepy is really appropriate for the begging for a girl to stay.
We have seen beauty, desperation, and even more desperation in only three songs, where to go from here? Skin, the fourth song on the album, produced by Garcia Brothers and JMSN. This song is definitely a sex song. Mac basically says so himself, “And all I do is make these fucking songs, so finally I made this fucking song,” which is much more eloquent when heard, reading that line does a disservice to the song itself. The horn usage on this track is just as good, if not better, than on Stay. But on “Skin” the horns are used in a seductive, sexy way; the type you shouldn’t leave your loved one around. This is one of the tracks I would have loved to hear the great Twista rap on, the R&B-esque groove-type tracks he used to obliterate back in his day. The song is very beautiful and mysterious, I get the seductive-jazz vibes from it. In many ways it is what sex is and Mac does a very good job of expressing portions of the more intimate parts of sexual activity like describing the woman’s smell or telling us that his tongue is tickling her. The second portion of the album has a twinge of regret and sadness in it, “Can I have a hand to hold? A Band-Aid for my damaged soul.” Mac really describes all portions of what sex is in this song: intimate- lyrics and the overall sound of the song, sexy-many great sex lines in this, sad-Can he have a hand to hold?
I am just now looking at who produces this next song but I am most excited about figuring it out. This 5th track is an exactly eight minute song that does not feel a minute over five, produced by DJ Dahi: Cinderella featuring Ty Dolla $ign. This song is beautifully soulful and gives me chills everytime I hear it. I love how Mac takes a page out of Eminem’s clever rap idea book and samples Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Ty compliments Mac Miller almost flawlessly. Ty Dolla sounds incredible without having a traditionally good voice. A song that Ty even says, “I’ve been waiting all night for this moment, I’ve been waiting all year for this moment,” Ty also calls out that one doesn’t need to be old to be a man. Mac shows us portions of the serenity of love, “You in my dreams, that’s why I sleep all the time. Just to hear you say I love you, just to touch you.” Mac really shows the simplicity and relatability of love, “Because your fragrance got me faded, you be keepin’ me high,” any person who has been in love has experienced this. The euphoria experienced from the smell, sight, sound of the one you love. Verse two Mac has gotten to sex with this woman he is talking about, “You started getting crazy, told me fuck you like a whore. I thought you was an angel, now you yellin to the lord.” Mac feels a sense of confidence and success almost, “You used to tell me all the time I ain’t your type,” the speculation is that this a shot as his current, though unverified, girlfriend Ariana Grande. On the outro Mac dabbles with the part of being in-love that is it’s sweetest, the going above and beyond for the person. “Write you letters. It’s only right that right after love I write my name.” Mac dabbles with the emotion of what it would be for Cinderella to disappear, “Wherever you came from, wherever you going. I promise I’m not far behind.” This song is beautiful, the melodies of Ty’s raspy voice compounded with the outro of almost like a wedding serenade from Mac. It is all over the spectrum of love.
Song six is eloquently put together with a fantastic feature from Njomza adding a much needed feminine touch and she kills it. Planet God Damn is kind of what it sounds, a sex song. The first verse is Mac nearly gloating about how it’s easy for him, that the smile is easy to put on the lover’s face. Verse two gets to the nitty gritty of what he is really talking about very much put together by, “Your pussy a ride better than Six Flags, I’m in that.” Mac also pulls a first in hip-hop, as Rap Genius so humorously points out, that good fellatio equates to intelligence.
We move into one of the most beautiful songs- Soulmate. Mac samples an excerpt from Good Will Hunting to begin the track, it’s not the first time Mac has used a sample like this. The first verse is gorgeous, I so strongly want to put the whole first verse in this but I’ll keep it simple. Mac opens up with a question, “Yeah, are you my soulmate, my angel?” Mac tells us that his lover is “too divine for [Mac’s] human mind.” This song has the most beautiful hook with Mac singing, “you were the one to show me divine love, love, love, love. Where was you when I was lonely my divine love, love, love, love?” Verse two is sadder, Mac asks if the lover knows he’s in pain. He thinks that his Divine lover has forgot his face. The song is beautiful in an almost broken way, it’s painful in a way. The production done by ID Labs and Larry Fisherman is fantastic giving the sound an almost space like sound, almost pop but darker.
CeeLo Green. CeeLo Green is on a Mac Miller track. No, that is not a misread. On the eighth track and second single, We, CeeLo features. CeeLo sings background to Mac’s half rap, half singing. Let me start off by saying whoever’s decision it was to put CeeLo on this track is ingenious. The legendary Green complimented Mac to perfection. Mac starting the first verse telling his Lover not to worry that this is a song “to get along to.” Really showing that by expressing his love for the Lover, “I’ll think of something to say, I will always do. I’m in love with the way you say my name. Everytime it sound brand new.” This again, also, shows us Mac’s almost adolescent love for this Lover. This whole love with the Lover really bringing Mac to a better place. Mac has a really clever bar in the second verse, “sometimes I must remind myself, that change is more than pennies laying on the floor,” telling us that sometimes he- and all of us- forget that change is not just money. Change is something much larger than pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. The song ends with a very solid CeeLo verse sung and with potentially the best part of the album. CeeLo saying for the last words, “You gotta deal with Mac Miller, bitch” before proceeding to let out a very CeeLo laugh.
Song nine is a sweet song in many, many ways. It is sweet since we get to see how Ariana Grande and Mac Miller have grown as artists since their 2013 song together, The Way. It is also sweet because of the apparent love affair between the two very well summed up by something Grande says before the song even really starts, “Don’t know why thinking of him makes me smile,” reading that does not give that line the credit it deserves. You can hear the love in it and I, for one, do hope it is about him and I think it is but what do I know? My Favorite Part the ninth song and third single is produced by Larry Fisherman & Musicman Ty. The song has a groove to it that is perfect for the singing that Mac does. The hook is beautiful starting with a very kind, “Said, you don’t know how beautiful you are. And maybe that’s my favorite part.” The first verse continues this almost explosion of love, “Said, you know I know who you really are, ain’t no need to lie. Said, the universe couldn’t keep us apart. Why would it even try?” The first verse continues this serenade before leading to the obvious chemistry of the hook that is done by Ariana and Mac together. Their voices coming together as one. Ariana has a really quick feature but it says a lot in its 29 words, “If you wanna stay, we’re taking it slow baby. Cause you and me, and I got enough on my mind. But I can make some time for something so Divine.” Before ending the track on another shared hook. Mac really shows his affinity for love and that he is not afraid to show it that he can and will be sensitive.
The final track: God is Fair, Sex Nasty is a wonderfully complex song with Kendrick Lamar doing the hook. The piano and drums give the beginning of the song a beautiful jazz vibe. A genre Kendrick has flourished with on his groundbreaking album, “To Pimp A Butterfly.” With Kendrick singing in one of his voices on the beautiful hook. Mac shows a twinge of his last few albums and mixtapes, “I’ma take my time, I’ma hit that slow. Cause I ain’t in a rush young girl. You’re the only thing for me in this fucked up world.” Mac again almost cries out for the Lover, “Never felt this before. I need you more than keys and doors. I need you sleepin next to me the blanket sheets. I’ll take them all and keep you warm.” The second verse Mac continues this serenade, “With you, I can’t help but fall. It’s true, I’ll try anything.” Mac compares his lover to that of Superman and Lois Lane. One more hook and then the most beautiful part of the album- Mac’s grandmother explaining the story of her and Mac’s grandfather’s love really putting the ribbon on what otherwise would be an incomplete album. You can see where Mac comes from and what he hopes to find in the Lover that he has spoken about the whole ten songs. It is a beautiful testimony to true love, to show that humans can be made for each other that they can become one.
Mac Miller really released one of the more beautiful albums of the last five years, if not the last decade. Mac used love in a way that is seldom seen in hip-hop and he really put himself out on a limb since hyper-masculinity runs rampant in hip-hop and this album is truly Divine. Thank you, Mac.