From 2011’s Blue Slide Park (the first indie debut to top the Billboard 200 this century) to 2014’s candid Faces mixtape, Mac Miller has steadily outgrown any lingering “frat rap” earnestness — instead, he picked up a new set of demons. On major-label debut GO:OD AM, his third and best studio album, Miller grapples frankly with fame, addiction, recovery and the struggle to be a decent person over taut, melancholy production that channels both bleary inebriation and hard-fought optimism. Best of all is bluesy eight-minute centerpiece “Perfect Circle,” where the seemingly cheery album title is revealed to be a much-needed wake-up call to himself. He’s joined by a handful of weirdo auteurs (Miguel, Lil B), but the spotlight belongs to Miller, who confronts reality after emerging from a downward spiral: “What’s between heaven and hell?” he asks on “Ascension.” “A brand-new me.”
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of Billboard.