Posthumous material always delivers a feeling that no other music can. At no point in the process of recording did Mac expect to overdose, it just happened and then he was gone. The tracks on this album were left unfinished and with a purpose greatly altered from the artist’s intent. This album isn’t inherently sad and in fact offers a more optimistic outlook than some of his previous material. It just hits different now. It’s also indisputably one of his best works and an incredible final album from one of the definitive rappers of the 2010s.
“Circles” reminds me of Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 masterpiece “Flower Boy:” a mature, slower and less rap-dependent project than many of his previous works. The album where both rappers, once outlandish and bombastic, take a step back and finish putting the pieces together to create something bigger than hip-hop. The difference, of course, being that Tyler’s work could be seen as his major artistic pivot, versus Mac’s being the curtain call.
Lead single “Good News” puts out bare how far Mac has come as an artist, and it pains me to know he won’t be able to develop it more. But I’m happy he got this far. The vibes of the song, and the whole album for that matter, are just gorgeous. Synths are layered on top of each other, creating a soundscape evolved from even his previous work, 2018’s “Swimming.” No song feels like it’s overstaying its welcome, but doesn’t leave too early. This is a great album, and you should listen to it. It’s the culmination of Mac’s all-too-short career.
I was finishing my third listen of “Circles” the other day, sorrowful about the talent taken from us. I was starting to think of how I would construct this review: if I should be critical of a posthumous album like Mac was still living, how I would write this out and so on. I wasn’t paying attention, and the muted synths of “Once A Day” faded out. Before I could hit pause, Spotify auto-played “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza,” a single from a decade ago when Mac hadn’t even broken out of his Pittsburgh/college trash rap (which I mean with unironic respect) days. The subtle melancholy of “Circles” was stiff-armed by old Mac’s carefree flow about pot, flexing, watching TV, more pot and having a blast while still young. For three minutes, I’m transported to being a dumb 13-year-old listening to my iPod nano, bobbing my head on the bus home from middle school.
“But many more songs to make cousin/So why the fuck you bugging?” the song ends. The single’s album artwork shows a teenaged Mac, hat backwards with a ‘90s style boombox to his right, staring into the camera. But at the end of the day, it’s just a song about weed and kicking it. The cover doesn’t matter.
The cover of “Circles” shows a different artist than Mac’s raucous youth. Two photos of Mac are overlaid on each other. The prominent portrait shows him with his eyes closed. The faded one shows him staring into the camera, still here with us on this realm, living through his music.
Daniel Cohn is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.