At some point, every successful recording artist arrives at a crossroads in their career. Michael Jackson after Bad; Alicia Keys after Diary; Kanye West after Graduation; Rihanna after Chris Brown. It is at this moment when an artist’s true colors show and we get to witness the vastness of their creativity, resilience, and aspirations. Some artists need time to gather new inspirations and collaborators while others can’t wait to get whatever it may be off their chest. Earlier this year, we saw what an artist can do when life gives her lemons. But what about when the chips aren’t down? What is there left to say or prove when you’ve seemingly exceeded all expectations?
The answer is: be yourself. A part of an artist’s allure is their ability to envision something in an exclusive perspective and use particular skills to portray that idea in a way that creates understanding, conversation, or awe (or any combination of the three). On The Divine Feminine, Mac Miller took that concept and ran with it, touching on subjects seldom prioritized in the hip-hop community. Themes of struggle, excess, and guilty pleasures soak up most of the glory in hip-hop. But every few years a rapper is brave enough to step out of his/her comfort zone and break the mold of monotony often heard in mainstream rap songs. On his fourth studio album, Mac Miller has done just that.
There is an atmosphere surrounding The Divine Feminine that permeates the soul. It is a warm, fair, and erotic presence. Mac admitted in an interview with Power 106 he’s been wanting to release music like this for years but was too “terrified” to go through with it. Now that the album is here, it is apparent how comfortable Miller is in his own skin. Last year’s GO:OD AM (released less than 365 days prior to Divine) finally justified Mac Miller’s rap star status with catchy hooks and versatile flows. Following such an eclectic release, I doubt Miller’s fans foresaw which direction he was heading, nor did they think they’d be getting new music from him this quickly.
The Divine Feminine is the first Mac Miller album that can be enjoyed by more than hip-hop heads and the Pittsburgher’s ride-or-die fan base. It expands hip-hop’s soundscapes and will carve out its own derivative subgenre in the near future. This album is rich in live instrumentation and possesses a fluid, conceptual sound. Mac frequently stumbles throughout the ten-song track list; e.g. the unimaginative bedroom banter, crackly vocals, and in-your-face sex soundbites. However, he is the ultimate curator of this project’s at-ease delicacy. Each contributing artist sounds incredibly snug on their respective cuts, blossoming alongside lively trumpets, dreamy piano, and suave saxophone. The Divine Feminine is not about feminism. The Divine Feminine signifies the giving and receiving of love, being grateful for the universe’s blessings, and learning how to put yourself second in a pseudo self-sufficient world.