The untold truth of Mac Miller

Malcolm "Mac Miller" McCormick grabbed the hip-hop world's attention after the release of his 2011 mixtape Best Day Ever. He was just a teenager at the time, and his flawless wordplay that incorporated nods to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Penn. mixed with odes to house parties and keggers caught the attention of high school and college-aged kids alike. 

Despite being at the top of his game, depression and stress from being in the industry appeared to cause him to lose control. He was vocal about his constant struggle with drug abuse but also took the time to celebrate his brief stints of sobriety. Sadly, the music industry lost another icon when the rapper died of an apparent drug overdose at his San Fernando Valley, Calif. home on Sept. 7, 2018, according to TMZ. He was 26 years old. 

By now, most fans are familiar with his relationship with pop star Ariana Grande and his collaborations with artists Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, but there's still a lot most people don't about the "Ladders" artist.

He first dabbled with drugs when he was 10

Though his alleged drug addiction followed him throughout the duration of his meteoric rise to fame, Miller admitted in a very candid May 2014 interview with The Juice Podcast that he began using drugs at a very early age (via Billboard). "I've been doing drugs since I was 10 years old. I just hid it better back then," he said.

While he described that he would "experiment" with drugs, he fessed up that he wasn't proud of the habit he developed so early on. "Do I rep' it? No. But do I rap about it because it's what's going on? Yeah. Would I suggest kids to do drugs? Hell no," he shared.

During a later interview with Billboard magazine, he made it clear how his years-long struggle with his vices — which included using cocaine and promethazine — had affected him. "It just eats at your mind, doing drugs every single day, every second. It's rough on your body," Miller explained.

He was no model student

As a high school student, Miller wasn't focused on acing his exams and trying out for sports teams. Instead, he had his mind on his burgeoning music career. Naturally, being so laser-focused on making music meant his education eventually got in the way. 

According to an interview with Complex magazine, Miller would cut class at Taylor Allderdice High School for weeks and sometimes months at a time. "He'd just hang out in the back of school afterwards, just to be giving people CDs," his friend Quentin Q Cuff told the magazine.

Despite racking up a bunch of absences, he managed to finesse his way into earning his diploma. "He was charming. He had that air of innocence about him so teachers believed him, like, 'Oh, he's not cutting class because he's a d**k. He's cutting class because he's pursuing his rap career,'" pal Jimmy Murton told the publication.

An inheritance funded his teenage years

After the unfortunate passing of his grandfather, the budding lyricist inherited a bit of money during his senior year of high school. With the extra cash, he used the funds to rent a "s****y-a*s cheap apartment," the rapper's friends told Complex magazine.

Though the apartment was apparently located right next to his high school, Miller still couldn't find the time to consistently make it to class. But when he did show up, it only served as another outlet for him to musically express himself.

During an episode of his MTV2 reality show, Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family, Miller returned to his old high school and had a chit chat with his former principal. "I met you when you told me you were a rapper, and then I saw you do a rap battle in the cafeteria," the principal recalled. "We allowed it to happen because creative expression is good."

More than just a rapper

Mac Miller had a stash of finished projects that he created solely for himself, and many of his unreleased tracks showcased his singing abilities. Most of his fans were in the dark about his secret singing talent … that is until the release of his 2017 album, The Divine Feminine

He told W magazine that he had been singing since he was 10 but had "always hated" his voice. Despite his reservations, he unleashed his singing prowess on the album's song "Cinderella," featuring Ty Dolla $ign.

"I don't think I have a great voice, but I just think that I get the emotion. It's very authentic. Whatever emotion I'm feeling, I can sing it and you can feel it," he later told Vogue.

Come to find out, he was actually more than just a rapper and a (sometimes) singer. He had even more hidden talents up his sleeve…

A self-taught musician

Mac Miller's ability to freestyle rap — creating rhymes off the top of his head with little to no preparation — was proof that his skills as an MC were unparalleled. But his skills actually went much deeper than that.

He taught himself how to play the piano, drums, guitar, and bass at an early age, and he never hesitated to pick up any one of his instruments during a live set to serenade his fans

"It's nice to learn about yourself by sitting down and picking up a guitar and just playing," he told Fender, before adding that his love for playing music was a way for him to expose another layer of himself. "It's a whole entire journey of self-exploration, because it'd be so easy to just throw a beat on and rap and call it an album. But I have to expose some part of myself that I'm uncomfortable with with every album," he said.

Los Angeles flipped his life upside down

With his fame on the rise, Miller packed up and left his native Pittsburgh, Penn. in the dust to begin a new life underneath the hot lights of Los Angeles. Though he was closer to the heart of the entertainment industry and his fellow celebs, he eventually got caught up with the lifestyle. "I was running around L.A. for three years like — you know Harold and the Purple Crayon? That was me," he told Grantland. "I was in L.A. like, This is my world, it is what it is. No, silly — that's not a door, it's a f***ing waterfall."

When the pressures of being in the industry's epicenter became too much for him, the "Donald Trump" MC made the decision to retreat from the limelight. "Being famous used to just defeat me. I wouldn't leave my house because I was worried about someone being like, 'Oh, are you Mac Miller?' and then the rest of the night I couldn't be myself," he said.

The upside of it all was that Miller would hole himself up in the studio, making back-to-back songs. Grantland revealed that, in the span of two years, Miller recorded nine albums worth of music, though none of the finished work was to the rapper's liking. 

His 'dark period'

The year 2013 marked the release of his second studio album, Watching Movies With the Sound Off, and it coincided with a major shift in his life — one that took him from being "wide-eyed" and in love with everything to "a point where that enthusiasm faded."

He told The Fader, "I definitely went through what I would call a dark period. There was just a bunch of s**t happening from my relationship, plus f***ing touring all the time."

When it came time for him to focus on making the album, Miller took a rather drastic approach. "I sat in that cave all day. I was a nasty motherf***er. Never showered. Nasty facial hair everywhere, same clothes all the time," he said.

He also revealed he'd been drinking "lean" — a cocktail typically mixed with prescription-strength cough syrup and Sprite. The concoction even caused the rapper to gain 30 pounds.

After the release of the album, he knew it was time to make a change. "I was just so obsessed with this album. Now I'm trying to clear my mind and stop tripping so much. I stopped drinking lean and started running. I changed my whole s**t to get back to a healthy place," he shared.

Ariana Grande's influence on The Divine Feminine

After going public with his then-relationship with pop star Ariana Grande at the August 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, Miller released his fourth studio album, The Divine Feminine. Many suspected his budding romance with the "Side to Side" singer had created the pleasant transition in his music. 

In fact, he admitted to Pigeons and Planes, "This is my first album I've ever made that doesn't end in death. Every single album secretly ends in death — even Blue Slide Park."

Was love the reason behind his 180? Possibly. "It's like the divinity of the woman that you're in love with, you know? And it's kind of seeing the whole entire world in her," he told Nylon magazine while describing The Divine Feminine

He and his then-girlfriend even teamed up on the song, "My Favorite Part," but Miller stopped short of proclaiming Grande was his muse. 

Still it's nice to know that during the span of their almost two-year relationship, which ended by early July 2018, she had such a profound effect on him and his music.

Bad music reviews sent him into a tailspin

His debut studio album, 2011's Blue Slide Park, climbed to the no. 1 spot on Billboard's Independent Albums chart. Despite its success, some music critics weren't impressed.

As the negativity poured in, which included a Pitchfork review that dubbed Miller a "crushingly bland and intolerable version of Wiz Khalifa," the rapper reportedly began to spiral. "A lot of the reviews were more on me as a person," he told Complex magazine. "To be honest, that was even worse. You're 19, you're so excited to put out your first album, you put it out — and no one has any respect for you or for what you did."

He attempted to dive into his craft and ignore the negative feedback by going on his Macadelic Tour in 2012, according to Complex. But the stress just became too much. "I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy," he said. "I was so f***ed up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn't even look at me the same. I was lost."

His mom was a fan despite her worries

His mom, Karen Meyers, was described as a "liberal" parent in a 2011 interview with UK publication Wheel Scene, but no amount of liberalism could have prepared her to witness her son getting pushed into the music industry at such an early age. "My mum worries about my health but [my family] love it — they're fans of the music," Miller revealed.

He kept in contact with his family despite being fully immersed in his music career. "They love that I am doing what I love to do. I am actually flying my mum and my grandma to Paris to see me play," he shared with Wheel Scene.

There's no doubt that his mom was indeed his number one fan. Just weeks before Miller's untimely death, she promoted his album Swimming on her Instagram account, along with a caption that read, in part, "Couldn't be prouder of this young man."

He denied being a drug addict right before his death

Though Mac Miller was vocal about his use of lean and cocaine in the past, the "Self Care" artist appeared to detest the idea of substance abuse in later interviews. "I'd rather be the corny white rapper than the drugged out mess who can't even get out of his house. Overdosing is just not cool," he told The Fader in February 2016. "There's no legendary romance, you don't go down in history because you overdosed. You just die."

By the time 2018 rolled around, Miller was dealing with his breakup from Ariana Grande and his May arrest for DUI and hit-and-run charges. With all of life's stressors piling up, he told Rolling Stone in an August 2018 published piece that he had everything under control. "If a bunch of people think I am a huge drug addict, OK. Cool. What can I really do? Go talk to all those people and be like 'Naw man, it's really not that simple?'" he said. "Have I done drugs? Yeah. But am I a drug addict? No."

Though his life was cut short, this inimitable rapper's music will live on forever.

If you or someone you know is seeking help and support to deal with substance abuse or mental health issues, please call SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).