Revisiting Mac Miller’s Faces – a mixtape ahead of its time

Mac Miller’s 2014 opus isn’t available to stream, but it sure is worth the download on DatPiff.

Six years after its release, Faces is still Mac Miller’s pièce de résistance. The 2014 mixtape came out during an interim period between Miller’s tenure with Rostrum Records and his subsequent signing with Warner Records. Following his sophomore album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, Miller was making music at lightspeed. His projects, You, Delusional Thomas and Faces are a fraction of the projects that Mac released after 2012’s Macadelic. Miller was not shy about his work ethic as he proclaimed on his track, “Malibu,” “I’m recordin’ like I’ll die tomorrow.”

Having ditched Rostrum Records, Miller showcased his freedom by fleshing out his Larry Fisherman alter ego, producing 14 out of 24 tracks on the project himself. As mentioned by Miller over the course of his career, most of the songs on this tape segue from one into the next in an attempt to leave the project as a start-to-finish listening experience. Using production play and sample cuts from movies, classic jazz and famous writers alike, the tape draws from a variety of sources of inspiration. Faces features a variety of guest appearances, most notably Thundercat, Earl Sweatshirt, and Vince Staples.

Faces has no shortage of dark, funny, and borderline terrifying lyrics. On some tracks Mac is singing his own praises, other tracks see him joking around with his friends, on “What Do You Do” he’s alluding to his own demise (“A drug habit like Philip Hoffman will probably put me in a coffin.”). This tape has no shortage of drug references, whether it’s PCP, LSD, or referring to cocaine as “the same shit that got Whitney,” Faces is an unadulterated view into Miller’s drug infested lifestyle at the time. His bars don’t sugar coat any of it, making this tape some of Mac’s most candid and soul-bearing work.

At the midway point in the album, Mac presents a trio of songs named after celebrations, “Happy Birthday,” “Wedding” and “Funeral.” Each one segueing into the next, the trio tells three separate tales of introspection going from an upbeat yet depressing birthday party, to a failed love story, ending with “Funeral,” where Miller admits, “Doin’ drugs is just a war with boredom but they sure to get me.”

The closing track, “Grande Finale” serves as the conclusion to the tape’s winding road of cocaine-induced delirium and wide range of sonic experimentation. The closing track sheds some closure as Miller admits his habits could kill him, as they eventually did. In an interview with Billboard, Miller admitted that “‘Grand Finale’ was supposed to be the last song I made on earth.”

From top to bottom, Faces is a complete body of work that takes listeners on a journey narrated by Miller. Coming in at a lengthy 86 minutes, this project isn’t necessarily the type of album you’d sit down and listen to start-to-finish, but the road that Miller navigates with Faces has something for everyone to appreciate. Whether it’s the snappy back and forth with Vince Staples on “Rain” or the psychedelic trip that is “Colors and Shapes,” this tape covers a variety of bases and still finds a way to be some of Mac’s best work lyrically and production-wise.

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Lil Wayne – Funeral

On his latest release, a potentially amazing album is bogged down by bloated sections of boring filler.

Lil Wayne is an anomaly. With a career spanning over 20 years, his continued relevance is a rarity in hip hop. His longevity lies in his willingness to evolve as an artist, as his ability to adapt has led to him amassing several styles throughout his career.

On Funeral, Wayne showcases these various styles, from auto-tuned crooning to high energy, multi-syllabic rhyming. Though the lines might not always be great, Wayne’s ridiculous level of charisma can make even his most absurd lyrics entertaining.

Wayne is in rare form on a few cuts on here. The initial three-track run from “Funeral” to “Mama Mia” displays his technical abilities at their best. The album peaks with “Harden,” a reflection on past relationships set over a gorgeous soul-sampled instrumental.

While there are some brilliant highs, there are also some horrible lows. However, nothing is as bad as the absolutely abysmal “Get Outta My Head.” This song would’ve been bad had it been just Wayne, but XXXTentacion’s screaming vocals make for an especially excruciating listen.

All in all, Funeral would have benefitted from some serious quality control. For every two or three good tracks, we get one that ranges from forgettable to outright bad. It’s frustrating because there is a great album in Funeral, it’s just hiding in a mess of horrible filler.

Rating: 5.5/10

Trial Track: “Harden”

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