The first track I heard from good ol’ EZ Mac was “Nike’s on my Feet” about two years ago. I then decided he was just another rapper trying to get his name out. I never listened to him again until EZ Mac had the boldness and audacity to drop his album the same day Kanye and J. Cole dropped theirs. At that point he rightfully demanded my attention. Before listening to “Watching Movies with the Sound Off”, I made an effort to listen to more of his previous work. After listening to his past albums and tracks like “Donald Trump”, “Nike’s on my Feet”, and “Senior Skip Day”, I swiftly came to the conclusion that that this “new” album was going to be another party-esque album. I’m glad to say, I was wrong.
When I first listened to the album, I was skeptical of what to expect. The intro begins with some hazy and synthesizer heavy production which almost sounds as if you are listening to it in a dream. It is distant, airy, and almost feels like looking through a kaleidoscope but in this case, listening through one(trippy right?) . Then, to compliment the production, a high pitched voice eerily greets us: ” Hallelujah, thank God I have a future/Prayin’ I don’t waste it gettin’ faded.” And just when the intro couldn’t have gotten anymore epic, Mac comes in and rhymes up a lyrical storm.
“But me, I’m still trapped inside my head, I kinda feel like it’s a purgatory/So polite and white, but I got family whos would murder for me/Think I’m living paradise, what would I have to worry ’bout?/Dealing with these demons, feel the pressure, find the perfect style.”
At that point I knew, this album was different than everything else Mac previously made.
Mac really pushes his limits on this album. His production was incredibly atmospheric and his lyrics were philosophical and introspective. The frat boy persona has been tossed for a more thoughtful Mac and it definitely shows. Throughout this album, Mac explores his self-deprecating nature on multiple tracks as well as looking within. On the track “REMember” , he digs deep and raps about the loss of a good friend and how it has impacted him. The emotions pour out of him as he says ” You had a girl, I kinda wish you knocked her up/So I could meet your son and talk you up.” On the track “Red Dot Music”, Mac cleverly references his haters as red dots on his head: ” I said it must be the drugs that got us thinking crazy shit/Looking up into the clouds where the angels sit/They looking down, keeping watch ’til I’m dead/So how’d I get this red dot on my head?” Mac and Action Bronson lyrically dance around each other on this track while trading lyrics back and forth. On the emotional track, “Objects in the Mirror”, Mac talks up what appears to be this relationship with a woman when in fact it’s about his battles with drugs and his nonstop work ethics with music. These tracks with great concepts and clever lyrics are what keep on setting apart the new Mac Miller from the old.
From the production standpoint, it is many different things. It is hazy, drug oriented, atmospheric, airy, and actually really beautiful. The production on this album is nothing short of stellar. From the slow burning intro to the banger of a track in “Watching Movies”, production shouldn’t sound this damn good. In this case, it actually probably shouldn’t. The production serves as a double edge sword on this album. Since it is done so well, the album must receive kudos for it. The negative part is that Mac has the tendency to stay in cruise control when rapping. Instead of making his voice prominent and attention grabbing, it blends in with the production so well to the point where his voice is hardly distinguishable. Mac doesn’t always keep the same tempo throughout the album. He brings out some energy on tracks like “Watching Movies”, “Gees”, and “Red Dot Music.” He also tries out his vocal chops and does a few singing tracks that actually fair quite nicely but don’t particularly shine any spotlight on Mac himself.
Interestingly enough, wide eyed Mac Miller has drawn an incredibly talented pool of artists to do features on this album. He has some TDE affiliates in School Boy Q and Ab Soul, underground hip hop artist J Electronica, the white Rick Ross(Action Bronson), a lyrical rhyme slayer in Loaded Lux, and an Odd Future member in Earl Sweatshirt. Every feature is solid on the album but the stand out feature of the album has to be Action Bronson on the track “Red Dot Music.” His chorus and lyric trading on the album is outstanding and makes up for one of the best tracks on the album. When looking at Mac Miller trying to deliver on verses toe-to-toe with his features, it is a bit eye opening. On first appearance you see Mac actually keeping his own but then you factor in things like delivery and flow, then you start to realize the inefficiencies and the fact that he still has room to grow.
“Watching Movies with The Sound Off” is an over reaching project. This album is a statement and a significant step into being taken seriously rather than being regarded as a party scene rapper. Although some weaknesses do peep their heads throughout the album such as monotone delivery, weak lyrics, and the incredibly long length of the album, the album is a great installment for EZ Mac. On Loaded Lux’s acapella verse at the end of “Red Dot Music”, Loaded completely tears Mac Miller apart ultimately leading up to :” I liked you better when you was Easy Mac/With the cheesy raps/Who the fuck is Mac Miller? .” Mac is still finding his way and trying to find his true niche. In the meantime he is still “Dealing with these demons, feeling the pressure, finding the perfect style.” I can confidently say he is almost there.