Anniversary of Mac Miller’s death impacts Pittsburgh

Mac Miller's death sparks conversation to be more aware of one's mental struggles.

9/10/2020

Capri Scarcelli | Arts and Entertainment Editor

Mac Miller’s death sparks conversation to be more aware of one’s mental struggles.

Two years have passed since beloved rap/hip-hop artist Mac Miller tragically lost his life due to accidental drug overdose. On Sept. 7, 2018, the Pittsburgh native, age 26, was found unresponsive on the floor of his studio home in Los Angeles and later pronounced dead by paramedics; wherein, just days prior, Miller was quoted saying he was “in a good place,” according to the Rolling Stone.

Miller’s death has opened conversation to breaking the stigma surrounding addiction and mental illness in the music industry. Disturbing as it is, Miller passed away during National Substance Abuse Prevention Month as well as Suicide Prevention Week.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are various mental health effects alongside the physical side effects of drug misuse. These include paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression and hallucinations, which Miller struggled with periodically.

“It was days after his death that I had begun to research addiction and become more knowledgeable on the topic of drug and substance abuse,” third year physical therapy student Kat Koralewski said. “Two years later, and I have decided to pursue a law degree post-grad school and specialize in health care advocacy. I attribute Mac [Miller] for giving me the push I needed to make a difference.”

The Hollywood scene constantly glorifies drug usage, though Miller always recognized that it was an underlying factor in his life that distracted him from the pain he felt on the inside. According to Medium, Miller had been working diligently on his recovery with a sobriety coach since 2016, delving more into exercise and other alternatives to keep on a healthy track, focusing especially on his music.

Having primarily struggled with depression throughout his career, Miller was bravely open about his mental strife, showing his humanity in his lyrics. In his album “Swimming” (2018), Miller goes over the thoughts that plague him most, showing themes of insecurity, inadequacy and loneliness.

In his song “Come Back to Earth,” Miller sings, “I just need a way out of my head/ I’ll do anything for a way out.” The title itself is eerie to fans, being that it vaguely foreshadowed his death.

“The words ‘addiction’ and ‘disease’ should always fall in the same sentence; his death has helped prove that addiction is not merely a choice one makes, but a disease one suffers,” Koralewski said. “His death speaks to the fact that we never know someone’s internal struggles and we are in no place to judge.”

Miller has expressed that he feared being a part of the “27 club,” which is the large group of famous artists who have all lost their lives to drug addiction coincidentally at the age of 27; however, Miller didn’t even make it that far.

Sophomore business major Ian Smith said, “Things can change within seconds. Mac Miller was my favorite artist growing up and his music tended to really resonate with me due to his style and the fact that he lived in Pittsburgh. His death I think shows people that even though someone looks like they are doing well, you can never really know what demons they are facing behind closed doors.”

Fans of Miller have honored his legacy in art, in song and in spirit all across the city of Pittsburgh, leaving his memory every which way they go.

In Color Park in the South Side, there are multiple graffiti tributes to Miller that honor his life in the most subtle of ways.

“His death definitely hit hard in Pittsburgh for obvious reasons, but I think it has impacted the community in a positive way. You see people coming together to celebrate his life and do better things in honor of him; it was a wakeup call to many, but it also brought a lot of people together,” Koralewski said.

As a tribute to his legacy, Miller’s production team released his posthumous album “Circles” in January of this year, releasing the deluxe edition a few months later. His mixtape album, “K.I.D.S.,” celebrated its 10-year-anniversary one month ago with a deluxe release as well, which is now available on streaming platforms.

“Since his death it has honestly changed my taste in music, and I have listened to ‘Swimming’ and ‘Circles’ on repeat,” Smith said. “Check in on people, show you care, reach out.”