November 16, 2011

Test Spins: Blue Slide Park

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Does anyone in hip-hop have a buzz around them the way that Mac Miller does right now? The 19-year-old from Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze area has released two server-crashing mixtapes and now a debut album that is projected to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200. Blue Slide Park is, in every aspect, a tribute to Pittsburgh and everything that has gotten Miller to where he is today.

While Miller’s (born Malcolm McCormick) two highly popular mixtapes KIDS and Best Day Ever had party and hip-hop feels, respectively, Blue Slide Park seems to be Miller’s effort at combining the two. For example, Miller showcases his rhymes and fast-paced rapping on the title track, “Blue Slide Park.” The track features a smooth, classic hip-hop beat from Pittsburgh-based ID Labs, and Miller takes the rarely treaded path of rapping without a hook, deciding rather to throw down a couple well-said verses. Later on the album, “Up All Night” describes exactly what most people reading this review love to do: drink and stay up all night. The upbeat, fun instrumental is a drastic change from most other songs on the album and, while sure to be a fan favorite, seems out of place on the album.

Another interesting aspect of Blue Slide Park is that Miller includes no featured artists on any of his songs. From beginning to end, the only voice heard on the album is Miller’s (or that of his alter-ego, Cam Rellim). Miller took a huge risk doing this: Features help artists to gain more attention for their songs, and keep their fans refreshed by adding variety to their album. Over the course of the album, however, it becomes apparent that Miller needed help with neither of these. With the help of ever-changing beats and the ability to adjust his style to fit those beats, Miller keeps the album interesting from track to track.

A good change that Miller has made from Best Day Ever to Blue Slide Park concerns his topics. Previously, Mac has stuck mainly to getting high, hoes and “haters” — you know, the normal things that white kids like to rap about. Throughout Blue Slide Park, though, the listener realizes again and again that Mac really has put his heart into his debut album. In the intro track, “English Lane,” Miller sings about the namesake of the album, a portion of Pittsburgh’s Frick Park commonly referred to as Blue Slide Park, an iconic area in Pittsburgh. Miller expresses his desire to get away from the stress of fame and return to the consistency and comfort of Pittsburgh, saying, “Slide’s still blue, why the world keep trying to paint it?” Similarly, Miller has maintained his style despite the pressure to change.

Miller also moves away from his typical, “Hey, want to hear about how many girls I get,” braggadocios-type lines. Instead, he wrote two songs about who can be assumed to be the same girl. “Diamonds & Gold” describes a woman who has seen the highs and lows in life, who was called a slut in high school but now is working her way up to the top. Because she’s been hurt, she doesn’t let anyone get too close to her: “She been waitin’ for the opportunity to be a boss/Tough bitch, probably would’ve thought she played lacrosse.” In the next song, “Missed Calls,” Miller talks about a woman who is obviously a former girlfriend. He describes the hardships that his career put them through, and that he’s fine with letting her go. It’s good to see Miller get more personal on his tracks than he has in the past; he’s helping his already fervent fan-base relate to him more personally, which is a sign of his artistic growth.

Despite being underwhelming when compared to his previous projects, Mac Miller’s debut album Blue Slide Park is the perfect culmination of the work that he’s done for the last two years. Putting out two stellar mixtapes and touring America and Europe have obviously had an effect on the teenager, and his album shows the maturity and knowledge he has gained during his meteoric rise in hip-hop. Also, need help with some lyrics? Check out ALL the lyrics to Blue Slide Park on

Original Author: G. Andrew Volosky