The Pittsburgh born rapper and producer Mac Miller is back with his latest album. And it is not what you would expect.
‘The Divine Feminine’ isn’t akin to what we are used to hearing from Miller. Developing the sounds and changing the mood of his 2015 album ‘GO:OD AM’, Mac’s loosely based concept album about love churns out sophisticated and smoothly produced grooves that make for his most down to earth, surprising and exciting work yet.
Kicking off with a quiet, piano driven track, the absence of a classic hip-hop beat in ‘Congratulations’ is a refreshing prelude to the album and sets the stage perfectly for Miller to experiment with new sounds and themes. Miller really finds his feet in ‘Skin’ and ‘Stay’, two tracks that sonically ooze style and lyrically express the sexual nature of love in a harmonious combination. Taking influence from the soulful, R&B background of Frank Ocean and the experimental rap of Kendrick Lamar in ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, Miller keeps riding these sexy, jazz grooves throughout the album with mostly respectable success.
Like many rappers who try their hand at singing, Mac’s suspect vocal range is evident on this album. However he gets by with a little help from his friends: CeeLo Green on ‘We’, Njomza on ‘Planet God Damn’, Anderson Paak on ‘Dang!’ and rumoured girlfriend Ariana Grande on ‘My Favourite Part’. The latter is the most raw, intimate track on the album as Grande’s beautifully toned melodies and Miller’s significantly less practiced voice work well to encapsulate the sweet, affectionate vibe of the project.
‘Dang!’ on the other hand is a radio and dancehall hit that could have come straight from Anderson Paak’s impressive recent album ‘Mailbu’, such is his funky influence on this track. Other notable features include a laid back collaboration with Kendrick himself where the bars flow with consummate ease to close the set in a relaxing eight and a half minutes.
Miller deserves a lot of credit for bravely attempting an album effectively full of love songs and Warner Bros. trust in him to do his own thing and innovate his brand certainly pays off here as we see a new side to a rapper whose musical talent sometimes goes unnoticed.
An over reliance on expressing love through the wordplay of sex leads to often noticeably repetitive bars in the album, however the musical ensemble does enough to keep you drifting in and out of a soothing, soulful 60 minutes of enjoyable, jazzy, hip-hop rhythms.
All in all, Miller seems to have matured with this album and has confidently produced a striking piece of work that although probably won’t blow up the charts, to me is an instant winner.