When Mac Miller passed away in September 2018 of an accidental drug overdose, his estate remained mum about the possibility of releasing music he'd stashed in the vault. It wasn't until Jan. 8 of this year that a message posted to Mac's IG disclosed that a companion album to 2018's Swimming would arrive today (Jan. 17), Circles.
Composer Jon Brion, who played an integral role in Swimming's creation, served as an executive producer on Circles, as Mac's family trusted him with the daunting task of bringing the project across the finish line based on previous conversations he had with Miller before his untimely death.
The 12-track posthumous album has arrived, and it is free of any credited features. As we continue to remember and honor Mac's life, check out our rankings of every song on Circles.
12. "Hand Me Downs"
One of the more forgettable tracks on the album, it blends in with the others it's sandwiched between. Singer Baro Sarka joins Mac's five-minute odyssey, lending some of the only background vocals heard on Circles. Mac's persistence bleeds through, as even on his darkest days "stuck between a rock and a hard place," he promises to keep trudging on.
A beat built around a person's mutter surrounded by percussion, and yet Mac somehow makes it work. This is the only record on the album where he exudes supreme confidence. Given how rare a sight a braggadocios Miller is, "Hands" feels a bit out of place in the Circles zeitgeist.
By this point in the album, you realize Mac's final brainchild strays far away from being a traditional rap album. Miller lets the beat breathe and peacefully moves into his feelings of love and protection. The E. Dan-produced record drags on far too long before ending with a high-pitched collision.
9. "Once a Day"
A sobering farewell to close out Circles. Mac fans are probably familiar with the viral clip of him playing the piano while singing the lyrics to what we now know as "Once a Day." The Blue Slide Park rapper addresses his insecurities and admits he's trying to figure things out on the fly.
8. "Blue World"
Kicking off with a Four Freshmen sample ("It's a Blue World"), this track makes listeners feel like they're entering Mac's alternate universe, where you don't know what to expect at every turn. Miller floats over the electronic production with "a little music for you," while attempting to dodge the devil's attention. “Think I lost my mind, reality’s so hard to find/ When the devil try to call your line," he wistfully rhymes.
A warmhearted, string-laden record that might have you closing your eyes and picturing the serene beaches on the island of Waikiki. Between the softness of the track and its title, it makes perfect sense that at least a portion of the calming "Surf" was recorded in Honolulu, Hawaii.
One of the more upbeat records on the album, with vocals that were finished before Brion got his hands on it, "Complicated" boasts jazzy synths that brighten the room. Mac innocently questions why life has to be so complex. While everyone else is busy mapping out their next five years, the Pittsburgh native is just trying to make it through the day in as simple a fashion as possible.
5. "That's on Me"
Powered by an infectious chorus and guitars, Mac opens up about his life lacking proper direction. His accountability is a breath of fresh air, as he repeats on the chorus, "That's on me." The back-end track could emerge as a fan-favorite.
"Everybody" is as cohesive and strong a record as any on the project. Mac gets brutally honest when grappling with the concepts of life and death. His thought process may sound childish, but it rings true. "Everybody's gotta live/ And everybody’s gonna die/ Everybody just wanna have a good, good time/ I think you know the reason why," he proclaims. If our time on earth eventually expires, we might as well make the most of it.
3. "I Can See"
Mac skates over a euphoric sound tied together by soothing horns, starry keys, drums, and scattered synths. "I Can See" is more of a cry for help than anything. The great thing about Mac records is that he makes you question your thought process, even when he admits to not having all of the answers.
2. "Good News"
The first officially released song by Mac's estate since his death certainly quenched the thirst of fans that loved what Swimming brought to the surface. Miller revisits how he's been suppressing his feelings just to satisfy those around him. The late rapper's ability to look inward and examine the depths of his soul is a testament to his growth throughout his career. On the flip side, it also creates a pit in listener's stomachs when they begin to think about where he could've gone with this in the future.
The album opener is an eerie listen for fans. Mac addresses his addiction issues over somber instrumentation brushed up by Brion. The "Circles" are metaphors for Miller's life cycle that he just can't seem to break, which is a relatable topic for listeners in their comfort zone. Even after repeatedly trying to change his ways, Mac succumbs to the pressure of his former self, and ends up "drawing circles."