Join me as I dissect one of the best musical experiences you can listen to this October: Mac Miller's Faces!

A Piece Presented by T-Rod

The month of October is a lot of things. Pumpkin spice and Halloween festivities are net positives. On the other hand, that seasonal turn starts to bring isolation and darker days, symptoms that lead to seasonal mood changes. Now that I’ve moved from SOFLO to the Northeast, I’ve been experiencing this change and it’s made music I already loved hit harder. In the month of October, a few records have been hitting especially different.

Mac Miller’s 2014 mixtape Faces is one of them.

Before Mac Miller’s untimely passing, he was known for being a potent wordsmith and producer, a musical visionary and curator. While he has many fantastic releases, I think Faces has always resonated with me most. It’s Mac at the peak of his ambition, mixing happiness and pain across 24 tracks in a way that is chilling. When I think of October, I think of that unique blend of eerie highs and lows; Faces delivers this while acting as a tale about the many faces Mac put on and encountered up to that point.

While Faces is 24 tracks, it’s the opposite of a slog. Engaging as can be, it offers multiple layers for any kind of listen. “Therapy” is one of Mac’s most infectious and happy tracks, mixing heavy Southern bass with radio-friendly refrains ringing across the mix; this song is preceded by “Just Doesn’t Matter”, sampling Bill Murray’s famous Meatballs monologue as Mac soberly looks back on the random chaos of his life. The mixtape’s sequencing is masterful, generally retaining its moody themes while mixing up each song’s style to reflect the feeling of being in a haze and seeing the faces of your angels and your demons. No song is the same here, making the staggering length of it a thrill ride of creativity.

The “Heaven and Hell” aspect of Faces’s lyrics are a common thread across Mac’s catalogue, but never have they felt so tangible. It’s heartbreaking when coupled with Mac’s own statements about his poor health when recording and the reality of his passing. A song like “Friends” embodies the danger and bliss Mac brought to his catalogue, mixing playful dark humor with genuinely disturbing imagery of drug abuse and loneliness; when the upright bass and drum crashes hit harder and Schoolboy Q’s voice breaks into the mix, it hits the very soul. Genuinely a perfect song to me, an achievement in late blog-era hip-hop.

What makes Faces so fascinating to me, especially as days grow shorter in October, is the way this tape works as a sobering look at the human experience. I mentioned that I think Faces is a deep dive into both the faces Mac put on and the faces of his loved ones; hearing how he dissects his own thoughts on life really hammers this home. The three song suite of “Happy Birthday”, “Wedding”, and “Funeral” speak to his own perspective on the cycle of life and death. “San Francisco” always gives me goosebumps, describing in deadpan humor the heinous activity that can result from substance abuse. “Rain” is a top-10 Mac song, with Vince Staples and Mac rapping about their pain in two different worlds over a haunting beat. Each song works as another “face” for the project, with Mac shifting his perspective throughout to ultimately overcome his own fears and support those he loves.

Since Faces was originally a mixtape released for free on the internet, it never made it to streaming services until its 2021 re-release. The song “Yeah” was worked in as a bonus, and it perfectly summarizes all of the aspects that make it work: the impressive song construction, the way it balances highs and lows, Mac’s own passion…this is an essential project to listen to for any hip-hop fan.

Outside of the song variety and the darkness Faces provides, I think what Faces ultimately offers for listeners is balance. I already mentioned this is a dark record, but I feel like it fits the Halloween theme because despite it all, Mac is able to inject positivity and ambition to balance that darkness. Halloween is about scares, but we all know that there is humor among the horrors, and a sun that rises after the night ends. “Here We Go” is a cocky jazz rap banger that makes me want to conquer every obstacle that gets in my way, “Diablo” is an impressive display of Mac’s pen and production game, “New Faces v2” might be one of the greatest three-man weaves in 2010s hip-hop, balancing cypher-ready bragging with sobering depictions of fear and death, only to look onto that rising sun and take life head on.

This review may have run a bit longer than I wanted to, but I could have done like 20 more posts about Faces. It’s a complex, eye-opening listen that captures the human experience in a way few projects can. I think the way it works in dark humor, horror and triumph makes it a perfect soundtrack to life as the world turns a bit colder, a bit more lonely, a bit scarier. It’s a great listen for the fall, and I implore you to check it out.

Rest in Piece Mac Miller.