Beloved rapper and producer Mac Miller died at age 26 last Friday. After authorities were called to his California residence, reports indicated that Miller passed of an apparent drug overdose.
Although his official cause of death is pending toxicology tests, Miller had publicly struggled with addiction issues throughout his time in the spotlight of the music industry, after first gaining national attention in 2011.
Born Malcolm McCormick, Miller grew up in Pittsburgh and maintained a strong connection to his roots, often sporting Steelers gear and popping up at Pittsburgh sports games long after his move to Los Angeles. The son of a photographer and an architect, he also had one brother, Miller McCormick, a graphic designer who created album artwork for the rapper.
In 2013 Miller told Noisey that he began experimenting with different drugs as a young teenager, stating that, “Drugs are dangerous, dude. But they’re awesome. Just dangerous. Drugs are not like a new thing. Especially with me, I’ve been doing drugs since I was fifteen.”
Beginning his rap career in his teens, Miller found breakthrough success in 2010 after signing with Rostrum Records and later touring with rapper Wiz Khalifa, a fellow alum of suburban Pittsburgh high school Taylor Allderdice.
Over the years, Miller admitted to using several different drugs, most notably cocaine and lean, also known as “purple drank.”
In the Fader documentary “Stopped Making Excuses,” Miller spoke candidly of his addiction. Explaining that weed was no longer relaxing to him, he said, “I needed a drug that was a little more numbing, if you will, and less in your head.”
The chilling 2016 profile shows Miller pouring lean from a Sprite bottle, stating in part that his drug use continued because, “I hate being sober.”
Miller’s music made many references to his drug abuse and struggles with mental health. As he grew older, his music evolved with him—something that his countless young fans connected with on a personal level. His latest album, Swimming, which debuted just last month, included the song “Come Back to Earth,” where he sings in part, “I’ll do anything for a way out/Of my head.”
Lean is a concoction that contains ingredients used in prescription strength cough medicines, including the opiate codeine and the sedative promethazine. Popularized in the music industry in the 1990s, lean is a highly addictive substance that, while containing legal ingredients, carries an incredible danger.
Those who use lean will mix the drug combination with something like Sprite, as Miller did in the documentary. Hard candies added in will give the drink a sweet flavor.
The side effects of lean can include shallow breathing, blurred vision, and hallucinations. Codeine is a powerful depressant, which, when ingested in large amounts, can cause seizures, as noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
An incredibly talented musician, Mac Miller will be remembered for his contributions in hip-hop, and for his guts to enter the scene as an independent artist at just 17 years old.
Tributes have poured in from every genre of the music industry, with many remembering Miller for his clever sense of humor, love for his hometown, and down-to-earth personality.
As we mourn the loss of Mac Miller, we are reminded of the insidiousness and power of addiction, as fellow musician Macklemore alluded to in a tribute to Miller, encouraging those who are struggling to seek help.
“Don’t be a secret. Go to a 12 step meeting. Introduce yourself and you’ll be greeted with love and understanding from people that are fighting the same battle. Surrender,” he wrote.
We echo those sentiments as we join in remembering Mac and the incredible impact that he made.
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