The late Mac Miller is one of the greatest artists of our generation. After his tragic death in 2018, his life and music were celebrated by millions of people.
Mac Miller was an incredible self-taught artist who released his first mixtape at fifteen. His last album was released in 2020 posthumously.
Although Mac Miller was a rap and hip-hop artist, he was inspired by many genres and artists, such as some of the greats from both the 80s’ and hip-hop. Miller loves to take something old and make it new, often sampling and remixing older songs and rapping over them.
His tracks often feel cinematic, with lyrics following the most powerful emotions in life: positivity, depression, loneliness, love, etc. His mix of genres and sounds creates music that is unique, interesting, and beautiful.
Mac Miller was an angel lost all too soon. As a tribute to this talented rapper, here are the 20 best Mac Miller songs.
1. Self Care
“Self Care” starts with a simple trap beat, and sounds similar to some of hip-hop boy band BROCKHAMPTON’s music. This song was released on Miller’s album Swimming in 2018, approximately a month before his tragic overdose.
The lyrics discuss Miller’s feelings toward himself and other people in his life, and how he had to come to terms with loving himself. He also begins to discuss his addiction about halfway through the song, when the rap music changes to an R&B vibe.
Fans say that this is one of the best Mac Miller songs because of its honesty about struggling with addiction, which has helped many people who are fighting this problem.
2. The Spins
“The Spins” takes us back to a better time. Fittingly, it was released in 2010 on Miller’s album called K.I.D.S.
It features an upbeat tempo with crashing cymbals, fast drums, and samples of Empire of the Sun’s song “Half Mast.” Miller’s near-monotone rap and the addition of the indie vibe make this song a fun listen.
This track reminds me of being a stupid teenager, with lyrics such as Miller telling us he just graduated high school in the lyrics. “The Spins” will take you back to a time when life was much simpler.
3. Best Day Ever
“Best Day Ever” starts with a simple keyboard riff that sounds like a Disney movie’s interpretation of magic, as well as a repetitive violin track that has been cut up. The song crescendos as Miller begins to rap, adding a washed-out drum beat, building orchestra percussion, and synthesized melody.
The song feels like a fairytale, describing Miller’s success and happiness due to his rap career. As one of the best Mac Miller songs, “Best Day Ever” has a good-vibes-only message.
It was released on his album of the same name in 2011 and features a sample that was taken from Earth, Wind & Fire. The music has both a softness and an inspirational tone that I really love.
4. Donald Trump
This is the song that introduced many people to Miller, hitting the top 100 chart mere months after its release in 2011. The melody was sampled from “Vesuvius” by Sufjan Stevens, which has been sped up to match the party vibe of “Donald Trump.”
Interestingly, Donald Trump attempted to demand royalties from Miller for using his name after the song’s success. Miller adamantly denied him payment, as he explained that he could’ve used anyone’s name that symbolized financial success.
The lyrics discuss Miller’s desire to become rich, successful, and famous like pre-presidency Trump. The music video shows Miller changing from sitting in a mostly empty house to partying with several people, demonstrating his happiness at becoming famous.
“2009” starts with the sound of violins that are reminiscent of a 50s’ movie, and a beautiful building piano melody. Fans say this is one of the best Mac Miller songs, as he dramatically changes his normal sound and reflects on the debilitating nature of addiction and depression.
In “2009,” Miller explains how he attempts to find some peace of mind, and the change in his life after the K.I.D.S album dropped in 2010. This song will make you cry as you can feel Miller’s pain, his desire to get away from addiction, and his inability to do so.
Many people credit this song with helping them get over their addiction. After your first listen, you can hear why.
6. Weekend (Feat. Miguel)
“Weekend” has a dark message, once again talking about different aspects of Miller’s loneliness and addiction. The lyrics explain that everything will be okay by the weekend, obviously referencing getting drunk or high as an escape from life.
The song features downbeat verses, in which Miller raps about the stresses of the week. When the chorus hits, the song becomes more upbeat, describing the break that the weekend provides.
The song features upbeat drums, while the verses highlight a low voice singing lazily and Miller’s chill rap. The chorus uses a trumpet to distinguish itself from the verses, which seems to change the entire vibe of the song.
7. Nikes on My Feet
“Nikes on My Feet” is a throwback to 90s’ and 2000s’ music, sampling Nas’s “The World Is Yours.” The track is simple and repetitive, highlighting Miller’s lyrical ability.
This song features on Miller’s K.I.D.S. album. It is one of the best Mac Miller songs as it helped him rise to stardom as a fan favorite.
Like many of the K.I.D.S. songs, “Nikes on My Feet” is nostalgic, reminding us of how it used to feel to get new shoes and show them off.
8. Blue World
“Blue World” once again proves Miller’s genius, sampling and remixing “It’s a Blue World” by The Four Freshmen. The lyrics discuss times when Miller has enjoyed life, despite existing in a “blue” or depressing world.
This is hands down one of the best Mac Miller songs because it’s inspirational, encouraging listeners that “one of these days we’ll all get by.” “Blue World” features on Miller’s posthumous album “Circles” released in 2020, and reminds us to stay positive when life gets tough.
All I can say is that I have to agree, it’s a blue world without you Mac.
9. Rain (Feat. Vince Staples)
“Rain” samples J.O.B. Orchestra’s “Govinda,” which is a popular song to remix in hip-hop. Miller and Vince follow in the footsteps of the likes of J. Cole and Dizzy Wright, sampling what has been referred to as a hood classic.
It comes as no surprise that “Rain” has its own unique sound despite using the same sample as many other songs.
Fans say that this is a stellar track off Miller’s Faces album, making “Rain” one of the best Mac Miller songs. “Rain” is the perfect chill song, and definitely deserves a listen.
10. Good News
This is another track off Miller’s posthumous album, Circles. “Good News” sounds upbeat, but discusses the dark reality that Miller was facing with his addiction and depression.
The lyrics talk about Miller’s general resignation from life, and how he is always “dreaming” and needs to “wake up.” Although the actual music seems optimistic, Miller really seems to be fed up with life.
“Good News” is a sad reflection on the late Miller’s attempts to drive away the negative thoughts with some good news. It is a token of the optimism that Miller always tried to uphold even in his darkest hours.
“Ladders” is another track off Miller’s Swimming album. It is pensive at the beginning, evolving into an upbeat track with the addition of a Daft Punk-like synthesized melody and trumpets.
Miller once again proves his versatility with “Ladders.” The lyrics make this one of the best Mac Miller songs, communicating an optimistic lesson to his listeners.
Ladders in this song are a metaphor for life, and the higher you climb the better life gets. When you are at the top, however, the fall is much larger. Even so, you must keep climbing to really enjoy it.
12. Knock Knock
“Knock Knock” samples Linda Scott’s famous “I’ve Told Every Little Star,” released in 1961. Fittingly, the music video begins in black and white, following Miller who is dressed in street clothes, and girls dressed in poodle skirts and classic hairdos.
Right before Miller begins to rap, the music video fades from black and white to color, which is a super fun way to mix the old with the new both visually and musically. The postmodern mix between Miller’s modern rap and Scott’s singing in the background is just pure magic.
Miller once again proves that he is a legend with “Knock Knock.” The cinematic quality of “Knock Knock” is why it deserves a place on my list of the best Mac Miller songs.
13. Here We Go
“Here We Go” starts with a haunting sample from the movie Kingdom of Heaven. The character introduces the track by telling us to be courageous, speak the truth, and safeguard the helpless.
In this triumphant track, Miller discusses his success due to hard work and persistence. The sound of a warped trumpet and upbeat drums put us on Miller’s level, rejoicing in the euphoria of success.
The song is representative of the optimism that Miller always tried to maintain in his music, and is reflective of him as a creator.
14. What’s the Use?
“What’s The Use?” is another banger off Miller’s 2018 album “Swimming,” and features guest appearances from Thundercat, Snoop Dogg, and Syd. The track is straight-up 70s funk.
This song is super groovy and hypnotic, which is obviously why it is one of the best Mac Miller songs.
“What’s the Use?” features Miller’s same authenticity as always, discussing his haters and break-up with Ariana Grande. Like always, Miller delivers a bop that is unique and real.
15. Small Worlds
The “Small Worlds” track is simple, featuring a guitar riff and an easy drum beat. The lyrics almost sound like an introspective conversation between Miller and himself.
The song was released in 2018, breaking Miller’s silence after his public split with Ariana Grande. In the lyrics, he recognizes his flaws and tells his fans that he is only human.
The track ends with Miller rapping over the sound of a piano melody. The tone of the song is somber and pensive, and perfect listening for an easy Sunday afternoon.
“Diablo” features a low-fi beat and is super chill. It samples the sexy and emotional jazz track “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington & John Coltrane.
“Diablo” was released on Miller’s Faces album in 2014, and Miller both produced and wrote it. What I love about Mac Miller is that he always retains the original vibe of the songs he samples, whilst adding his own spin to the music.
Its dark but poetic quality is what truly makes “Diablo” one of the best Mac Miller songs, once again discussing the continued struggle with addiction and the loss of friends because of it (“everybody got dead homies”).
17. My Favorite Part (Feat. Ariana Grande)
The music video to “My Favorite Part” begins as a silent movie from the 1910s’, showing Ariana and Miller interacting by an elevator. Like the song, the video features their love and connection, even while being separated by walls.
The track features more influence from Ariana’s sound, which is a mix of pop and R&B. Miller sings rather than raps.
“My Favorite Part” is romantic and soulful. I love the stripped and vulnerable version of Miller’s voice in this track, and despite the tragic end to their story, it deserves a listen.
18. Polo Jeans (Feat. Earl Sweatshirt)
“Polo Jeans” discusses addiction and drug use in the same raw and honest way that Miller always talks about the topic. The track is simple, with a low-fi beat and washed-out organ playing under Miller and Earl’s rap.
The two artists criticize how critics scrutinize their music, explaining that they basically feel subhuman because of it. In the original track, they sample a scene from the movie Gummo.
In the sampled scene, some children terrorize a “rabbit.” Miller and Earl related to feeling terrorized by the way that critics discuss their music.
“Therapy” is another track off of Miller’s darker album, “Faces.” The track samples COMA-CHI’s “Oneness,” adding an angelic and slightly R&B vibe to the sound of the track’s upbeat trumpets and tempo.
In the lyrics, Miller talks about his personal form of therapy. He tries to live his life to the fullest, finding happiness in his friends, family, music, women, etc.
“Therapy” is one of the best Mac Miller songs because it is a throwback to the sound that got him famous. It salutes his classics, like “Donald Trump” and “The Spins.”
20. Dang! (Feat. Anderson .Paak)
This collaboration is a match made in heaven. The “Dang!” track features a chill guitar riff that reminds me of Daft Punk, and the addition of trumpets has an 80s vibe.
Anderson wrote this song about the passing of loved ones, and it seems to celebrate their lives rather than lamenting their deaths.
Miller’s verses are a bit less serious, describing a relationship rather than the deaths of loved ones. Miller’s verses feature his attempts to turn on the charm to get a girl back, which is not a common hip-hop trope.
Like many fans, all we can say after listening to the best Mac Miller songs is Rest in Paradise, Mac. You are missed.
Alexandra loves playing the piano and guitar. She has always been a music lover, but it wasn’t until she was in high school that she realized how much she loved to play. It allowed her to express herself without having to be verbally expressive, which is something she found very empowering.