On Sept. 7, 2018, the music industry faced yet another loss with the death of rapper Malcolm James McCormick, known worldwide by his stage name Mac Miller. According to The Washington Post, the 26-year-old’s apparent cause of death was a drug overdose at his home, where paramedics found Miller dead at the scene.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Miller started his music career at the age of 19. He quickly worked his way up the ranks within the hip-hop community. Some of his most memorable works include his first album, Blue Side Park, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2011, and songs such as “Goosebumpz” and “O.K.” featuring Tyler, the Creator.
From early on in his career, there was no doubt that Miller would leave a strong impression on fans and contemporaries alike. His death sparked an immediate outpouring of admiration and tribute from the likes of SZA, J. Cole, Earl Sweatshirt, Kid Cudi and The Weeknd, as well as many fans on social media.
“This is a message for anybody in this game that’s going through something. If you don’t feel right, if you feel you have a substance problem, if you need a ear to vent to. If you uncomfortable talking to people around you. Please reach out to me,” J. Cole wrote on Twitter.
Miller’s death added fuel onto what is already an intense debate about the drug abuse crisis in the United States. Miller spoke candidly about his addiction to drugs and how it intertwined with his mental health.
In 2013, he admitted to Complex that he was using lean, a combination of promethazine and codeine, to alleviate his depression. In 2016 he released a short documentary titled “Stopped Making Excuses,” in which he also candidly discussed his drug use and his path to sobriety. In the documentary, Miller said, “I’d rather be a corny white rapper than the drugged out mess who can’t even get out of his own house … You don’t go down in history because you overdosed.” Conversely, he also admitted that he hated being sober.
A recent spate of deaths from drug overdoses in the music industry, including Prince, Lil Peep and Tom Petty, has caused alarm as more Americans face addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2016, approximately 63,000 people died from drug overdoses that year, and 48.5 million Americans used illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs.
Miller’s death was an unexpected tragedy to his family, friends and lives he touched with his music and kindred soul. His fifth studio album was released last month, and he was preparing to go on tour. Miller will be remembered by the positive influence he made through his music and his personality that encouraged many people to continue moving forward, even as life tried its best to stop them.