Mac Miller's family announced Wednesday that they would be releasing a posthumous album next week titled "Circles," intended as a companion record to his last. A statement shared on the late rapper's Instagram page says he was "well into" recording the new album when he died.
"This is a complicated process that has no right answer. No clear path," the family wrote. "We simply know that it was important to Malcolm for the world to hear it. One of the most difficult decisions in the process is how best to let people know about it - how to communicate meaningfully while keeping sacred what should be kept sacred. So this will be the only post on any of his channels."
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Miller, born Malcolm McCormick, died accidentally in September 2018 from a powerful mix of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol. He was 26. The news arrived just weeks after the release of Swimming, his fifth album and the last of his lifetime. Debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, Swimming was well-received by critics and went on to earn Miller a best rap album nomination at the Grammy Awards.
While Miller's family maintained their privacy after his death, as hinted at in Wednesday's statement, the community mourned publicly. Miller had built a loyal fan base since before his chart-topping 2011 debut, Blue Slide Park, named after a playground in his native Pittsburgh. Miller's fans held a vigil there days after his death, and they reassembled a year later to celebrate his legacy.
Others in the music industry have touched upon that legacy via tributes that poured out immediately after Miller's death, as well as on its first anniversary. Pop star Ariana Grande, who dated Miller for nearly two years, called him her "dearest friend" when he died and later referred to him as an angel on her album "Thank U, Next." This past September, Kevin Abstract, the 23-year-old rapper who co-founded Brockhampton, recalled being inspired by a "mad young" Miller after attending one of his concerts in 2010. That same day, rapper Kid Cudi tweeted a simple message: "Miss u Mac."
Thundercat, a close friend who appeared alongside Miller at their popular NPR Tiny Desk Concert in August 2018, spent the first anniversary of the rapper's death reminiscing on their friendship. He tweeted that he flew to Washington, D.C., in the midst of a European tour for the sole purpose of doing the Tiny Desk Concert, and then flew right back. Both men dealt with substance abuse issues, and Thundercat added that while he "used to drink a lot to cope with the pain," he hadn't touched alcohol in almost a year.
Miller addressed his own perseverance on Swimming, which Rolling Stone referred to as "the most impactful album of his career" and, in a separate piece, "a sonic head-trip drenched in synths, sultry grooves and funky hooks." While Miller spoke candidly throughout his public career, the album provided an especially intimate look into his mind, exploring in turns his depression and self-acceptance.
In a Vulture profile that published the day before Miller's death, writer Craig Jenkins noted that the rapper, who was "finally making the music he's always wanted to make," had reached out to renowned music producer and composer Jon Brion toward the end of the recording sessions for Swimming. Miller, outwardly "awestruck," told Jenkins that Brion taught him "a lot about putting together stereo sound, using all of the space in the speakers and what that does to texture."
Brion had been working with Miller to fine-tune Circles, according to the family's statement, and after Miller's death, he dedicated himself to finishing the album, which is now due for a Jan. 17 release. The new album's style will complement the last, and complete it: "Swimming in Circles was the concept."
"We are left to imagine where Malcolm was going and to appreciate where he was," the statement reads. "We hope you take the time to listen. The look on his face when everyone was listening said it all."