Throw a joint, bong, or bottle of booze in rapper Mac Miller’s hands and he’ll mug for the camera while taking the party to another level, and if there’s such a thing as slacker hoodie grace, his chalice overflows with it. Think Asher Roth with madder skills or Eminem without spite or baggage and you’ve got Miller in a nutshell, with some extra details being his charming, Pittsburgh-loving attitude along with his affiliation with a killer hometown production team called ID Labs, who help make Blue Slide Park sound like the old-school party rocking with the new school.
This blast of college-kid enthusiasm that doubles as Miller’s official debut does come with some slight issues though, and if you don’t feel like poppin’ bottles or mackin’ on the honeys, it seems caught in a redundant loop of wine, women, and bong. Approach it unfettered and Blue Slide Park is like winning the lotto, where all of a sudden “frat” means “Animal House” and “backpacker” means “guy sneaking booze into the dorms.” This kid even has the audacity to grab the “45 Number”/”Let Me Clear My Throat” beat for “Party on Fifth Ave.” and the talent to turn the track into a highlight, plus his hedonism is anchored by daytime playfulness, believable respect (“Thinkin’ bout my people murdered in the Holocaust” comes off just fine), and a true understanding of hip-hop that attracts revered folks like Clams Casino to contribute beats.
Miller’s big challenge is that he follows in a long line of suburban college rappers who have thrown up whack mixtapes like they were yesterday’s punch bowl, but this memorable debut steps right around that mess and suggests that the kids are not just all right, but all the way live.