Free Single Review: Mac Miller, “On And On”
There are a lot of cities in America that can closely identify with a specific genre of music. Chicago was where Delta bluesmen began forming bands and plugging in their guitars. Los Angeles had glam rock in the ‘80s and gangsta rap in the ‘90s. Detroit? Motown, baby! Seattle has grunge, Nashville’s got country, Philly’s got soul, and Atlanta’s got “dirty South” hip-hop. New Orleans? They’ve got jazz – or at least they did until the franchise packed up and moved to Utah (*rimshot*). Memphis was one of the birthplaces of rock and roll. DC has a famous punk scene, and Baltimore’s indie rock is only an hour’s drive on I-95 away. And New York… well, they’ve got pretty much everything.
This year has seen the rise of another city that hopes to become a new mecca for hip-hop. That would be the Steel City itself, Pittsburgh, PA. It’s home to six Lombardi Trophies, three rivers, and two colors that all their sports teams wear: black and yell—well, gold, actually. Which of course brings us to Wiz Khalifa, the Pittsburgh rapper whose breakout single “Black And Yellow” has been practically inescapable in 2011. The Steelers adopted the song as their team anthem during their run to Super Bowl XLV this year.
And the rest of America has been remixing it like crazy ever since. Lil Wayne turned it into “Green And Yellow” in honor of the Green Bay Packers. Snoop Dogg did a Lakers version called “Purp And Yellow.” Even Tom Hanks’ son did “White And Purple” for Northwestern University (I swear to God that is NOT a joke). Basically, if your favorite team wears colors, somebody has taken Wiz Khalifa’s song and painted over it with those colors. Brace yourselves, Flyer fans – soon I’ll be set to unleash “Black And Orange” on all y’all. (Oh wait, San Francisco Giants fans beat me to it. DAMN YOU ALL!)
So where does Mac Miller, this week’s featured artist on iTunes, fit into any of this stuff? Well, for starters, Mac Miller just so happens to be from Pittsburgh. He’s signed to Rostrum Records, a Pittsburgh hip-hop label that just so happens to be home to… you guessed it, Wiz Khalifa.
And I’m not done yet. Wiz Khalifa’s “Black And Yellow” was, as previously mentioned, covered by Chet Haze, who happens to be the son of Tom Hanks, who was in Apollo 13 with… drum roll please… KEVIN BACON, everybody! No wonder Mac’s getting all this hype on iTunes. Dude’s got connections!
Anyway, on to “On And On” itself. The first thing I noticed right out of the gate is that this song has some pretty tight production going on. With its prominent piano chords and gentle electronic flourishes, it almost sounds like it could have been an R&B slow jam from the mid-‘90s. In fact, the beat’s probably the best thing about “On And On,” a common trend in MTV-friendly hip-hop these days. Get a good beat and a catchy chorus and you’re good to go – and this song delivers on those counts, so don’t be surprised if this takes off.
But what about the real meat of any rap song, the verses? They’re okay. He gets some decent lines in here and there (“I’m gonna be the man, son/Collecting people everywhere like Samsung,” though it doesn’t make much sense because I don’t think Samsung actually has a mobile or Internet network), but for the most part the verse lyrics are just your average “check it out, I’m making my dream come true and everything’s great” material. Nothing especially clever going on, no punch lines that’ll make you laugh out loud, but it could be much worse. All the while Miller’s got this sing-song style of delivery that kind of reminds me of Nelly in that he sounds like he couldn’t decide if he wanted to rap or sing, so he did both. I can hear some Drake influence too, only Drake is a much better lyricist.
In the chorus of “On And On” Mac Miller declares, “I think this could go on and on forever.” It’s a common boast among rappers, to be sure. But the rap game can be a notoriously fickle business sometimes. For every Jay-Z there’s a thousand Joe Buddens; for every Eminem a thousand guys like Mims. Only time will tell which camp this guy ends up joining.