Revisiting “Faces” in light of the 2021 re-issue.
Mac Miller –– Faces –– orig. self-released in 2014, re-issued 2021 via Warner
As a rule of thumb––the fewer posthumous releases one has, the better their catalogue will withstand the test of time. I believe this rule applies unquestionably for the subgenre of emorap. In the case of Mac Miller, the second official posthumous release is a reissue of the “Faces” mixtape from 2014. A 3xLP vinyl run was announced in tandem with the news that the beloved mixtape would be coming to streaming services. The 3xLP is necessary for a project that was already seven minutes too long to fit on a single CD, even before the new bonus track.
It is refreshing that those responsible for Mac Miller’s estate put in the arduous work to clear the samples on “Faces'' rather than releasing an album full of demos that merely hadn’t seen the light of day yet. Lord knows that would’ve been easier, as this is what we’ve seen time and time again with the likes of Juice WRLD and XXXTENTACION (who’ve both had posthumous albums clocking it at over twenty-one songs apiece). Less truly is more when it comes to full-length posthumous releases.
It’s hard to grasp the fact that what I believe to be Mac’s magnum opus is over half a-decade old. As a highschool junior in 2014, I was most concerned with catching a cheap buzz and winning the next round of Magic: the Gathering. “Faces” probably was what I listened to the most during the second half of highschool. A bygone era of youth that I’ll never see the likes of again. In a word, this album brings back fond memories because it was on in the background for so many of them. “Faces” is full of Mac grappling with his own mortality and coming to terms with the truth that he was actively ushering in his own demise in order to create his most-interesting music. What stands out to me about “Faces” in 2021 is just how much he poured into the project fresh from rehab. There is a palpable rawness across the entirety of the record.
“Faces” is the most foreboding project out of Mac’s body of work. The fact that the mixtape opens with the lyric “Shoulda died already” and closes with “I’m a bit surprised that I’m even still alive//mixing uppers and downers practically suicide” should clue the listener into the fact that “Faces” truly was created in the image of suffering. Given Mac’s passing, certain lines get me in the gut each time I hear them:
“Lord, I want a fair one with my demons.” from Ave Maria, and “Somebody said that I deserved to die––I looked ‘em in the eye and said the Devil’s not circumcised.” from Uber (feat. Mike Jones).
The tracklist also features a dazzling array of guest artists that contributes to the feeling of a communal weaving. ScHoolboy Q, Rick Ross, Vince Staples, and Earl Sweatshirt lend their voices to the project. “Faces” contains not one, but what I believe are two of the strongest verses in Earl Sweatshirt’s discography.
Aside from what I think is a sonic achievement, nostalgia for the company and circumstance where I initially listened to and absorbed “Faces” is why I return to the record yearly. And I’m never disappointed. Even the song I consider to be the biggest sore-thumb on the tracklist contains the hardest sample. Though uninteresting lyrically, the Rick Ross assisted ‘Insomniak’ samples ‘Ten Et Tiwa Dorment’ from 1973’s Fantastic Planet––making for one of the coolest parts on the project. Again testament to the work put into clearing the samples.
At the end of the day, “Faces” deserves to be in conversation with Atmosphere’s “God Loves Ugly” and Death Grips’ “The Money Store” for some of the greatest emorap conceived to date. There’s still no sound quite like “Faces”. If you’ve never heard the mixtape before, the original version can be streamed and downloaded for free here.
Friends (feat. ScHoolboy Q)
Polo Jeans (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)
Uber (feat. Mike Jones)
New Faces v.2 (feat. Earl Sweatshirt & Da$h)