“Colors and Shapes” tells a beautiful story on Mac Miller’s mixtape

By Kaitlin Dunn
Lifestyle Editor

On Oct. 15, Mac Miller’s “Faces” mixtape was posthumously released on all major streaming platforms. While the mixtape is not new (it was actually released in 2014 for free download) this was the first time that many fans of the late rapper listened to the project.

The mixtape holds a great deal of importance in the chronicle of Mac Miller coming into himself and into the spotlight as an artist. While it is far from his most popular work, it still acts as a major plot point in the story of who Mac Miller was as an artist.

“‘Faces’ was Mac fully coming into his own as an all-around musician, opening up about mortality, love, and drugs with real candor, while exploring fresh sonic territory. Sure, he became a major star with 2011’s Blue Slide Park, but scathing coverage of that LP had stuck with him, and put Miller in a position where he sought to reinvent himself,” GQ writer Grant Rindner said.

Prior to the release of the mixtape, the single “Colors and Shapes” was released, featuring Timothy Leary, who was one of the keystone inspirations for the psychedelic movement of the 60s.

The song details the perception of the world through the eyes of a person on LSD. While the song is very “vibey” in the lyrical pattern and the beat behind it, a closer look at the lyrics reveals that it is a much sadder song than it appears at face level.

“They invade your minds and then fill them with nonsense/these things that a man doesn’t need/take out the love and the passion and hope/and they fill it with nothing but greed.” Miller raps.

While the song is about life as someone high on LSD, it is clear that Miller is rapping about something much deeper.

“Colors and Shapes” also received a music video, directed by Sam Mason and featuring Miller’s dog.

The video was done by stringing together photos and videos of Miller’s childhood to inspire the story. Even though the song is about LSD usage, the video itself takes a different direction.

“In the abstract, it’s meant to be a video about childhood — growing up as an artist and the highs and lows of that experience. It’s sort of a look at the emotional and difficult and perilous but noble path of an artist,” Mason said.

“Faces” features a number of hard-hitting yet beautifully done tracks that hit even closer to home for fans in the face of Miller’s 2018 fatal overdose. 

Miller details cocaine use in unnerving detail on “Polo Jeans,” aches for love on “Wedding,” and ponders death on “Grand Finale.”

Miller manages to not only tell a story, but paint a picture with his lyrics that leave the listener wanting to hear even more from him.

“A lot of the time, you have storytellers in rap, you have people who can tell stories or a person who can tell you their story, but it’s very rare that you have a person who can paint a picture for you. And painting a pretty picture doesn’t mean that it makes you feel pretty,” artist Thundercat said of the mixtape.

“Faces,” although a beautifully done work, is hard to listen to. Miller is honest to the listener, but that honesty is painful, both for him and those streaming.

“As anxiety permeates the tape, ‘It Just Doesn’t Matter’ stands as one of its most human moments. The track is its own personal undoing, with non sequiturs funneling into honest depictions of drug use overtaking Mac’s life, and how as much as this saddens him, he just can’t stop,” Vulture writer Donna-Claire Chesman said.

Detailing trying to become a better person from his cocaine, “It Just Doesn’t Matter” is perhaps a post-mortem premonition, as Miller died from laced cocaine.

“I’ve been to hell and back tryna get attached to my better half/never that, the smile’s so gone, so bring the coke on,” Miller raps.

Despite the painful lyrics and brutal honesty, “Faces” is a work of art at its core. Available on vinyl and all major streaming platforms now, everyone should give it a listen.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: “Faces” is the eleventh entry in Miller’s discography and second released since his passing in 2018. While the mixtape was initially released for free in 2014, it was re-released on all major streaming platforms in 2021.

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