I was drowning but now I'm swimming
In an interview with Zane Lowe, Malcolm said "Do you ever feel invincible? I lived a certain life for 10 years and faced almost no real consequences. I had no version of the story that didn't end up with me being fine". He had recently been arrested for crashing his car while under the influence of alcohol. He took this as a wake-up call, but it appears it was too little too late. Perhaps if he had faced consequences sooner, he wouldn't have been allowed to fall so far into the hole.
Fame is a double-edged sword and for Malcolm being 20 years old with a Billboard topping debut album, he was thrown into the spotlight and things really didn't stop for him since then. Imagining myself at 20 becoming wealthy and famous, I doubt there's any chance I would exercise any level of restraint. At that time, being known as a producer of "frat rap", it almost seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy that that would lead to out of control partying and substance abuse. The entertainment industry has a habit of dragging people in and beating the shit out of them. When you consider the story of Avicii and the adversity he faced essentially being forced to tour and perform even when he was begging his manager to cancel the shows, it's easy to see why so many people don't make it. Other artists such as Deadmau5 and Earl Sweatshirt were able to see the warning signs and they took breaks to take care of themselves. This year Earl Sweatshirt cancelled a tour to Australia following the death of his father. With any luck he will emerge having dealt with his grief healthily and be better for it.
Not everyone is so lucky, though. Look no further than the27 club; a sprawling list of people who likely garnered significant fame in their late teens or early 20's but didn't manage to see the decade out. It is a systemic issue that doesn't have a clear root cause. Is it the idolisation of relatively young adults? Or is it a result of an abusive industry that chews people up and spits them out?
It was as early as 2012 that Malcolm spoke about how he didn't want to die of an overdose, but how sobriety was just boring. In the few years after his career took off, it was clear to his fans that he was not doing well. 2015 marked the release of GO:OD AM, he took the opportunity to check in and let everyone know he was doing alright. The dark period was seemingly over. Contrary to what most people will have you believe, there is a voluntary element to depression. There's a very fine line between living with depression and living in hell. If you allow your self-loathing tendencies to consume you, you will be in hell. Alcohol is a well known depressant, but it's hardly the only thing people commonly abuse. I don't imagine anyone comes out of the other side of an opiate high and thinks "wow, that was an awesome time, I feel great about doing that". Giving in to substances is just one way we sabotage ourselves.
Life is full of peaks and troughs and it's a true tragedy that Malcolm (and so many other people for that matter) didn't make it to their next peak. For me, this is a lesson about the fragility and the tragedy of life. The pain that we feel from his passing will eventually be eclipsed by the gifts of his music and positive energy. The world has changed as a result of what Malcolm accomplished during his short life. I think it's well worth waking up in the morning and being a part of it.
I don't think I'll ever understand why his death affected me so much. It's quite bizarre how connected we as fans were able to feel with him, never having met him, but I think that's just a testament to the artist and person he became. From a frat rapper to a soulful musician expressing himself honestly and uninhibited, he touched fans and artists alike. We are truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to listen to his magnum opus Swimming.
Rest in peace Mac Miller.