Mac Miller tragically passed away in September 2018. As we continue to mourn his loss more than a year later, we now get to dig into some new music from the rapper in the form of Circles.
In the wake of Mac’s death, Circles was eventually completed by super-producer Jon Brion, who’s worked with everybody from John Mayer to Kanye West and The Roots, among numerous other bold font artists. Brion had been working on various projects (including his Grammy-nominated Swimming LP) with Miller ahead of his passing and was the natural choice to finish the work.
As Brion explained to Apple Music‘s Zane Lowe, when he originally signed on to produce Swimming, Mac “comes in and plays five or six things. There was more hip-hop-leaning stuff, and it was great and funny and personal—the tracks were already pointing someplace interesting.” Those tracks would wind up being the foundation of Swimming. Continued Brion, “After a couple of those, he goes ‘I’ve got these other things I’m not sure what to do with.'” Those “other things” would go on to comprise Circles, which “finds him exploring levels of musicality, melody, and vulnerability he’d only hinted at before.”
The 12-track Circles was intended by Miller (real name Malcolm McCormick) to be a companion piece to Swimming. According to a statement from the McCormick family announcing the album, Circles represents “two different styles complementing each other, completing a circle—Swimming in Circles was the concept.”
Miller had begun work on Circles as a follow up to Swimming at least five months before he would release his career-defining classic just before he passed. Jon Brion contributed most of the instrumentation on Circles, including bass guitar. In addition to Brion, however, the album features a number bass contributions by notable names including Mac himself (on “Everybody”, a reworked cover of Arthur Lee‘s 1972 track, “Everybody’s Gotta Live”) and former Prince collaborator Wendy Melvoin (on “Good News”).
When Circles was released on January 17th, funk fans were also surprised to see another familiar name on the personnel credits for the album’s second track, “Complicated”: Dwayne “MonoNeon” Thomas, the virtuoso bassist who played with the late Prince toward the end of his life and now holds down the low end with Ghost-Note.
Last week, MonoNeon shared with us the personal exchange with Mac Miller that led to the collaboration. As you can read below, the connection began with Miller sliding into MonoNeon’s Instagram DMs:
[Screengrab via MonoNeon]
MonoNeon reflected on the opportunity to work with Mac Miller last week on Instagram. “This is super special for me mane!!!” he explained. “Mac Miller messaged me on Instagram out of the blue March 1st of 2018 asking to record bass on a song that would be entitled, ‘Complicated’. When he emailed the track for me to work on the next day (March 2nd of 2018), I didn’t think much of it ever being released. I was just excited to collab with Mac in some way. I was so excited that I ran into my mom’s room, jumping around and told her, ‘Mac Miller wants me to record bass on his song, hell yea!’—not knowing it would be one of his last recordings. Unfortunately, me and Mac didn’t get a chance to meet in person, but Mac showed me love and I’m grateful for that!”
Listen to Mac Miller’s “Complicated” (featuring bass by MonoNeon) below:
Mac Miller – “Complicated”
[Video: Mac Miller]
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Months before Mac passed in 2018 he sent me the song “Complicated” to play bass on. We didn’t get a chance to meet in person which makes even more sadder for me hearing the finished recording. But Mac showed me love and I will remember him for that! Thank you Mac Miller! 🤍🖤 #MacMiller #MonoNeon #Circles #Complicated
Mac Miller Circles tracks “Complicated” (featuring MonoNeon) and “Good News” were recently included on the January 2020 edition of Live For Live Music‘s serial Spotify playlist, the L4LM Monthly Mix. Listen to the full playlist below and read our liner notes here.