“Swimming”: The story of Mac Miller’s fight to find himself

One of the main messages behind the album is self-love, personal healing, and psychological growth.


Album cover courtesy of REMember Music and Warner Bros. Records.

Colby Guy, Editor-In-Chief

Mac Miller would have turned 29 today, and as fans celebrate the Pittsburgh rapper’s life, we look back on one of his best albums: “Swimming.”

“Swimming” debuted on Aug. 3, 2018; Miller produced all 13 tracks with the help of Dev Hynes, J. Cole, Dâm-Funk, DJ Dahi, Tae Beast, Flying Lotus, and Cardo, among others.

The 2018 album was Miller’s fifth studio album, the last album released before his death on Sept. 7, 2018. The coroner found fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol in his body and concluded that the cause of death was an accidental overdose.

With the album coming out after his breakup with singer Ariana Grande and his 2018 DUI arrest, the album portrays him trying to swim away from his broken heart and struggles rather than drown in them.

One of the main messages behind the album is self-love, personal healing, and psychological growth, and the song that portrays this message the most is “Self Care.”

The part that sticks out to me is the pre-chorus, which reads “Tell them they can take that bullshit elsewhere. Self care, we gonna be Good, Hell yeah, they lettin’ me go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o.”

What Miller was trying to say through this is that we have to take care of ourselves before we can worry about other people. You have to find yourself before you can be there for someone else.

Grande had tweeted, the reason that her relationship with Miller didn’t work out was his “inability to get his shit together,” which does set a precedent for what this song is about. The song shows Miller battling his problems and taking care of himself.

Another lyric from “Self Care” that sticks out to me is when Miller says “The sun set quickly then get up slow, yeah, I disconnect and upload.”

What I take from this is that sometimes, you have to disconnect yourself from the world around you and focus on yourself. People require some time to ponder things and make sure they’re doing fine mentally and that’s the battle Miller is fighting throughout the song.

During the telling of this story, Miller, who also handled production himself, masterfully portrays this story with his production, taking us through multiple genres throughout the album. While “Jet Fuel” has a sluggish, trip-hop vibe, “What’s the Use?” has a more upbeat synth-funk groove.

The production and the messages behind the album were impactful, and it showed, as the album was nominated for Rap Album of the Year in 2019, losing to Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy.”

However, this album was still the most inspirational album of that year to me, as I hold on to a lot of the messages Miller conveyed in the album.

What I learned from this project is that instead of drowning in my thoughts and misery, I need to get through them and swim to shore. To do that, sometimes it’s going to require me to choose myself over others and give myself some time to take care of me.

What I, as well as Mac Miller fans around the world, wish, is that he listened to his messages in this album so he’d still be here today, celebrating his 29th birthday.

Colby Guy is the Editor-In-Chief for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @thatguycolbs.