Earlier this month, Canadian filmmaker C.J. Wallis announced plans to make a documentary about late rapper Mac Miller, complete with animated segments and told through, as he later revealed to Variety, “vignette-ed stories.” However, soon after his public announcement, Miller’s estate requested that Wallis not move forward with it at this time, a plea Wallis quickly agreed to honor. “We immediately [complied] as the last thing we’d want is to negatively impact anyone involved,” he tweeted of the plans. “Quite the opposite.”
While it would have been cool to see a cartoon Mac gliding through his life stories — and as we continue to hear his voice on record even after his death — the rapper already left a portrait of himself and his tribulations through two important pieces of film: his 2013 reality MTV2 show, Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family, and his 2016 documentary about drug use, Stopped Making Excuses. Through these, he provides nearly unfiltered access to his own life and also conveys an understanding of his past actions — such as past drug use and his continued struggles with substance abuse — in his own words. Both stories help illustrate the man he was and paint a picture of the man he was becoming.
Most Dope Family kicked off on in 2013 when he moved from Pittsburgh, his hometown, to Los Angeles to record his album Watching Movies With the Sound Off. It begins memorably; in its first episode, Miller wakes up on a keyboard, vomiting. His first words after recovering: “I guess we’re starting this TV show.” Most Dope Family wasn’t focused on storylines or dramatic situations. Miller and his friends worked to further his career while dealing with the craziness of L.A. as kids from Pittsburgh. It went big, of course, showing him buying expensive cars as rappers often do, but it also zoomed in for more intimate moments. In a bonus clip from Season 1, Miller surprises his mom at her house for a cup of tea, sitting at her kitchen table, laughing at absolutely nothing at all.
Most Dope Family was as close to authentic, unfiltered celebrity access as one could hope to get and it ran for two complete seasons before Miller decided to end it, saying the demands of reality television were “too much” to balance with a busy tour schedule. It covered a number of important moments in Miller’s story: from the development of his jazz alter-ego Larry Lovestein, who released an EP in 2012, to Pittsburgh’s first Mac Miller Day, on September 20, 2013, when he was given a key to the city. But it also contained hints of his darker story. In the fourth episode of Season 1, he flippantly tells his mother in the middle of an everyday conversation that he might end up going to get some cocaine. It’s a joke, but by this point, Miller’s relationship with drugs was well known, thanks to the introspective Macadelic, where he confessed to using them to cope with his lightning-fast lifestyle. In the second season, Miller buys two dogs, an otherwise heartwarming moment punctured by his team banding together to designate godparents for them in the event of Miller’s untimely death.
Mac could be serious, too. In 2016, The Fader released Stopped Making Excuses, a documentary about his rise that probed even deeper into his insecurities and misgivings about his own career. He muses as to whether he should or shouldn’t rap because he’s white and how him doing it gives hope for white kids like him to pursue the career. It also finds Mac at his most candid when discussing his relationship to drugs, which intensified when he moved to Los Angeles: “It started with me sitting inside all day, and then you get bored, then you’re like, ‘I can just be high and have a whole adventure in this room.’”
Miller is raw in these moments, explaining that he tried drugs just because they were passed to him; that weed made him paranoid so he searched for other drugs — he says in the documentary that he “went through about everything” — to make him more relaxed; that he hated being sober. But he also chronicles the journey out of his dependency, pushed by his fear of overdosing. “There’s no legendary romance. You don’t go down in history because you overdose – you just die,” he says at one point. Though the video’s conclusion seems to find Mac in a state of better control over his habits, he also acknowledges that he does “still get fucked up all the time.” He insists, now tragically, that he knows what he’s doing.
Most Dope Family and Stopped Making Excuses are documentaries in their own right. In the absence of a “definitive,” all-encompassing Mac Miller story, we have these moments that enable us to celebrate his achievements and monitor his growth, all while recognizing the struggles he reckoned with for his entire life. They’re a welcome counterpart to his music, which sought meaning in his demons and worked to facilitate healing. Most Dope Family is a series of home movies chronicling a kid just having fun at the high of life; Stopped Making Excuses explores the darkness that came with his success. We don’t need to wait for another filmmaker to piece together the narrative of Mac Miller. His own filmography tells it for him.