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Review: Mac Miller Reinvents Himself On 'Watching Movies With The Sound Off'

Mac's latest brings dope beats and rhymes, but leaves many questions unanswered

Mac Miller is 21-years-old and he’s already having a mid-life crisis.

Back in 2011, buoyed by years of mixtape buzz and relentless touring, Miller’s official debut LP, Blue Slide Park (Rostrum), topped the Billboard Top 200 chart, breaking a 16-year dry spell on an indie LP holding that position, and subsequently put the industry on alert: Mac’s fan base was very real. But with a heightened profile came the pressures of fame. His shows got bigger and tours got longer. He squabbled with Donald Trump, whose namesake earned him his biggest hit. Rap legend Lord Finesse sued him for $10 million over “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza,” a mixtape cut built on the instrumental to Finesse’s 1996 song “Hip 2 Da Game.” He developed an addiction to syrup, then alcohol. Everything was going so right, yet so wrong. Perhaps needing a change, he packed his shit and moved all the way from gritty Pittsburgh to sunny Los Angeles. There, he built a studio and shot his MTV reality show Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family. He also recorded his second album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, a transformative body of work with its sights set on casting Miller in a much more serious light.

The album largely picks up where his 2012 mixtape Macadelic—a trippy ride through hip-hop psychedelia— left off. The results are mixed. Mac’s pre-Macadelic material was enjoyable because it was fun and seemingly light-hearted. Older songs like “Knock Knock” and “Wear My Hat,” among others, while not exactly displays in lyrical mastery, displayed a certain youthful energy that just isn’t present here. Instead we have songs like the Flying Lotus-produced “S.D.S.,” where he taunts his listeners (“Somebody do something!”) over airy synthesizer pads and a lagging drum track. “Objects In The Mirror” finds Mac ditching rap for singing (“I never thought that it would feel this way/ You never taught me how to heal the pain”) over an electric piano progression that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. He sings again on the prog rock-tinged “Youforia,” which also suffers from a lack of musical direction.

But Watching Movies With The Sound Off is hardly a bad album. In fact, despite the aforementioned gripes, it’s quite the opposite. To wit, Mac has made his career by invoking the true schoolism of '90s. But this project, more than his others, nails that aesthetic in a way that is much more clever and refined. Where in the past those efforts seemed, well, a bit cheesy, here they’re noticeably less so. Like the Action Bronson-assisted “Red Dot Music,” which finds the two white rap kingpins trading verses over a chunky kick-snare pattern. Then there’s “Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes,” featuring an amazing guest verse from Jay Electronica, and the off-kilter “Gee,” with its superb arrangement. And while the LP is certainly short on introspection—this, considering the wealth of personal demons Mac’s fought off recently—there is “REMember,” a touching ode to a fallen friend. “I hope you proud of me, the dude I grew to be/ ingenuity, influenced by your euology,” he confesses over the track’s somber melody.

Typically, when an artist shifts their creative direction so drastically, the outcome is disastrous. But with Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Mac Miller makes a strong case that it can be done. It might not be a perfect album, but it’s a strong one. It’s got good production, strong lyrics and overall it’s a good listen. That said, the LP’s biggest drawback, again, is that shift in direction. We get that Mac is feeling, well, a little different now. He’s just not exactly showing us why. —Paul Cantor

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Barack Obama Discusses Racism And Police Reform During Virtual Town Hall

Former President Barack Obama joined local and national leaders for a digital town hall on Wednesday (June 3). The 90-minute event put on by the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance was centered around “reimagining policing in the wake of continued violence.”

“Let me start by just acknowledging that we have seen, in the last few months, the kinds of epic changes and events in our country that are as profound as anything that I’ve seen in my life,” said Obama. “Although all of us have been feeling pain and certain disruption, some folks have been feeling it more than others. Most of all the pain that’s been experienced by the families [of] George [Floyd], Breonna [Taylor], Ahmaud [Arbury], Tony [McDade], Sean [Reade], and too many others to mention.”

To the families directly affected by racial violence and police brutality Obama added, “Please know that Michelle and I, and the nation grieve with you, hold you in our prayers. We're committed to the fight of creating a more just nation in the memory of your sons and daughters.”

The ex-commander in chief went on to speak about institutional racism, and what he believes to be the bright side to the recent tragedies, namely in that young people have been galvanized and mobilized into taking action. “Historically so much of the progress that we’ve made in our society [have] been because of young people. Dr. King was a young man, Ceasar Chavez was a young man, Malcolm X was a young man. The leaders of the feminist movement, union movements, the environmentalist movements, and the movement to make sure that the LGBTQ community had a voice, were young people.”

Obama also addressed the “young men and women of color” around the country, who have witnessed too much violence and death. “I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter. That your dreams matter.”

Other town hall participants included, activist and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham, former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., Color of Change President Rashad Robinson and Playon Patrick, Ohio State University student and MBK Youth leader for the city of Columbus.

Additional town hall participants included, activist and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham, former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., Color of Change President Rashad Robinson and Playon Patrick, Ohio State University student and MBK Youth leader for the city of Columbus.

Watch the full event below.

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Derek Chauvin Faces Upgraded Charge In George Floyd’s Murder, Three Other Cops Charged

Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin  now faces unintentional second-degree murder for killing George Floyd, Minneapolis Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Wednesday (June 3). The upgraded charge was revealed along with charges against three more former MPD officers involved in Floyd's murder.

“Today I filed an amended complaint that charges Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with murder in the second degree. I believe the evidence available to us now supports the stronger charge of second degree murder,” Ellison said during a news conference.

Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kuen, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.

“This is absolutely a team effort,” added Ellison. “We are working collectively on this case with one goal: justice for George Floyd.”

Minnesota classifies second-degree murder as “intentional” and “unintentional.” A second-degree murder conviction carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Chauvin, the officer filmed with his knee in Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, was originally charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. An independent autopsy determined that Floyd died from “asphyxia due to neck and back compression.”

The other three officers are in “the process” of being taken into custody and could face up to 40 years on the first count and 10 years on the second count, if convicted.

Despite cell phone footage and witnesses, Ellison acknowledged the uphill battle of convicting police officers. “Winning a conviction will be hard. It’s not because we doubt our resources or abilities but history does show that there are challenges.”

Former police officer Mohamed Noor is the first and only cop in Minnesota's history to be convicted of murder for killing a civilian on the job.

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Black Out Tuesday: A Letter From VIBE

These unprecedented times are insightful, intense, infuriating, and inspiring. As Black editors, writers, and creatives, we have the privilege of telling our stories from those within the entertainment industry and to those who consume the Black art that has influenced generations.

Since before the days of Rodney King, this is nothing new. We’ve been here before, one too many times in Black history. Yet, we’ll continue to tell our often overlooked and untold stories within Black culture through the lens of facts and feelings. Although we’ve always made this our mission for nearly three decades, we’ll continue to stand in the fact that Black Lives Matter.

Today, we join #TheShowMustBePaused movement in honor of the one too many sisters and brothers lost to police brutality and systemic racism. Our support includes ceasing the production of content for #BlackOutTuesday. Please take a moment to practice self-care, and find ways to lend your voice and power to make “justice for all” ring true.

Registering to vote is a start. ✊🏾✊🏿✊🏽✊🏼

#BlackOutTuesday. #TheShowMustBePaused.

— Vibe Magazine (@VibeMagazine) June 2, 2020

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