AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
According to multiple reports, the rapper Mac Miller has died. He was reportedly found dead in his California home today at just 26 years old. The cause of death was an apparent overdose. Mac Miller was born Malcolm McCormick in Pittsburgh. He released his first mixtape when he was 15. And his debut album, "Blue Slide Park," became the second independent hip-hop record to top the Billboard 200 chart. In his most recent album, 2018's "Swimming," Mac Miller rapped about his struggles with addiction and his vulnerability after a breakup with pop star Ariana Grande.
Rodney Carmichael joins us now in the studio. Hey there, Rodney.
RODNEY CARMICHAEL, BYLINE: Hey.
CORNISH: Now, Mac Miller is someone who has actually performed here at NPR, right? Tell us more about him.
CARMICHAEL: Yeah. He was just here last month. It was part of his rollout for his new album, "Swimming."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "2009")
MAC MILLER: (Rapping) I don't need to lie no more. Nowadays, all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind. And she don't cry no more. She tell me that I get her high because a angel's supposed to fly. And I ain't asking why no more. Oh, no, I take it if it's mine. I don't stay inside the lines. It ain't 2009 no more. Yeah, I know what's behind that door.
CARMICHAEL: He was in really high spirits, gave a great performance. Thundercat, the bassist and a longtime collaborator of his, was here as well. And, you know, it was a great performance.
CORNISH: So tell us a little bit more about Mac Miller because he didn't start out a singer, right? He was more of a rapper.
CARMICHAEL: Yeah, definitely. I mean, this is, you know, a 26-year-old rapper and producer who - he started out really young and, you know, kind of underrated. And - but he really quickly became somebody who was highly respected. He released a debut, "Blue Slide Park," in 2011. And from there, his sound really began to mature quickly.
He kind of shirked off this kind of dismissible frat-rap label and really became this sophisticated musician. He was known for collaborating with and producing a lot of highly respected artists, you know, Vince Staples, ScHoolboy Q and other artists kind of in that LA scene that really kind of leaned on him and relied on his sound as a kind of jumping-off point for their own artistic endeavors.
CORNISH: Now, is he one who talked a lot about drug use in his music?
CARMICHAEL: Like a lot of contemporary artists, he did do that. But it wasn't to the point of glorification as much as it was about self-revelation when he talked about it. You know, on the mixtape "Faces," he talked about a lot of his deepest periods of drug use. He was an admitted lean drinker, which, you know, is obviously an opiate - mix of promethazine syrup and soda, which is very popular, especially in hip-hop circles.
But, you know, he'd also reportedly gotten sober and as early as 2012, actually. But also, he had this really high-profile relationship with Ariana Grande, which reportedly ended because of his drug use. You know, he had a really huge car accident earlier this year resulting from a DUI. And, you know, at the same time, though, it seemed like he was turning a corner.
CORNISH: Was in fact about to go on tour, right?
CORNISH: Now, is it me, or has this been a tragic year in hip-hop? We're seeing some young artists pass away.
CARMICHAEL: Yeah, definitely. Within the last 12 months, you know, we've seen - really, Mac Miller's death is, like, the third major loss in the genre, following behind XXXTentacion, who was killed this summer, and Lil Peep, who was another really young artist, young promising artist, who died of an overdose last November. You know, this is a really tremendous loss. And it's becoming that kind of season, that kind of year in hip-hop as well.
CORNISH: Rodney Carmichael of NPR Music. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
CARMICHAEL: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.