It was so easy to hate on Mac Miller, at first. It was easy to deride him for his slackjaw and glazed expressions, his ostentatious tattoos, elementary rhyme schemes and clichéd lyrical content. Many dismissed him as a frat bro, a culture vulture, a lethargic Eminem knockoff.

This hostility was evident from the reaction to the white Pittsburgh rapper’s first album, “Blue Slide Park,” released in 2011. “He’s mostly just a crushingly bland, more intolerable version of Wiz Khalifa,” Pitchfork wroteSpin called it “what would happen if the cast of Glee tried to make a rap album.”

But while Miller (real name Malcolm McCormick) could have faded into laughable obscurity like many of his early peers, from Asher Roth to Chiddy Bang to Far East Movement, something strange happened. His rhyme schemes got knottier, his lyrics became more probing. His production grew layers. His live performances gained snap and texture. Each album he released was better than the last, up through his fifth album “Swimming,” which came out in August.

Mac Miller was preparing to embark on a headlining, cross-country tour when he died on Sept. 7 of a suspected overdose. He was 26. His continual progress in many facets — in music, as a mentor and as a person struggling with addiction — makes his death all the more crushing.

[Read the rest on NBC News]

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