Truly Transcendent Songs: “The Question” by Mac Miller and Lil Wayne
I’m starting a new blog series called “Truly Transcendent Songs.” “Transcendent” may have the coolest definition in the dictionary, let’s take a look:
“beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience”
“surpassing the ordinary; exceptional”
“existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe.”
The best songs exist apart from the limitations of the material universe. When you hear your favorite songs, you tend to forgot where you are, and can even forget about the physical limitations of your body. Your sense of self leaves your head, chest, or whichever part of your body you tend to identify with most, and floats into the warm streams of the ether.
I’ve been listening to “The Question” by Mac Miller and Lil Wayne for about a week straight now. Originally released in 2012 on Mac’s seventh mixtape entitled Macadelic, which was remastered and commercially released in 2018, “The Question” features some of our earliest glimpses at the introspective and psychedelic side of Mac, which essentially became his calling card in the in the years leading up to his death.
Admittedly, I became much more familiar with Mac Miller’s music after his death. I remember Macadelic as the soundtrack of college party stoners. One of Mac’s most impressive qualities was his ability to completely eurostep around sounding like a cheesy philosophical rapper (i.e. what has happened to Common and Chance), by engraining the truth into his voice as only he can. He was never afraid to get sad, or even downright bleak.
It’s hard to murmur “sometimes I wonder who the fuck I am” into the mic and not sound like you’re putting on a philosophical front. The beat, produced by Wally West and ID Labs, is essentially perfect. It has a legitimate feel to it, it reverberates throughout your skull as you listen to it.
It’s as if Mac is talking to himself in the third person when he says “so step up to the mic and show em what you got, Tiger” at the 48 second mark. That was him coming down from the clouds to tell his earthly self to drop the nerves and float on a song with one of the true legends. This was his first song with Lil Wayne, who was arguably the biggest hip hop artist at the time. He knew that this was his chance to prove he belonged on the same beat as Lil Wayne as a 20-year-old white kid from Pittsburgh.
The refrain is chock full of hard hitting statements:
“Problems, I got several, thank God that none of that medical”
“I’ve been blessed with much to be expected”
“What am I doing here?”
My favorite part of the song is the beginning of his second verse when he boldly states: “I hope this feeling last for-fuckin’-ever.” It’s so perfect, everyone can relate to a moment in life where they shared that sentiment. Inserting the word “fuckin'” inside of the word “forever” is both hilarious and extremely poignant, as if to say “if I’m really stuck in this universe for eternity, I at least hope I can feel this good for the duration of it.”
“Do we ever get to know the truth? Because everybody seems to have it, but to me it seems they’re lacking” is Mac essentially asking if we actually do get the chance to attain perfect knowledge in the theoretical next incarnation, because he’s sure he doesn’t have it now. The rest of the verse flows like a river of lean syrup into the trippy refrain of “what am I doing here (here, here, here)” as he tees up the song for Lil Wayne to slam that shit home like an oop from Mike Bibby to Josh Smith.
It’s impossible to sound cooler than Lil Wayne does at the beginning of his verse (3:46). “Sittin’ in my Bentley, thinkin bout these hoes” is classic, as we know from hip hop, “hoes” can refer to anything from women, to dudes you don’t respect, to cars, to shoes, etc. The image of him just sitting in his Bentley pondering life is amazing.
Wayne did a great job at maintaining his signature skip-on-the-beat-in-skate-shoes vibe while bringing some genuine philosophy to the table. “I’m just trying to buy time, but can’t really afford, saying ‘ain’t that a bitch’, but I hope that bitch is bad. I feel like money in the trash” is PEAK Lil Wayne. You cannot do better. “Ain’t that a bitch, but I hope that bitch is bad” echoes Mac’s “for-fuckin’-ever” sentiment wonderfully as both artists hope to make the most of the seemingly dismal circumstance of bargaining with time.
He was able to avoid ruining the vibe on a Kanye-entering-the-song-on-“Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” level while still maintaining his signature playful aura.
“The Question” didn’t get the love it deserved while Mac was alive, and that’s sad, but it is interesting to think about how his energy lives on in the current world that he’s no longer physically a part of. He seemed to be fixated on the concept of eternity, and interestingly enough his music is more alive than ever after his passing. Here’s to hoping Mac is somewhere cuddled up with the truth.