by Keith Rollins
The power of music is in its ability to transport. A great song functions as a reprieve from reality. An escape to a crafted world constructed with detailed imagery and emotions specific to the artist.
A great song is a well designed city. The more thought and care that is put into its planning and design, the easier it is for the traveler to navigate, relax, and get lost in its details. The subtle design choices are operating all around the traveler without him or her noticing. Great songs, like great cities, are not created haphazardly, they are created with intention and care. This brings me to the song Dang! by Mac Miller featuring Anderson.Paak. Dang! is a modern-day masterpiece, a world carefully crafted for its listener to get lost in.
Released on July 28, 2016, it was the first single off of Mac Miller’s fourth studio album, The Divine Feminine. The song features a hook written and performed by the R&B artist Anderson.Paak. Production is handled by the Canadian producer Pomo, whose musical work is heavily featured on several Anderson .Paak albums.
In Dang! Miller is rapping to a lover with whom he has a tumultuous relationship. Artists writing about complicated romantic relationships is not groundbreaking territory, but what makes Dang! so special is the craft. Every detail on the song contributes to the greater musical world created.
Dang! is an incredibly layered song that cannot be grasped in one listening. The musical arrangement is dynamic, with changing keys, tempos, live piano, bass, drum, and horn instrumentation. The song arrangement is quite sophisticated, but Mac Miller’s lyrical craftsmanship is the beating heart of the song. Miller’s lyrics depicts a love that despite its thorns is too good to let go of:
“Okay, we be fighting, we be reuniting
Kiss me, tug me, tease me, me excited
God the devil, who is who
Tryna get through to you because”
The song lyrically climaxes in Mac’s second verse, which serves as a rapping master class. In it, Miller uses three progressively faster rap flows to represent the emotional tailspin that the relationship is putting him through:
“And I use every bone in my body
Keep on holding on to your trust
I know you don’t want nothin’ to do with me
But just one more time, let’s make love”
This subtle progression was not unintentional or pure aesthetic, it was an artistic decision made by Miller with the listener’s experience in mind. By the end of the verse the lyrical momentum created is so overwhelming that it’s a relief when the song bridge arrives allowing both Mac and the listener to finally breathe.
Mac Miller passed away on September 7, 2018. His discography features over ten mixtapes, six studio albums, and many guest features. Aside from his obvious talent, what distinguished Mac was how much he cared. He cared deeply about his lyrics and the music that accompanied them. He cared even more deeply about the listeners of his music. Dang! will forever stand as a testament to how much Mac Miller simply, cared. He may not be with us any longer, but by pressing play on this masterpiece we can make a return trip to a special world that he created just for us.