Oftentimes, it is not until death that a person’s talent and contribution to the world is genuinely appreciated. Enter the Dragon, the movie that made martial artist Bruce Lee a household name, hit theaters a month after his death. Emily Dickinson’s acclaimed writing wasn’t acclaimed until after her passing. Latin American singer Selena’s legacy catapulted after she was shot at the age of 23. Pittsburgh native Mac Miller, who died of a drug overdose on September 7, 2018, was not unknown, but his music and his name weren't recognized across multiple generations and demographics until his death, solidifying him as a local Pittsburgh legend and a celebrity known across the country.
Miller, whose real name was Malcolm James McCormick, grew up in Point Breeze and was known for packing his songs with Pittsburgh references. Besides the obvious ones like "Party on Fifth Ave," “Frick Park Market,” and “Blue Slide Park” — which was also the name of Miller's debut album — nods to the ‘Burgh could be found throughout the lyrics on his five studio albums, the latest being Swimming, released Aug. 3, 2018.
Because of this hometown pride — and his blunt honesty about mental health and drug use — local fans forged a special connection with Miller, made even stronger with his death. When Ariana Grande, Miller’s ex-girlfriend, and Thundercat, a longtime friend and creative partner, separately came to perform in Pittsburgh this year, their shows were both overtly and subtly about Miller, whether in setlist, dedications, or just a general vibe of somber remembrance.
Miller left a mark on Pittsburgh that continues to mount and shows no signs of slowing down. Next month, on the anniversary of his passing, a “Celebration of Mac Miller” tribute is scheduled to take place at Blue Slide Park. It's the same place fans gathered to mourn Miller last year, and where memorabilia can still be found.