Dear Malcolm—I’m Not Ready To Say Goodbye

Nicolas Völcker

Dear Malcolm,

We’ve never met. But you’ve changed my life in so many ways.

I’m not from Pittsburgh. I grew up across the state from your city and I was introduced to your music during the summer before my senior year of high school. When KIDS dropped, I was in awe. Never before had I been so in tune with an artist. Suddenly, I was sucked into your world and couldn’t get enough of it. I downloaded and listened to that tape front to back on repeat. I watched the Larry Clark film (for which the mixtape was named) every night for days on end and took note of every reference, already craving more and looking forward to another release. I worked backward and added The Jukebox and The High Life to my iPod Touch (yep) and just took it all in. To me, it was incredible that a kid, just one year older than me, was building something for himself. I became fascinated with the city that you described and started researching colleges in Pittsburgh.

By the end of summer, I was visiting Point Park and Pitt and forcing my parents to take me to all the spots I saw in your videos. Every time I came to town, it became my responsibility to visit Timebomb and pick up your t-shirts for my friends. We’d check out their website and I’d make a list of who wanted which and in what size. Snagging 1 of the 200 Most Dope/Daily Bread t’s was a highlight for me.

A few weeks before my 18th birthday, you released Best Day Ever. I remember that it was the only topic of discussion in my 1st-period journalism class – each student fighting with another over which track was the best. We got in trouble for playing it too loud and by lunchtime, the “rappers” in our school had already written their own verses for remixes that would never make it outside of the brick walls. But, it didn’t matter. It got them creating and it gave us all something to agree on. I painted the album cover on an 8.5 x 11″ canvas for a friend’s birthday and I’m pretty sure it’s still hanging on his wall.

Post-graduation, I’m not sure I listened to anything but yours and Wiz’s music. A quick search through twitter reminded me that we blasted your tracks the entire way to Ocean City for senior week. The boardwalk stores were full of knock-off shirts that year and everyone had on a snapback at some point.

I chose to attend Point Park in the fall and this was the start of my habit of playing “Senior Skip Day” anytime I entered the city via the Ft. Pitt tunnel. With that happy tune on, the tunnel would open up and I would see the skyline emerge and feel as if I was personally being welcomed home.

It’s funny looking at your twitter page now with 8.6 Million followers and remembering 2011 when you started your “Road 2 A Million Fans” series that lead up to the release of I Love Life, Thank You. That was awesome. The more your fan base grew, the more we (the fans) had in common.

I made so many friends in college thanks to your music, and our excitement grew like crazy as the impending release date of Blue Slide Park approached. November 7th, the day before the CD was supposed to be in stores, I received a text from my friend. He had sent me a photo holding a hard copy of the album in one hand and giving a thumbs up with the other. The Exchange had accidentally put it out a day early! I jumped out of bed and sprinted to Smithfield Street to snag one for myself.

“Up All Night” became the anthem of my friend group and was never listened to without chugging our beers each time you urged us to “drink, drink, drink, drink…”. It got to the point where the title of the track became a verb. We’d be getting ready for a party and someone would say, “We’re leaving in 5. Do you want to Up All Night real quick?”

I bought tickets for the Stage AE show that December and of course made sure that my friends and I were front row. The crowd was INSANE. And every person knew EVERY word. I’m not sure about you, but for me, there has never been anything more comforting than being surrounded by thousands of people who are all singing at the top of their lungs. It was chilling. I took videos on my Flip camera and smiled through my tears the entire night.

When the tour ended, I relived the entire thing through YouTube and thought others might want to do the same. So, I teamed up with Greg of macmiller.org and ripped live versions of tracks from different tour stops to put together a live mixtape on

DatPiff. This was probably a copyright violation, come to think of it. Thanks for not suing us.

You dropped “Macadelic” on my 19th birthday. So of course, my celebration was full of you. All of my friends wore Hot Topic Mac shirts and they gifted me BSP on vinyl. There was an “Incredibly Dope Since ’93” cake and we probably chugged to “Up All Night” again.

When that tour came around, we may have put together another live mixtape

After that, I moved from Pittsburgh to Philly and back to Pittsburgh again. Your music continued to grow and change and it was incredible watching the fanbase continue to grow with you. I could go into more details about the effects that these more “mature” albums had on me, but I think you get the point. See, we grew together as the years went on and you never lost me along the way.

In 2016, I got the opportunity to photograph your show at Stage AE – just two days after The Divine Feminine debuted at Number 2 on The Billboard 200. That was a full-circle moment for me and truly one of the coolest nights of my life. Those photos are the ones you see here and are still of my favorites that I’ve ever taken.

To be honest, Mac, I’m struggling with how to wrap this up. Swimming was out barely more than a month and I’d been planning on how to get home from Black Friday shopping in time for your show when this happened. I walked into my apartment and into the wifi (my phone was out of data) to a non-stop flurry of messages from friends telling me the news. I didn’t believe it. There was no way. You had never hidden your struggles and seemed to be doing okay. So, I was in a daze when I typed your name into google and the worst was confirmed.

I collapsed on the floor and called my mom, sobbing. It took her a minute to understand what I had said, but when she finally heard me, she got it. She took me to Timebomb, slid down the slide, and binged Most Dope Family with me. So she knew. She knew that this wasn’t a situation where I would feel sad for his family, but move on with my day. This was the loss of a friend. Because that’s what you were. For 8 years, you and your music have been there with me through my absolute lowest lows and my highest highs.

But I’m not ready to say goodbye. So, today I want to thank you for the introduction to Pittsburgh, the music you’ve made, the people you’ve lead me to, and the experiences you gave me and so many others. In my small town, in your city, and around the world.

Thumbs up. I love you. Thank you.

– Just a motherfuckin’ kid. TC mark

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Image Credit: Nicolas Völcker

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