The late rapper Mac Miller was an extremely prevalent figure in hip-hop before his passing. As one of the most prominent white emcees in the culture, his music was undeniably fantastic, and his songs were full of positivity and good vibes. However, there was one song in particular that Miller highlighted as his “opportunity to say f*ck you.” Mac Miller (real name Malcolm McCormick) was a rapper of the 2010s and rose to fame in the early 2010s. While this period saw an influx of young black and Latino creatives rise out of Harlem in New York, a strange surge in talent came out of Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh. Miller, akin to Wiz Khalifa, was signed to Rostrum Records, and on this label, he acquired quite a cult following.
McCormick had a natural rise to fame in his hometown and, unlike other artists, didn’t feel the need to relocate. In 2008, the ‘Party On Fifth Ave’ act began to immerse himself in the Pittsburgh hip-hop scene. The musician performed at open mic nights and created several demos. Through networking and collaborating with other up-and-coming individuals around Pittsburgh, by 2010, Miller was signing with the independent record label Rostrum Records.
By this point, Rostrum Records had been home to Wiz Khalifa for several years. Furthermore, they had successfully crossed him into the mainstream. That said, Mac Miller became the label’s next prodigy. Aged 18, Miller released a series of breakthrough mixtapes, K.I.D.S and Best Day Ever. Prior to these two mixtapes, Miller had already recorded and released three. However, with the facilities and producers of Rostrum, he ascended to new heights. But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, The Jukebox: Prelude to Class Clown and The High Life all performed exceptionally well on the mixtape-sharing website DatPiff. With McCormick’s music travelling over state borders and capturing the musical consciousness of teens across America, Miller had droves of fans. Now they were waiting for an album.
In 2011, the late rapper released his debut album Blue Side Park. Miller saw this as the perfect opportunity to address his critics, as it was his big break. Speaking with Billboard magazine following the project’s release, the Pittsburgh artist explained his song ‘Smile Back’. Elaborating on the sentiments expressed in the music, McCormick detailed, “‘Smile Back’ was my one opportunity to say ‘f*ck you.’ You know, I am a positive, happy dude. What do I really have to be? With all the horrible things that happen to people in the world, what do I really, really have to be sad about? But that was my one song [where] I was like, ‘Ugh!’ ‘F*ck you!’ I just wanted to be able to say that, and it felt so good. That song feels so good to perform. It relieves so much stress to say that.”
‘Smile Back’ was his highest charting single at the time and debuted at number 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 even though it wasn’t one of the album’s official singles. You can listen to the track in the video below.