August 3rd, 2018 – About a month before Mac Miller died of an accidental drug overdose, he released his fifth album entitled Swimming. This album is full of poetic songs, one of which is the song “Self Care.” In this song, Mac Miller uses multidimensional language to convey his conflicting emotions and fight to overcome his personal struggles. Mac Miller often sings about obstacles in his life. In this particular song, he focuses on finding his path to happiness, and like the title states, caring for himself. He starts with the chorus:
“I switched the time zone, but what do I know?
Spendin’ nights hitchhikin’, where will I go?
I could fly home, with my eyes closed
But it’d get kinda hard to see, that’s no surprise though
Self Care is simultaneously hopeful and sorrowful. He ends the first two lines with fairly open-ended questions, asking about the direction his future may take. The “time zone” and “nights” refer to his current state of fame in the music industry. This can be interpreted both literally and metaphorically. He is now able to travel and has the money to do whatever he wants. Furthermore, he talks about how he spends his time and how he changes his mentality. In the last two lines of this quote he is talking about returning to his true self. He knows himself well, as exemplified by the image that he doesn’t need to see in order to “fly home.” However, Mac Miller also acknowledges that it is becoming harder to do so as he sinks deeper into addiction and strays further from his roots in Pittsburgh. He keeps with this theme as he continues:
“When it’s feelin’ like you hot enough to melt, yeah (melt, yeah)
Can’t trust no one, can’t even trust yourself, yeah (self, yeah)
And I love you, I don’t love nobody else, yeah (else, yeah)”
The first line presents the image of the immense amount of pressure Mac Miller felt from fans, his music production and record label company, and himself. During these times of stress, he shares that he feels like he can’t rely on himself or others. Additionally, he shows that despite this, he loves one woman. He speaks directly to her, strengthening the impact of how central she is to Mac Miller’s songs. Another verse that is repeated is:
“Tell them they can take that bullshit elsewhere (yeah)
Self-care, I’m treatin’ me right, yeah
Hell yeah, we gonna be alright (we gon’ be alright)”
In this section, Mac Miller is reassuring himself that he will come out of the darkest times. He is prioritizing himself, instead of listening to the criticism that others have for him. He doesn’t define self-care traditionally, instead conveying the message that he is on a journey to become a better person. He wants to improve himself, and do things that are good for him instead of the self-destructive path he used to be, or still is, on.
Finally, the tone and speed of the song changes as Mac Miller ends the song with the word “oblivion.” Oblivion is defined as the state of being unaware or unconscious of one’s surroundings. He raps that it is both a “beautiful feeling,” and “didn’t know what I was missin’,” implying that while he may be happier when he is not present, he actually regrets not fully being there. Addiction played such a big role in his life and consequently his music, emphasized through the repetition of the word “oblivion.” It illustrates that although he wants to change, it is difficult due to the nature of addiction. Overall, Mac Miller beautifully portrays his struggles with fame, addiction, and putting himself first in the song “Self Care.” He is deliberate in the way he uses language and sound to make the listener feel his emotions while writing. This song truly deserves to be called poetry.