Pitchfork’s review of McCormick’s first album read, “The reason Miller’s multitude of fans follow him is not because of his music.” As people can picture themselves on stage behind him, “it’s because he looks just like them.”
The critic gave the album a 1 out of 10 rating, calling it “crushingly dull.” In Cantor’s words, Malcolm was “utterly distressed.” It doesn’t matter that the album climbed to the top of the charts.
Despite McCormick’s eventual success, his white skin was an albatross hanging over his head, making him suspect.
Cantor contends that the Pitchfork review exposed a fundamental challenge for McCormick by “rejecting not merely Malcolm’s music, but the very idea of Malcolm himself.” They either have a unique quality in their work that attracts an audience, or they have a unique quality about themselves that attracts an audience. In the end, mediocrity cannot stand in the way of fantasy.
McCormick made the conscious decision to improve himself, and he succeeded. As his beats became more intricate, so did his lyrics. When it comes to his phrasing and intonation, even his cadences have changed. Big L (who died at the age of 24) served as an inspiration for him, but his newfound dark streak and ear for creativity resulted to what one critic called “a quantum leap in artistry.”
Cantor argues convincingly that despite McCormick’s eventual success, he was underrated or at the very least underestimated because of his whiteness, which was an albatross that cast doubt on him at all times.
He had a nasty drug habit that was smouldering beneath his talents. Cantor, playing up the tragic defect, is obsessively hooked on the subject throughout a monotonous work in which entire pages can float by without any new material.
His love of cannabis evolved into a liking for lean (prescription cough syrup and drink), and finally drugs. However, we know little little about the circumstances of his death (bedroom, fentanyl) or the greater context of it.
When McCormick died, hip-hop was in the midst of an incredible year. 2018 was dubbed a “changing of the guard” by Rolling Stone because nearly every important rapper put out a significant album, yet newcomers often outperformed established artists. That McCormick’s death came just a few weeks after he released “Swimming,”
which Cantor correctly deems his best album, and that the tragedy was diffused by others before and after, like XXXTentacion (dead at 20), Nipsey Hussle (33), Juice Wrld (21), Pop Smoke (22), and Juicy J (23). (20).