Mac Miller tribute celebrates artist’s legacy, raises mental health awareness

John Melendez

The Austin community came together last Friday in honor of hip-hop artist Mac Miller, who died earlier this month.

Concert promotion company Heard Presents held an event at the Empire Control Room and Garage called “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza — A Tribute to Mac Miller” for fans to celebrate the artist’s legacy and raise awareness for the importance of mental health.

Malcolm James McCormick, known professionally as Mac Miller, died from an alleged drug overdose in early September, sending shockwaves through the hip-hop community. Miller had just released his fifth studio album “Swimming” in early August and opened up about his battle with substance abuse and depression. 

Adrienne Lake, senior talent buyer at Heard Presents, said she decided to organize the event upon witnessing the outpouring of support and love from the Austin music community on social media following Mac Miller’s death. Lake said wanted to use the opportunity to raise awareness about mental health resources for musicians in Austin. 

“When people lose a hero to them, it’s very important for them to take time to say goodbye in their own way,” Lake said. “I just thought it would be good for the hip-hop community to be able to give them a positive way to say goodbye and also the opportunity to get information from the SIMS Foundation about the services that they provide.” 

The SIMS Foundation is an Austin-based nonprofit that provides mental health and substance abuse recovery services to Austin musicians and music industry professionals. In collaboration with Heard Presents, a SIMS representative tabled and briefly spoke to the crowd about Mac Miller, mental health and reaching out for help.

Heather Alden, executive director of the SIMS Foundation, said a recent study conducted by the Foundation in collaboration with Dell Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry found that musicians have significantly higher rates of depression and suicide than the general population. 

“The music lifestyle has a lot of pressures associated with it,” Alden said. “The prevalence and ease of getting drugs and alcohol is part of the issue. (Musicians) have depression, they have anxiety and they’re using alcohol as a way of self-medicating for a mental health issue.”

DJ Casual Travis and DJ Confucius Jones of KUTX’S hip-hop radio show “The Breaks”  provided music for the event, alternating between Mac Miller’s early “frat rap” and his more recent experimental and mature projects. The hip-hop community praised Miller for continually growing as an artist.

Jones, whose real name is Jared Williams, said that although Mac Miller’s death was shocking, hip-hop’s drug culture desensitizes the issue. 

“When he passed, it was shocking because I knew he had issues with drugs,” Williams said. “But drug abuse in rap is almost synonymous with jewelry or nice cars. You don’t think anything will happen to somebody.”

The Kool-Aid and pizza ran out quickly as the venue filled with Mac Miller fans and new listeners alike. “Kool-Aid and Frozen Pizza” was one of Miller’s early songs that helped propel him into stardom. 

Finance junior Raghav Kotha said he decided to attend the event because Mac Miller was a part of his adolescence and his first concert experience. He said Mac Miller’s unique approach to the genre and his contributions to music will continue to inspire and intrigue fans far beyond this celebration of his life.  

“I think he just showed you can do it a different way,” Kotha said. “You don’t have to go hard every time you spit on a track. At the same time, he had his niche; everyone respected him. He said you could make it your own way, and he did it.”