Opinion: Reflections on Mac Miller

Following the tragic, untimely death of L.A.-based rapper Mac Miller, the most prominent words of condolence have come from fellow hip hop insiders, a la Chance, Snoop, and a long list of other living legends.

I myself am the exact opposite: far from a rap insider, I’m not even directly involved in the music industry. I’m not even an amateur musician. I can see and feel music only as a fan, and with that said, I wanted to offer a reflection that I hope more people can relate to.

Mac Miller represented a new wave in the rap world, the start of a movement that never really came to pass. The unique sound he brought to the table was in his voice and his lyrics, not so much in the betas.

Had he stuck around longer, I can picture him eventually heading toward a more experimental sound, you know, once he got bored with hanging around in the mainstream.

But then again, he loved the mainstream. He loved playing shows, being a star, arguably since long before he really was one. He loved making friends with some of the legends mentioned above.

And through some unusually kind twist of fate, his music stayed honest. Somehow, he stayed relatable. Despite the fame and looking like a god when he was on stage, he still seemed like the kind of guy you’d want to sit down and drink with, or just like someone you’d want to have in your phone contacts, texting him every once in a while to check up.

Every artist is more than their music, and in a lot of ways, Miller lived a life dictated by hip hop culture, and unfortunately, it played a role in his downfall.

But in the end he was able to achieve what every artist wants to achieve: he started a conversation with millions of people, speaking to them honestly and making them feel less crazy, less alone. And for that, we are grateful.  

The Beautiful, Cerebral Video Games of Jenova Chen

Chinese video game designer Jenova Chen, whose given name is Xinghan Chen, has carved out a very specific niche in the gaming world. With his development company, Thatgamecompany, he has created an impressive revue of revolutionary games, including ‘Flower,’ ‘Journey,’ and ‘Sky.’

While many games tend to focus on progression via conflict, Chen’s games focus instead on low-stress gameplay, and they attempt to have players inform their actions within the game with their own personal experiences.

‘Flower’ in particular made a significant splash upon its release in 2009. The game opens with no narration or text, just an image of a wilting flower in a decrepit city apartment.

The player is then transported to an open field, where they can guide a cloud of flower pedals through the air, to gather other pedals along the way. And in the process, the surrounding land in rejuvenated, made colorful and healthy.

Chen’s latest effort, ‘Sky,’ is currently in early access. It’s the first of his games to feature multiplayer capabilities and was designed with families in mind.

Chen’s innovative design concepts and stunning visuals offer a bright note in a very competitive industry, one that is often characterized by a propensity for virtual violence and fierce opposition, whether in games or with respect to loyalty felt toward specific game developers and brands.