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What Mac Miller meant to Milwaukee musicians

“I once lived – now I am dead. My soul remains here.”

These are the words that Mac Miller left behind in Milwaukee after playing his third sold-out show at The Rave. The rapper was one of the few performers who has been invited to leave a signature in the “haunted” pool in the basement of The Rave.

The full sharpied inscription on the tile reads: "I am Mac Miller. I once lived now I am dead, my soul remains here. Enjoy...P.S. I sold this place out three times."

In 2018, he was scheduled to sell it out a fifth time for a show on November 30. But on September 7, Mac Miller passed away from an accidental drug overdose at the age of 26 before he could perform his new album "Swimming" at The Rave.

The words he scribbled in the venue’s pool will forever remain a reminder of the rapper’s legacy and reciprocated love for Milwaukee. Although Mac Miller never got the chance to show his appreciation for Milwaukee one more time, local artists are coming together to celebrate his life at Company Brewing the same date he was scheduled to return the city.

Freespace, an event series focusing on exposing Milwaukee’s youth to local art, is putting on the benefit show to celebrate Mac Miller’s life. Featured performers include Airo Kwil, Shle Berry, Nile and Moses. Each artist will perform their own individual sets followed by a Mac Miller tribute set and cypher – where Milwaukee artists will have the chance to freestyle over live instrumentals of Mac Miller’s music.

“The passing of Mac Miller seemed strangely personal,” Airo Kwil says. “It felt like you were losing a friend, and I think that sentiment resonated with a lot of people. I felt like it would be cool to put on an event that reflected the impact he had on us as an artist or just as a person in general.”

Airo Kwil and Janice Vogt of Freespace collaborated on setting up the event and choosing performers that they felt would represent Mac Miller’s artistry in a tribute-worthy way. Nile, a member of the hip-hop collective Phat Nerdz, was one of the first artists who came to mind. Nile attributes Mac Miller as on his greatest influences.

“Mac Miller’s music made me open up to be myself but still have fun,” Nile says. “It wasn’t until I heard Mac Miller and Lil Wayne rapping the way they did that made me take (rapping) seriously.”

Shle Berry also acknowledges that Mac Miller’s early music to helping change the way she approached hip hop.

“I loved the frat-rap scene – not because I was a big college person, but because it was refreshing to have a new perspective on hip-hop,” Shle Berry says. “These kids weren’t hardcore gangsters – they were just kids making music in their dorm rooms and people really liked it. That was inspiring to me.”

Mac Miller’s light-hearted, college party approach to hip-hop was a jumping-off point for the rapper. As he released more and more albums, he began catching old fans by surprise and hooking new ones with his ever-changing sound. He spent time in the studio as his own producer under the moniker Larry Fisherman – playing an assortment of instruments and even singing on certain tracks.

“You can tell the difference between a rapper and an artist,” Niles says. “A rapper is someone who just raps. Artists are people who aren’t afraid to express themselves with different genres and sounds.”

Because of Mac Miller’s diverse catalog of music, each performer is carefully dissecting his discography in preparation for their individual sets.

I love that music brings that out of people – this connecting force where we can mourn for someone that had an impact on all of us in different ways.

“I’ll be creating an environment and a vibe that suits Mac,” Moses says. “Just a fun vibe that’s a contrast between the trappy and weird, light-hearted stuff—like him—a fun guy to be around that has depth.”

Moses adds that during his DJ sets, he will be playing his deep cuts – “some of the weirdest, most out-there tracks.”

The night will start off with a set from Airo Kwil, followed by sets from Nile and Shle. The night of live music will culminate with the tribute band and cypher. Meanwhile, Domo, a visual artist/tattoo artist, will do a live painting session of a portrait of Mac Miller.

“It’s going to be a very emotional night,” Shle Berry says. “I love that music brings that out of people – this connecting force where we can mourn for someone that had an impact on all of us in different ways.”

Proceeds from the event will be donated to The New State – a redevelopment project aimed at opening an all-ages performance venue. The organization was chosen due to its similarities to The Mac Miller Circles Fund, a grants program started by Mac Miller’s family that helps expose under-served communities to the arts.

“I see (The New State) as a local organization with the same mission (as The Mac Miller Circles Fund), and I think Mac would be happy to have a donation in his name to this organization,” Airo Kwil says.

For those who were looking forward to seeing Mac Miller perform on November 30 or for those who just want to help celebrate a multi-faceted artist who has gone too soon, coming together with local artists and giving back to the community is a meaningful option to consider.

“This is big, I’m going to leave it all on the stage that day,” Niles says. “I’m going to represent for Mac, knowing that his spirit is going to be in the room. I’m going to perform to the best of my ability to show that he’s still with us and he’ll always be watching over us.”

The Mac Miller Tribute Show will take place at Company Brewing, 735 E. Center St., on November 30 at 9 p.m. For more information, click here