But his immense talent also came with great struggles and, on Friday, the 26-year-old died of an apparent drug overdose.
The young artist, who referred to himself as “the coolest Jewish rapper,” was pronounced dead at 11:51 a.m. at his Studio City, California, home, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner confirmed in a statement to PEOPLE. A cause of death is yet to be determined, but a source tells PEOPLE the rapper had gone into cardiac arrest after appearing to suffer a drug overdose.
Here are 7 things to know about the late rapper.
1. He Wanted to Be a Musician From a Young Age
Miller’s love for music began at an early age and he taught himself to play numerous instruments in grade school before turning his attention to rapping. “Once I hit 15, I got real serious about it and it changed my life completely,” Miller told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2010.
He released his first mixtape But My Mackin’ Ain’t Easy in 2007 under the name EZ Mac.
Miller, whose real name was Malcolm McCormick, then dropped The Jukebox, another mixtape, in 2009. “I was still trying to figure out who I was at this point,” Miller told Post-Gazette about his first two projects. “When you’re a young kid and you’re trying to rap you listen to the radio and you don’t know what you want to talk about. I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about. I just wanted to tell people I could rap.”
After releasing his next two mixtapes K.I.D.S. and The High Life and embarking on a college tour, Miller went on tour with Wiz Khalifa in 2012.
In total, Miller has released five albums: Blue Slide Park (2011), Watching Movies with the Sound Off (2013), GO:OD AM (2015), The Divine Feminine (2016) and Swimming (2018).
2. He Was a Reality Star
In 2013, MTV released Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family. The series followed Miller after he moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles.
Whether he was getting a new tattoo, recording music, or vacationing in Hawaii, Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family was filled with adventure and entertainment.
The show also starred Miller’s closest friends Big Dave, Jimmy, Peanut, Quentin and Chelsea, whom he brought with him to California to live in his brand new mansion.
The show ended after the second season in 2014.
A year later, Miller revealed why the show ended. “I didn’t lose it. I did not want to go down as a reality TV star. That’s such a big platform, that moves at a rapid pace and is on repeat all the time and people are always seeing you there like, I wanted to step back and be like, ‘Let me make sure the music stands front,” Miller told Power 105.1.
“Also it was like, my schedule is ridiculous. I would be on tour, come back, have two days off, and I would be shooting [for the reality show] both those days. I was like, ‘This is too much.’ It was one of the biggest [reality TV shows],” Miller also told the radio show.
3. He Dated Ariana Grande
Miller and Grande, 24, began dating in 2016— three years after releasing their joint hit “The Way.” Miller was very supportive of Grande following the suicide bombing at her Manchester, England concert on May 22 of last year.
The two split in May, PEOPLE confirmed. Following their breakup, Grande raved over Miller on Instagram. “I respect and adore him endlessly and am grateful to have him in my life in any form, at all times regardless of how our relationship changes or what the universe holds for each us!”
Less than a month after their breakup, a fan blamed Grande for Miller’s DUI arrest. “Mac Miller totalling [sic] his G wagon and getting a DUI after Ariana Grande dumped him for another dude after he poured his heart out on a ten song album to her called the divine feminine is just the most heartbreaking thing happening in Hollywood,” the fan wrote online.
Grande then clapped back writing, “How absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album about them, which btw isn’t the case (just Cinderella is ab me,)” Grande said in reference to the track from Divine Feminine.
As for Grande’s recent engagement to Pete Davidson in June, Miller told Rolling Stone, “I am genuinely happy that that’s how she moved. That’s good for her. Go, go, keep going! As she should. I’m just being real. That’s good. Now I have space for me. And that’s great too.”
4. He Was Very Open About His Struggles with Sobriety
Miller admitted to Complex that he first started using cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine, known often as lean, “to help manage the stress” he felt while on the Macadelic Tour in 2012. He also used cocaine.
“I love lean; it’s great,” Miller told the publication. “I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy.” “I was so f—ed up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.”
He later revealed in 2013 interview with Noisey that he stopped because of his MTV show Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family. “I was just getting super fat, and I didn’t wanna be on national TV and fat, so I stopped sippin’ lean,” Miller told the publication.
“You go through some f—ed up s—. A lotta people can tell you, you go through some f—ing s—. But it’s about being strong enough person to get through it. I was definitely sippin’ hella lean. I love it, I wouldn’t say I didn’t. But I feel better not doing it every single day,” Miller said when asked about the withdrawal.
“Drugs are dangerous, dude. But they’re awesome. Just dangerous. Drugs are not like a new thing. Especially with me, I’ve been doing drugs since I was 15,” Miller added.
Miller also said in the Rolling Stone interview, which was published in August, that he didn’t classify himself as a drug addict. “If a bunch of people think I am a huge drug addict, OK. Cool. What can I really do? Go talk to all those people and be like ‘Naw man, it’s really not that simple?’”
“Have I done drugs? Yeah. But am I a drug addict? No,” Miller told the magazine.
5. He Battled Depression and Anxiety
Miller’s mental health struggles often served as inspiration for his lyrics. Specifically, on the track “Come Back to Earth,” from Swimming, Miller says “I’m just looking for a way out of my head.”
On “Small Worlds,” he rapped, “Tell myself to hold on/I can feel my finger slipping/In a motherf—ing instant I’ll be gone.”
However, in an attempt to make a change, Miller began working out and insisted he was in “a great headspace these days,” to Rolling Stone. “It’s good for the chemicals in your brain. It puts my mind in the proper place to start the day,” Miller said about working out.
6. He Started His Own Record Label
Named after his friend who died, Miller launched REMember Music in 2013. In 2014, Miller signed himself and his label to Warner Bros.
“Warner is the most independent thinking company I met with,” Miller told FADER. “It is a partnership and now I can focus on building my label Remember through music and let them handle everything I don’t like doing.”
7. He’s Had a Few Run-ins with the Law
On May 14, Miller was arrested for DUI and hit and run in San Fernando Valley after ramming his Mercedes-Benz-G-Wagon into a power pole and fleeing the scene. He was later arrested at his home.
In August, the rapper was charged with two counts of DUI, with one for driving under the influence and another for operating a vehicle with a BAC above 0.08.
In addition to his recent DUI arrest, in 2011, Miller was arrested in upstate New York following a party after one of his shows.
“It was funny as hell, the experience. We were in the holding cell, chilling there, and this dude gets brought into the holding cell. He’s in there cuffed up and we are sitting in there laughing and cutting up trying to make the best of the situation,” Miller told Complex about the night he spent in jail.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.