I’d like to say I had a personal connection with Mac Miller in some way. All white Jewish rappers kind of have a bond, and addicts certainly do.
I first met Mac back in 2009 at a sold-out show at Reggies in Chicago that my friend Zack Easton was promoting. I gave him my first-ever piece of merchandise — a T-shirt that said “Oy Vey All Day.” When he later came out with a song called “Oy Vey,” I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I played a small role in that. I always felt that Mac and I had a similar style, and I was happy that he embraced being Jewish, as there wasn’t really anyone at the time trying to make Judaism cool.
A few years later, he headlined a festival called Paid Dues, where I was also on the bill, playing with Murs. I was on the bottom of that flier and he was at the very top in giant boldfaced type. Still, it was a massive moment for me, as I was finally feeling acceptance from the hip-hop community. That year, in 2011, Paid Dues festival fell on the holiday of Passover, so I decided to make my merch tent an area for a traditional Passover Seder. I even brought a bottle of Manischewitz grape juice just for Mac. He seemed to appreciate the gesture, and the importance of the holiday, and we filmed a video together to mark the moment.
This coming Sunday is the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. And like any holiday — chief among them: the entire Christmas season — it’s often a time of personal difficulty and stress. Mental health issues arise and recovering addicts, who face more than their share, including depression, can be triggered. Is that what happened to Mac? Addiction is cunning and baffling, the sort of psychosis that makes you think if you use, everything will be all right. It deceives and back-stabs you. Someone like Mac had untold numbers of “likes” and comments on his social media channels, but loving yourself is an entirely different matter.
On Rosh Hashana, we wish each other “shanah tovah u metukah” (a sweet and happy new year ). It’s an opportunity to wipe clean the previous year and start anew. No matter how much we mess up, we always have another chance to start over. It is followed by 10 days of reflection until Yom Kippur, “the day of atonement,” arrives.
Mac’s mother was Jewish, which in Jewish law means he was, too. So while today the world lost a musical genius, a mother lost her son before the biggest holiday of the Jewish year.
In his memory, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein of Pico Shul in Los Angeles offered these words: “Mac Miller’s tragic passing will lead all of us to pause and reflect about our life direction. That something good can come from this tragedy. And we can dedicate our lives to good and healthy choices and lifestyles, and improving the world around us through spreading light and love.”
I saw Mac at his happiest at Coachella in 2017. He and I chatted before his big show about an ultimate Jewish rapper playlist that I made which featured him, Lil Dicky, Drake and the like. He thanked me for putting him in such company and we spoke about him possibly coming to Israel to perform. He lit up at the prospect. I’m sure his mother would’ve approved.
Rami Even-Esh, better known as Kosha Dillz, is a Los Angeles-based rapper and public speaker. His latest song, “back n forth,” is available on streaming services. He celebrated 14 years sober on this summer’s Vans Warped Tour and starts his U.S. tour in late September.