Matt McBride’s Cities Lit By The Light Caught In Photographs x Mac Miller’s Faces

Lizzie Plaugic

The most obvious similarity between rapper Mac Miller and poet Matt McBride is that they both have the initials MM, which is to say, not much. The most frequent Mac Miller connotations are that he's a white dude, he's a stoner, and he kind of raps like he has a perpetual case of cottonmouth…I mean, his spit sounds thick.

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Matt McBride has published a few poetry chapbooks including “The Space Between Stars,” and he dislikes poems titled “Untitled.” His poetry is minimal and cerebral, but definitely not thick.

Miller’s new mixtape, “Faces,” is an almost daunting 24 tracks long. It's filled with the usual booze-flushed, dirty-faced Mac-isms like doing tequila shots with Kevin Hart, rubbing elbows with celebs at the VMAs, and being ignored by R. Kelly. McBride’s chapbook, “Cities Lit By The Light Caught In Photographs,” examines the state of various unnamed cities by chronicling detailed obsessions with those cities. Each poem is concerned with an alternate state of a certain place, or any place. On his mixtape, Miller also talks about cities—at least “Malibu” and “San Francisco”—so maybe there’s something to all this. Access “Cities Lit By The Light Caught In Photographs” here to follow along.

*****

“Cities of Refuge”

According to McBride, a city of refuge is a place where, “Everything’s roan-colored / ’84 Civic hatchbacks / with busted tape decks / where the fast-forward sticks.” Roan, if you’re not up on your Crayola game, is the color of dirty cows, I guess, and ’84 Civic hatchbacks are the car you drive because it’s the only option you have.

Pair with: “Malibu”

“I’m just a rapper, guess I’m sticking to my day job/Wiz getting’ faded, come and kick it at a bank shop/Everything is A-1, steak sauce.” This line might lead you to believe that rapping is Mac Miller’s ’84 Civic hatchback, but really his flow is stuck in fast-forward and he’s not staying in one place for too long, like that tape deck.

*****

“Cities of The Advertisers”

“We keep handfuls of clean teeth/in pant pockets/ Lawns are bleached sclera white.” Everything here is cold and sterile, consciously crafted. More color lessons: “sclera” is the white part of an eyeball.

Pair with: “Polo Jeans” feat. Earl Sweatshirt

Earl Sweat drops in on this one with a crowded verse of tongue-in-cheek lines like, “And who’s the shit/a bag of chips/and a colon decleanser?” We’re doing juxtaposition here; If McBride’s poem is minimal and transparent, Earl’s verse is tense and crowded. McBride is talking about clinical cleanliness and Earl is talking about literal shit. It’s about balance.

*****

“City of Hangover Sundays”

Everything’s a little gooey and alone in this one. McBride writes, “On the sidewalk/glass snails leave smears of Vaseline/You’re not certain/if you’re lonely.” Have you ever been really hungover while hanging out with someone who feels great? I’d like to posit that it’s the loneliest feeling in the world.

Pair with: “Friends”

Mac’s lonely too here. “So, I’m so lonely, there’s horns on my dome-piece/But I’m not the Devil I’m a motherfucking Minotaur.” Even if he seems evil, Mac’s really just a half-man/half-bull crazy thing shunned by everyone.

*****

“Salvation Army”

This is the darkest poem in McBride’s chapbook, but with a pervading sense of vagueness, so you’re not really sure why. “If anyone remembers/what the war was for/they don’t let on.” The short lines and stanzas only keep things more mysterious.

Pair with: “Rain” feat. Vince Staples

If you don’t know who Vince Staples is, you should acquaint yourself now. His flow hit harder than Mac’s, and that’s probably why they let him tackle the serious stuff. Here he is on “Rain”: “Stray bullet hit my brother in his mothafuckin’ face/What’s fate when a person don’t deserve what he got?” Like McBride, Staples tries to make sense of violence that’s impossible to make sense of.

*****

“Nineteen Ninety Nine”

Sound game: “Things like paper being torn in half/ or new tires on hot asphalt/or burning dog hair or ssssszzzzzhhhhhaaaaa/and that’d be your name.

Pair with: “Insomniak”

There’s a few references to Drake’s “Worst Behavior” on this one and Rick Ross literally says the words, “I’m constipated.” I’m only recommending you pair this with an onomatopoeic poem ‘cause it’s hard to stomach on its own.

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