Concert preview: Mac Miller discovers his inner-Cupid on lovelorn 'Divine Feminine'

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Mac Miller's fourth full-length,The Divine Feminine, is bookended by female voices. The album kicks off with an intro from a young woman (that'd be pop star and current flame Ariana Grande) and closes with a spoken-word piece from the Pittsburgh-born rapper's grandmother, who recounts her early romantic dalliances with his grandfather.

In between, Miller explores the virtues required to advance from young love to the weathered, time-tested version exhibited by both his grandparents and parents (the day before our interview Miller attended a party celebrating his mom and dad's 30th wedding anniversary), setting explicit, sexually-charged numbers alongside more nuanced turns that explore romantic connections outside the bedroom.

"The whole album is searching for some type of divine experience in love," said Miller, who visits Express Live for a concert on Monday, Dec. 5. "It opens with a female in my life (Grande) and then [closes with] the all-knowing, my grandma, who is actually able to say what a true love story is and how it lasts and works."

The lovelorn turn continues a reptile-like skin shedding that has seen Miller evolve from beer-bonging frat-rap bro (2011'sBlue Slide Park) to drugged-out sample aficionado (2013's excellentWatching Movies with the Sound Off) to the 12-step recovery ofGO:OD AM, from 2015, where the MC started to make an uneasy peace with his past, envisioning a future filled with grandkids his mom could spoil. WithThe Divine Feminine, Miller delves deeper into that next step, so it makes sense he sounds more grounded and comfortable than he has on past records.

"I'm aware enough to tell you that every single time I make a record I'm always like, 'I'm grown up now.' I felt that way when I was 21 and 22 and 23," said Miller, 24. "But this being the most grown or most comfortable with myself I've been makes sense to me, because as a human being that's how I feel. I think you learn things about yourself. You forget things about yourself. You relearn things about yourself. I think it matters to me that whatever my human experience is, the music is a mirror of that. Everything should make sense with where I'm at in my actual life. If I'm going through a rough time emotionally or mentally, I wouldn't want my music to sound like everything was alright."

These days, however, Miller does see further need to push a positive message into the world, owing in part to the election of Donald Trump, who the rapper has traded barbs with since a 2013 interview where he expressed regret for titling an early song "Donald Trump." (At the time, the current president-elect responded by firing off a Twitter blast where he labeled the MC "little @MacMiller" and an "ungrateful dog" and threatened to teach him "a big boy lesson about lawsuits and finance.")

"I think like anyone else I'm observing what could be our future and trying to do whatever my part can be to make that something positive," Miller said. "I think it's important to continue to push love into the world, especially now."

Express Live

6 p.m. Monday,

Dec. 5

405 Neil Ave.,

Arena District