Hip-hop legend Mac Miller died Friday, Sept. 7 of a suspected overdose in his California home.  Just a month earlier, Miller released Swimming, his fifth studio album, which is as of Sept. 26 in the top 20 on the Billboard 200. His unexpected death shook the music world as countless other artists paid tributes and praised his influence on the industry.  His hometown of Pittsburgh held a public vigil for him last Tuesday, and many took to social media to express their condolences. Miller was 26 years old.

Miller’s death recontextualized his role in the music industry and proved his legacy goes far beyond his individual projects. He was an important influence and role model for many other creatives of this generation.  He was one of the most respected artists and producers in the game, and his death is a tragic loss of incredible young talent.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that this one hit hard, and I’ve been struggling to pinpoint why.  I think it comes down to an unfinished story. From project to project, we’ve had the opportunity to watch Mac grow and mature, both as an artist and as just another kid from Pittsburgh.  As we grew up, he grew up. It’s a strange phenomenon to relate to an artist in such a way. He spoke openly about his battles with drug use and sobriety and led us on an epic journey through the trials of adolescence.  He maintained such a candid honesty that gave us a window into his thoughts and his struggles. We watched his evolution of not only his music, but of his life. We thought there would be more: more time, more art, more to the narrative. His story wasn’t over, and it’s difficult to read a book with the ending ripped out.

“Let me tell you something about music,” Miller said at NPR’s Tiny Desk just a month before his death. “Music is a beautiful thing.”   Though cut short, his legacy has been written into existence through his art, and that is something to appreciate. He lives in his music, thus the beloved Mac Miller is never really gone.