Fresh off the World Domination tour with Joey Bada$$, Nyck Caution, and Denzel Curry, Mick Jenkins is one of Chicago’s many gems currently rising to fame in the music industry. The towering musician controls every track with his thunderous vocals and poetry-rooted delivery. To top it all off, Mick carries himself humbly, cleverly utilizes his music as a conduit of expression, and shows love for neglected areas of hip-hop.
Although based in Chicago, Mick’s roots date back to his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. One of his primary ventures as a poet-turned-rapper can be traced to the “Who Got BARS?” rap contest run by Juels Pierrot. Driven by the coveted Beats headphones prize, the first time around he was astonished by the inherent passion and competitive nature he encountered and realized that if he wanted any sort of success, he would need to treat rap as seriously as his opponents. Catch Mick “back when [he] was a young punch line rapper” (he comes in around 2:30).
In an interview last September with Good Fella Media, Mick reveals that since then he has given the world seven complete projects. The first five on the list are as follows: Killin Em Softly, For What It’s Worth, Hot Crunchy Cheese Curls,The Mickstape and The Pursuit of HappyNess: The Story of Mickalascage. While I had trouble salvaging anything from the first two, with a little digging I was able to find most of the third project (the playlist is missing the track “My First Bag”) via Maine the Saint, a fellow artist from Mick’s southern hometown. You can check out the last two tapes on Datpiff and Bandcamp respectively.
Even in these introductory works, we can already hear Mick beginning to craft his current image, but in the aforementioned interview, he dismisses them as “unpolished.” Fortunately, these stepping stones drove himself towards progress, not discouragement. With a more laid-back flow compared to his recent releases, Mick acknowledges the impact of these attempts to make his delivery seem “effortless,” which he says caused his music to “lose the feel.” Throughout his career, Mick has maintained a consistent work ethic, motivated to perfect his sound, live performance, and overall musical prowess.
The earliest project Mick consistently references in interviews, sixth in his discography, is the biblical allegory-filled, jazz-accompanied Trees & Truths. Mick furthermore shapes his voice and solidifies the foundation of his career as a Chicago artist with his self-proclaimed “cold music” (check out his interview with Complex’s Jinx for more).
The following year, Mick released the Water[s], and the world definitely listened. With a jump in production value and another attempt to revive the seemingly lost cause of concept albums, the verbal powerhouse received acclaim for what he would likely call his second complete work from fans, critics, and legendary producer Timbaland for his skillful lyricism and overall musicianship.
If you haven’t heard of Mick from his solo works, you may have (unknowingly) heard of him through one of his countless collaborations with fellow Chicago artists. The first time I heard from Mick was on the track “Crossroads,” where he shares the mic with Social Experiment co-founder, fellow wave-maker, alleged Based God-collaborator, Chance the Rapper, and SaveMoney frontman, recent Roc Nation signee, Future fan, Vic Mensa:
“I ain’t ever been the type of nigga that’d change with the fame, you can put it in quotes.”
One of the attributes I respect most about Mick is his ability to use music as a platform to spread his knowledge, wisdom, and input on the current state of society using the method he feels will most appropriately get the job done, unconfined by the expectations of his audience. Despite the popularity he amasses, he yearns to stay true to himself and steer away from allowing the fame to dilute the messages he conveys. From the time this record was released, Mick has progressed for the better, honing his distinctive command of the mic, and gaining more mileage on-stage to produce a memorable concert experience (I was fortunate enough to see him at the San Diego stop, his music is even better live).
Early Monday afternoon, Mick officially announced the long-awaited Wave[s] mixtape on Pitchfork. The latest EP features nine tracks with production from Chicago natives Stefan Ponce, ThemPeople and Mulatto of the Hurt Everybody collective, as well as Kaytranada and Lee Bannon. Even better, today on Twitter Mick also unveiled the dates for the corresponding tour with Parisian producer Stwo, set to kick off late next month following the projects release. You can get a taste of Wave[s] below:
Of the three tracks we’ve heard off of the project so far, “P’s and Q’s” stands out from the crowd. Mick delves deeper into its sonic eloquence as part of Jay-Z’s Decoded series:
Delivering the poetic structure fans of Mick have grown to know and love, not until after listening to the song once more did I fully discover and appreciate the underlying genius of the track manifested through heavy alliteration.
Mick recognizes the power of the written word responsible for preserving the laws, both literal and figurative, that govern our society. The potential of such text extends to a larger umbrella, especially in the realm of music, which holds the power to evoke a limitless spectrum of feeling. Listening to our favorite tunes and being exposed to new ones can help us forget about our problems, provide a vicarious catharsis (eg. “Draking”), and construct an overall feel-good experience.
“So often people, uh, conscious rappers, get pegged as being ‘preachy’ or being ‘condescending’ […] Sometimes to hear the truth, it just sounds like that.”
In some cases, it’s okay to sound “preachy” because it’s the best way to articulate the message; it’s natural, organic. As the saying goes, there’s a time and place for everything, so why not utilize the full potential of your resources?
“With a lot of things that are going on in the nation right now, I think it’s very easy for people to take to social media. If it’s only ever limited to that, you’re not really doing anything […] Your words have to be accompanied by actions.”
The recent influx of tragedy on the news, which I’ll admit has lingered almost indefinitely, has people (aggressively) expressing their opinions on social media more-so than ever before. While we can endlessly rant, vent, exclaim, and everything in-between, Mick reminds his audience that these efforts alone are insufficient to induce change.
For those hoping for more ways to support Mick as an artist, myself included, each track from the project will have its own artwork available for purchase upon the release of Wave[s], courtesy of Hayveyah McGowan (check out more of her work here):
The Water[s] (@mickjenkins) July 20, 2015
When I find an artist that resonates with me, I’m always taking mental notes on how to improve as both a musician and an individual in any and every regard, simultaneously formulating my own perception of and approach towards the music industry. While making music for pure entertainment has worked for many in the past, the glaring trend of modern hip-hop involves the embedding of some underlying form of social commentary. Piercing the saturated state of the genre requires more than music; a musician has much better chances of being heard in the sea of aspiring artists by molding a collection of auspicious qualities to build a fleshed-out image. No longer is the ability to rap impressive to the same magnitude it was just a decade ago, albeit an ephemeral fame and sense of recognition.
This is by no means an attempt to discredit those that give the world so-called “ignorant music.”
Of course, all those pop hits eventually flood into our heads because we are suffocated by them every time we turn on the radio. When you’re out on a Friday night celebrating, these are the the tracks that easily find their way into rotation. In other words, I probably wouldn’t pick a somber set of records to play because it doesn’t fit the mood (again, timing is everything). Mick is one of the few artists to successfully blend these avenues with his intricate lyricism and commanding style, interweaving important messages into his tracks without restricting himself from playing an enjoyable, more than memorable live set that won’t make the crowd want to sit in their cars and cry to Eric Carmen afterwards. His approach leaves casual listeners more than satisfied and offers the meticulous fans and hip-hop heads a plethora of lines to decipher. Above all, Mick aims to give his listeners music that holds replay value in a different respect, projects that require multiple run-throughs in various settings to fully digest– a trait found amongst several contemporary hip-hop leaders like Kendrick and Cole. Stay tuned for more waves to come from Mick Jenkins, and of course:
“Drink more water.”
[Image from Facebook]