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Review: Rapper Mick Jenkins

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by , 11-02-2018 at 03:16 PM (221 Views)
      
   
Chicago MC Mick Jenkins has always been something of a rap hermit, emerging when he feels ready and dropping sprawling projects of baritone philosophy and freeform wordplay. When he broke out in 2014 with the contemplative mixtape The Water (S), Jenkins seemed to exist outside of the general rap universe: he collaborated with a small roster of underground MCs while espousing at times sanctimonious views on self-improvement, the ills of society and the shallowness of other rappers. Jenkins’ voice–alternatively booming and restrained–sounded like some sort of doomsday robot’ aided by sparse, unconventional production steeped in jazz and ambient music; he convincingly played the part of rap savior chosen to awaken the masses, even if a large hunk of the masses had no idea who he was.

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But Jenkins’ intelligence and commitment to craft can work against him. Listening to his full-length projects in a single sitting can sometimes feel laborious rather than inspiring, like if your favorite college professor kept lecturing hours after class was supposed to end. His 2016 album The Healing Component was overlooked and uneven; he seemed stuck between making a separate artistic statement from The Water (S) and losing the fan base that devoted themselves to it, which resulted in an album that often lacked an identity. Pieces of a Man, Jenkins’ second album, finds him loosening up, or at least exerting more self-control. His rhymes on Pieces, as always, are dexterous and learned, layered and clever, but he’s taking himself less seriously, and in the process having some fun. There’s still proselytizing, to be sure, but he’s stopped trying to convince others of his superior knowledge and talent. “I be on my show and prove, not my show-and-tell,” he raps on “Barcelona.” It’s a subtle shift that nonetheless makes Pieces of a Man his most confident and listenable project in years.


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