Mick Jenkins’ writing is rich with hard-won perspective and dotted with impressively specific, naturalistic details. But on a thematic level, it digs deeper than the here and now, the bus stop in front of him, the string of tour dates looming ahead. His music explores things that humans feel on an intuitive level but struggle to fully understand. From the nature of familiar and romantic love to the elements that sustain life itself, he burrows deep into our collective unconscious in an attempt to give order to the world. With his new album, Piece of A Man––due out August 3, 2018 on Cinematic Music Group. Mick goes further than he ever has before toward a unified theory of hip-hop: rigorous but sensitive, technical but deeply musical.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama at the end of the George Bush years, Mick moved to Chicago with the women in his life––his mother and sister––when he was ten years old. This set up two important factors that would shape his world view, and ultimately his music. On one hand, he became embedded in the fabric of the city, adopting some of its sensibilities and slang, and benefitting from its growing array of opportunities for young creatives. On the other, his early childhood in a radically different environment gave him the outsider’s perspective that allows him, to this day, to turn a critical eye to his surroundings.
After a brief stint at an Alabama college––he planned to study law––Mick was back in Chicago for good, pursuing music with all his energy. It wasn’t long before he scored a major breakthrough, with his stunning mixtape The Water[s]. Released in August of 2014, that record announced Mick as a major creative force, an artist who synthesized early-20th century poets with hip-hop’s most powerful voices. The Water[s] earned rapturous praise from critics and magazines, but also from rap’s most respected underground pioneers: Busdriver, in a rare piece of written criticism, called Mick’s talent “gloriously uncommon.”
In the few years since The Water[s], Mick has used his new platform to grow, evolve, and continue to challenge audiences. He broke new technical ground with the bright and adventurous Waves and delivered an immensely thoughtful debut album with 2016’s The Healing Component; in recent months he dropped a pair of critically-acclaimed EPs, Or More; The Anxious and Or More; The Frustration.
Where he once drew creative inspiration from those poets, Mick’s new drive for synthesis has led him to closely examine other artistic mediums. Short films, he says, have impacted his new, daring work with their narrative density and clever manipulation of format. He’s also taken to imagining his new songs being performed live in front of audiences, and driving himself to craft tracks that will elicit awe from observers who have never heard them before.
While Mick remains committed to clarity, he accepts that, in striving to make great art, he’s going to challenge people’s preconceptions and perhaps push them out of their comfort zones. “I think it’s natural for art to be misunderstood, especially art that is intended to serve a message,” he says. For the most part, though, he finds that his audience gravitates to his central messagoes above all else: spread love, drink more water. “Those are themes that shine through, even if you can’t understand or break down or some of the deeper aspects,” he says, pausing to consider the relationship forward thinking has always had with the culture at large. “But show me some art that’s not misunderstood.